Saturday, November 7, 2009

462. Here my dear- When Soul gets the blues.


Album: Here my Dear.

Artist: Marvin Gaye

Year:1978

Genre: Soul.

Tracks

  1. Here, My Dear
  2. I Met a Little Girl
  3. When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You
  4. Anger
  5. Is That Enough
  6. Everybody Needs Love
  7. Time to Get It Together
  8. Sparrow
  9. Anna's Song
  10. When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You
  11. A Funky Space Reincarnation
  12. You Can Leave, But It's Going to Cost You
  13. Falling in Love Again
  14. When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You (Reprise)

Here My Dear isn't a traditional Soul album. It's technically a double concept album and as regular readers of this blog know I can complain about double concept albums for even longer than it takes to play one. But unlike other concept albums, which are often based around an abstract and esoteric conceit ("Hey lets record an album about what it would be like if Tree sprites had soap operas") Here My Dear was written after Marvin Gaye's marriage collapsed. Which technically means it's probably not a concept album as much as an album of songs about Marv was feeling at the time- and they just happen to share a similar concept because he was going through an extremely mopey patch.

Hear My Dear has all the trappings of a soul album, the slow tempo, lush arrangements, backing vocals and spoken passages but the lyrics and tone address personal tragedy rather than the usual topics soul seems to address. Soul songs usually fit into three categories: “I love you” songs, “I love love” songs and “I love making love” songs. Most soul singers compose lyrics as if they get paid for every "love" they can work into a tune. That’s why it’s strange listening to an album dedicated to laments about romance and the fact that it’s gone sour. On other albums Marvin often has spoken introductions to his songs which usually involve telling his girl that she’s the best thing that happened to him and quite possibly the entire human race, so it’s quite a jolt when he introduces When Did You Stop Loving Me, when did I Stop Loving You with a soulfully spoken rant about how their wedding vows turned out to be a meaningless sham. It’s just out of place. It would be like a heavy metal band releasing a song called “Hooray for pretty flowers” or a rap album called “I’m broke and find rhyming quite difficult” or possibly even a country and western album from the 50’s called “I'm gradually coming around to the idea of being sodomized.”

Someone should instigate a blues/soul exchange program in which blues singers share their joy with soul singers who in turn get a dose of pain in return. Every time a blues singer writes a song about how much the woman they’ve met fulfills their every need they could hand it over to a soul singer in exchange for any songs they have about failed relationships. If someone put this into practice then blues singers would have a lot of great blues songs and we wouldn’t have to hear soul singers share their misery for over an hour. It’s not that Marvin Gaye doesn’t deserve an opportunity to show his pain, it’s just that I’m not sure we need to hear it. Here My Dear had a difficult gestation period. It was apparently written, recorded and then went unreleased for a while (long enough in fact for Gaye to marry and divorce again). When it eventually made it’s way into record shops the public chose to ignore it completely and it was reviewed badly and alienated most of Gaye’s fans. It’s only in recent years that people have reassessed Here My Dear and decided that it’s actually a vital part of Gaye’s cannon and worth treating as one of his greatest releases.

That’s all very well but I can’t help but wonder how his ex-wife feels. There’s no veiled references or metaphor, no esoteric imagery that requires interpretation. Gaye is totally open and honest about his feelings and experiences in a marriage that went completely sour. To be fair to the guy he’s clearly not laying all the blame at her doorstep, his feeling isn't that she failed him as much as love failed both of them. But there’s no doubt he’s bitter and broken up about the whole experience.

But not all of Here My Dear is about the divorce or the other troubles in his life. Sing little Sparrow Sing is about how a bird’s song can inspire hope in even the darkest times. Sadly it appears that the bird in question is reluctant to pipe up so the 6 minute running length is mainly made up of Marvin desperately pleading with a bird to make a noise. The other moment of relief is Funky Space Reincarnation in which Marvin Gaye steps into George Clinton territory and releases a funky song about getting high and getting laid in space. It’s not bad but wears out it’s welcome over eight full minutes.

To be honest all the pain makes Here my Dear a difficult listen. If you’ve ever experienced a divorce then it’s possible that you regard this as an amazing piece of work which perfectly captures the pain you felt or are feeling. As someone who is married and lucky enough to have avoided heart wrenching break ups it’s just a bit tricky to latch onto.

Highlight: Funky Space Reincarnation.

Lowlight: Sing little sparrow.

Influenced by: Pain and anguish.

Influenced: There’s no doubt it helped serve to deepen soul as a genre.

Favourite Amazon Customer review quote:Everytime I PLAY THE CD.I'll have to have a fire extinguisher by the stereo...cause it be SMOKIN........This is a joke...i'll have a toke,wait a minute.....Marvin Gaye, what a genius

-How nice, a reviewer that keeps us up to date while he’s typing.

So do you feel this album in your soul or does it give you the blues? Let me know below.

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