Pre-dating the voyeuristic tendencies of reality television by 20 years, Here, My Dear is the sound of divorce on record -- exposed in all of its tender-nerve glory for the world to consume. During the amazing success of I Want You and his stellar Live at the London Palladium album, Marvin Gaye was served with divorce papers from his then-wife Anna Gordy Gaye (sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy). One of the conditions of the settlement was that Gordy Gaye would receive an extensive percentage of royalties as well as a portion of the advance for his next album. Initially, Gaye was contemplating giving less than his best effort, as he wouldn't stand to receive any money, but then reconsidered at the last moment. The result is a two-disc-long confessional on the deterioration of their marriage; starting from the opening notes of the title track, Gaye viciously cuts with every lyric deeper into an explanation of why the relationship died the way it did. Gaye uses the album, right down to its packaging, to exorcise his personal demons with subtle visual digs and less-than-subtle lyrical attacks. The inner sleeve had a pseudo-board-game-like illustration entitled "Judgment," in which a man's hand passes a record to a woman's. One side of the sleeve has Gaye's music and recording equipment, while the other side of the board included jewelry and other luxurious amenities. Musically the album retains the high standards Gaye set in the early '70s, but you can hear the agonizing strain of recent events in his voice, to the point where even several vocal overdubs can't save his delivery. Stripped to its bare essence, Here, My Dear is no less than brilliantly unsettling and a perfect cauterization to a decade filled with personal turmoil.
Well over a decade after the first CD version of the album was issued on Motown, Hip-O Select put together a two-disc expanded edition. On the first disc, an alternate mix of "Ain't It Funny (How Things Turn Around)" is added to the album's original track list. The second disc contains the original instrumental mix of "A Funky Space Reincarnation," but the remainder of the disc's content is billed as "Hear, My Dear: Sessions 1976-1978." These tracks are actually new remixes -- remixes in the purest sense, meaning no overdubs or outside elements. A wide range of musicians and producers, including Leon Ware and Gerry "The Gov" Brown, ?uestlove and James Poyser (as the Randy Watson Experience), Prince Paul, Salaam Remi, Bootsy Collins, and Easy Mo Bee, contribute to this alternate version of the album. While the originals will always be preferable, the remixes are far from Motown Remixed territory; they are not flashy, drastically mutated re-workings that make even non-purists cringe. There's also plenty to absorb in the packaging: vivid artwork reproductions, session information, Curtis M. Shaw's original liner notes, notes from Gaye biographer and collaborator David Ritz, and notes from Universal A&R VP Harry Weinger. More importantly, the discovery of the session reels enabled a listing of musician credits that is far more extensive than what was provided in the notes to the 1994 CD release (which relied on trumpeter and road band director Nolan Smith's recollection). Hats off to Motown, Hip-O Select, and Universal for making this deep, complex, and rich album available in such valuable form. ~ Rob Theakston & Andy Kellman