Everything about Marvin Gaye’s unparalleled album What’s Going On is truly brilliant, really. The entire concept is incredible in scope and depth. The content is amazing. Each piece of music works together, flows together, and speaks together to make a work so grand it is honestly a creative work of epic scale. There’s voice and scale, a story and a statement beautifully made. It is really on the level of masterful and ambitious compositions like Porgy and Bess or Black, Brown and Beige.
Anyone who hears the music can appreciate the brilliance and talent of Marvin Gaye and the Funk Brothers performances. We may take for granted the recording itself, which was produced by Marvin Gaye himself, is so amazingly executed, subtly and artistically mixed, it is a work of technical perfection. The arranging, engineering, and mixing are just stellar.
Just listen to the layering of vocal tracks and lyrics in the title track. You’ll need great speakers well positioned or a decent pair of headphones to really hear it all. The overdubbing is one thing, but Marvin really sings with himself, calling back and forth at different depths, subtly panned between ears and just slightly pitched. There’s such space in the recording, and yet it is completely full.
And come on with that bass line.
Another great example of Marvin’s amazing producing is Let’s Get it On. You can hear him on different microphones at different levels in the mix singing with himself in call and response, but when it is out in the open you hardly notice that he’s not singing it all in one track. The classic 3d ball imagined in between the speakers is huge, and perfectly balanced.
Musical geniuses came from Washington DC, Duke Ellington and Marvin Gaye. Composers and technical geniuses who used their everything to make works that were everything.