Marvin Gaye. Wow, what else can I say about the master of soul that I haven't said already in other reviews? The man knew how to soothe the beast within him at the recording studio that he couldn't out of it. Even with his first hit, "Stubborn Kind of Fellow", which I can't believe was 44 years ago, there was always a surreal force guiding Marvin through his interesting trip from music neophyte to soul icon. In his last studio album, 1982's "Midnight Love", the man not only used this surreal force to guide him through another mystical trip inside his psyche, he also put his blood, sweat and tears on it, as you can see in the credits.
It's weird because when this album was released in the fall of 1982, Marvin Gaye was seemingly on the outs of American rock & roll music. If you think about it, Marvin hadn't had a significant hit in American shores since "Got to Give It Up" was his last song to reach #1 on the pop charts, and that was 1977. And by now, the 43-year-old singer had went through a tense battle with drugs, depression, alimony and support charges brought out by his first wife after their divorce, a second divorce, the split with Motown, and having been forced out of America due to the IRS catching up with him for failure to pay back taxes and filing taxes.
Stuck in Europe and now settling in Ostend, Belgium, thanks to a friend and boxing promoter there, Marvin was cleaning up and in the process had re-found his musical genius though it wasn't lost, he was just messed up over so many stuff that he couldn't find it in his heart to record, much less perform - which he hated. But with determination to overcome his demons, Marvin managed to emerge from the darkness with "Midnight Love", which he worked through a grueling process to reach commercial status. After reworking several songs to fit the feel of what people were listening to, particularly in the black community which was now entranced by the sounds of '80s electro funk and hip-hop. Marvin was entranced by more sounds coming from '80s white rock music including new wave and the amazing black sounds of reggae and the Caribbean. So he had to find a way to stay true to what he wanted to do and at the same time fit the commercial format. Somehow his "divided soul" helped him in this decision perfectly.
"Midnight Lady" is seemingly an autobiographical tale of how it felt to be in a party in the '80s especially with the hedonistic, cocaine-using, freak-kind of people that paraded around the clubs. Musically, the song is out of sight with a pulsating Latin beat, an off-the-wall synthesizer rumble over funk horns and Marvin's emasculate/immaculate vocals layering over one another.
"Sexual Healing" will forever remain the cut. This was an international crossover hit that fit perfectly. Mixing R&B/soul with reggae overtones, new wave sounds, hip-hop/pre-New Jack Swing beats, funk rhythms and Marvin's gospel-like poetic melding and doo-wop background vocals (plus help from his guitarist Gordon Banks and best friend, the legendary Harvey Fuqua), the song is one of the most timeless jams of all time. This helped Marvin get back on top and helped him finally win a Grammy. An award he should've won more of years ago! Anyway, "Sexual Healing" doesn't need to be explained anymore than it is, it is what is - timeless song.
"Rockin' After Midnight" keeps the party running and of course Marvin tries to get a woman to notice him and fall in love with him...and at the same time, get down with him. His angel vs. devil complex plays very interestingly in this song that you don't even notice it. That's how great it is. And when you get at the end, the FUNK takes over the SOUL and just makes you go off. Great song. I consider this another masterpiece.
"'Til Tomorrow" was and is a perfect Quiet Storm ballad. Very "Let's Get It On" album-esque almost, the song features Gaye trying to get a woman to stay with him throughout the night. No one can resist his soulful vocals. Once he sung a woman to tears, the woman couldn't leave. He gives you his blood, sweat and tears to you. And it's so massive you can't take it. That's how great the song is.
"Turn On Some Music" is a great funk/doo-wop/soul type of song. It'll have you groovin' as Marvin turns on the charm getting the woman to get down while three albums play on a CD changer as they get down. Perfect remedy, Marvin! The original version of this song was more autobiographical as Marvin explained how everything is just like music. Either way, I love the song, no matter what version.
"Third World Girl" gels because of its Caribbean rhythms and reggae-esque funk grooves that it was clear that Marvin was a huge fan of reggae, especially of Bob Marley. He and Stevie definitely added to their craft by adding the reggae licks into their trademark sounds.
"Joy" is another masterpiece where Marvin echoes back to his Pentecostal childhood growing up the son of a storefront minister. Bridging the worlds of gospel and funk, it's the perfect secular/sacred marriage. Marvin may have been conflicted in his soul by doing some of the secular stuff he was doing but it's obvious he was having fun making this record. Makes his death at the hands of his father more tragic.
"My Love is Waiting" begins with Marvin shouting out to everybody who helped him in his corner while making this album and thanked God while Gordon Banks parlayed the pulsating drum beat and just kicked in there. The entire song is so happy and enjoyable that you just continue grooving even at its end. And Marvin's vocals at the end is STELLAR!!!
The "Rockin' After Midnight" instrumental is funky as hell. I give props to both Marvin and Gordon Banks. Banks helped make this album work for his friend. You could just tell those two had a very compatible working partnership. It was supposed to be the precursor to what Marvin was gonna do as the '80s continued but of course, we know what happened. But it's funny that some 22 years after his untimely death, Marvin Gaye is still years ahead of his time, even as far as those of today's R&B artists could even imagine.
For this, Marvin, his surreal guide, and his undeniable spirit has helped continue to make his music as timeless as ever. "The Midnight Man" continues to shine.