September 19, 2007

Come Get To This: Marvin Gaye Greatest Hits Live in '76

On the heels of his erotic masterwork, I Want You, Marvin Gaye took the stage at the Edenhalle Concert Hall in Amsterdam for a concert featuring classics from his career to date. Marvin Gaye – Greatest Hits Live In ’76 captures the hour-long event in its entirety.

While not known as a prolific (or even the most eager) concert performer, Gaye certainly had the goods – the songs, the talent, the charisma – to put on an impressive show when the opportunity arose. A meticulous vocalist in the studio as well as on the stage, he understood the precise distance to hold a microphone away from his mouth to produce a desired tone or volume. Such expertise is evident in this performance.

Starting off with “All The Way Round” and “Since I Had You,” both from I Want You, Gaye exudes a sexual magnetism that would only grow more assured with each passing song. As satisfying as these songs sound, though, they underscore the exclusion of far superior songs from the same album, most notably the title track and the sweltering groove of “After The Dance”.

Saturated in soul, a simmering rendition of “Come Get To This” plunges into “Let’s Get It On,” an unadulterated throwdown with Gaye reaching his arms above his head, moaning in ravenous desire.

A medley of sixties hits highlights how much Marvin Gaye genuinely appreciated his audience. By this point in his career, he’d already broken from the Motown mold in which songs were virtually interchangeable among the record label’s roster. He simply didn’t need to perform many of these songs anymore, yet he understood the public’s wish to hear them. Highlights of this portion include “You’re A Wonderful One,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” which serves as Gaye’s gesture of thankfulness to his fans.

The most gripping segment of the concert comes with a medley of songs from Gaye’s seminal work, What’s Going On, an album that continues to rank as one of the most astute social commentaries ever set to music. His piercing eyes seemingly glaring into oblivion, Gaye sings these songs with so much conviction, it’s almost unnerving to watch while, at the same time, impossible to look away.

Another medley follows, featuring a sequence of duets including “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. Vocalist Florence Lyles capably stands in as Gaye’s duet partner, but it’s difficult to detach the songs from their original artists. With the lone exception of “It Takes Two,” which was originally recorded with Kim Weston, all of the duets here were originally recorded with Tammi Terrell. Only six years after her tragic death, Gaye doesn’t appear all that keen on performing these songs, especially the ones he’d made with Terrell. Like the previous sixties medley, though, this duets medley seems like it was done for the benefit of the grateful audience.

A thrilling and thoroughly expressive performance of “Distant Lover” ends the concert with Gaye dropping to his knees in palpable agony, growling out the words to this desperate plea for love.

By and large, Marvin Gaye – Greatest Hits Live In ’76 emphasizes the soulful depth and immeasurable talent of one of music’s most consummate artists.