What's Going On [Bonus Tracks]

( 17 )

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - John Bush
What's Going On is not only Marvin Gaye's masterpiece, it's the most important and passionate record to come out of soul music, delivered by one of its finest voices, a man finally free to speak his mind and so move from R&B sex symbol to true recording artist. With What's Going On, Gaye meditated on what had happened to the American dream of the past -- as it related to urban decay, environmental woes, military turbulence, police brutality, unemployment, and poverty. These feelings had been bubbling up between 1967 and 1970, during which he felt increasingly caged by Motown's behind-the-times hit machine and restrained from expressing himself seriously through his music....
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - John Bush
What's Going On is not only Marvin Gaye's masterpiece, it's the most important and passionate record to come out of soul music, delivered by one of its finest voices, a man finally free to speak his mind and so move from R&B sex symbol to true recording artist. With What's Going On, Gaye meditated on what had happened to the American dream of the past -- as it related to urban decay, environmental woes, military turbulence, police brutality, unemployment, and poverty. These feelings had been bubbling up between 1967 and 1970, during which he felt increasingly caged by Motown's behind-the-times hit machine and restrained from expressing himself seriously through his music. Finally, late in 1970, Gaye decided to record a song that the Four Tops' Obie Benson had brought him, "What's Going On." When Berry Gordy decided not to issue the single, deeming it uncommercial, Gaye refused to record any more material until he relented. Confirmed by its tremendous commercial success in January 1971, he recorded the rest of the album over ten days in March, and Motown released it in late May. Besides cementing Marvin Gaye as one of the most important artists in pop music, What's Going On was far and away the best full-length to issue from the singles-dominated Motown factory, and arguably the best soul album of all time. Conceived as a statement from the viewpoint of a Vietnam veteran (Gaye's brother Frankie had returned from a three-year hitch in 1967), What's Going On isn't just the question of a baffled soldier returning home to a strange place, but a promise that listeners would be informed by what they heard (that missing question mark in the title certainly wasn't a typo). Instead of releasing listeners from their troubles, as so many of his singles had in the past, Gaye used the album to reflect on the climate of the early '70s, rife with civil unrest, drug abuse, abandoned children, and the spectre of riots in the near past. Alternately depressed and hopeful, angry and jubilant, Gaye saved the most sublime, deeply inspired performances of his career for "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)," and "Save the Children." The songs and performances, however, furnished only half of a revolution; little could've been accomplished with the Motown sound of previous Marvin Gaye hits like "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" and "Hitch Hike" or even "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." What's Going On, as he conceived and produced it, was like no other record heard before it: languid, dark, and jazzy, a series of relaxed grooves with a heavy bottom, filled by thick basslines along with bongos, conga, and other percussion. Fortunately, this aesthetic fit in perfectly with the style of longtime Motown session men like bassist James Jamerson and guitarist Joe Messina. When the Funk Brothers were, for once, allowed the opportunity to work in relaxed, open proceedings, they produced the best work of their careers (and indeed, they recognized its importance before any of the Motown executives). Jamerson's playing on "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" functions as the low-end foundation but also its melodic hook, while an improvisatory jam by Eli Fountain on alto sax furnished the album's opening flourish. (Much credit goes to Gaye himself for seizing on these often tossed-off lines as precious; indeed, he spent more time down in the Snakepit than he did in the control room.) Just as he'd hoped it would be, What's Going On was Marvin Gaye's masterwork, the most perfect expression of an artist's hope, anger, and concern ever recorded. [This 2002 edition of What's Going On includes the B-side versions of "God Is Love" and "Sad Tomorrows" as bonus tracks.]
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/14/2003
  • Label: Motown
  • UPC: 044006402222
  • Catalog Number: 064022
  • Sales rank: 2,206

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Marvin Gaye Primary Artist, Percussion, Piano, Drums, Vocals, Background Vocals
Ken Stover Background Vocals
George Benson Tenor Saxophone
Jack Brokensha Percussion, Vibes
Larry Nozero Soprano Saxophone
Johnny Griffith Celeste, Keyboards
John Trudell Trumpet
The Andantes Background Vocals
Jack Ashford Percussion, Tambourine
Bob Babbitt Bass
Italo Babini Cello
Zinovi Bistritzky Violin
Beatriz Budinszky Violin
Angelo Carlisi Alto Saxophone
Carole Crosby Harp
Earl DeRouen Bongos, Conga
Lillian Downs Violin
Eli Fountain Alto Saxophone
Nathan Gordon Viola
Virginia Halfmann Violin
Danya Hartwick Flute
Tate Houston Baritone Saxophone
David Ireland Viola
James Jamerson Bass
Edouard Kesner Viola
Rick Margitza Violin
Thaddeus Markiewicz Cello
Joe Messina Guitar
Carl Raetz Trombone
Felix Resnick Violin
Alvin Score Violin
Meyer Shapiro Viola
C.P. Spencer Background Vocals
Gordon Staples Violin
David Van De Pitte Conductor
Earl Van Dyke Keyboards
James Waring Violin
Wild Bill Moore Tenor Saxophone
Bobby Rogers Background Vocals
Chet Forest Drums
Marlene Barrow Background Vocals
Eddie Brown Bongos, Conga
Louvain Demps Background Vocals
Hank Dixon Background Vocals
Walter Gaines Background Vocals
Max Janowsky String Bass, 12-string Bass Guitar
William Perich Flute
Elgie Stover Background Vocals
Robert White Guitar
Jackie Hicks Background Vocals
Lem Barney Background Vocals
Freddie Gorman Background Vocals
Maurice Davis Trumpet
Technical Credits
Marvin Gaye Composer, Producer, Liner Notes, Audio Production
Steve Smith Engineer
Renaldo Benson Composer
Al Cleveland Composer
Earl DeRouen Composer
Ben Edmonds Liner Notes
Anna Gordy Gaye Composer
Larry Miles overdub engineer
Bob Olhsson Engineer
Paul Riser Arranger
Ken Sands Engineer
Art Stewart overdub engineer
David Van De Pitte Arranger, Orchestral Arrangements
Vartan Art Direction
Joe Atkinson Engineer
Elgie Stover Composer
Delores Wilkinson Composer
Curtis McNair Art Direction
Sam Ross Engineer
James Nyx Jr. Composer
Tom Schlesinger Graphic Supervision
Ryan Null Photo Coordination
Fuller B. Gordy Composer
Nate Jennings Engineer
Calvin Harris Engineer
James Nyx Composer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 22, 2012

    Highly Recommended - Prophetic

    This entire album was one of the most prophetic composites of its time and for generations to come. I am going to use it for a prayer vigil, it is "what is going on" today.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Greatest Album Ever Made!

    Of all the contenders for "The Best Album Ever" (Sgt. Peppers, Dark Side of the Moon, among others) THIS album, What's Going On, is the best of them all. This is where Motown broke from their constantly happy songs to finally comment on the social turmoil of the times and no one could have gotten away with it but the great Marvin Gaye. He certainly commented on his times, but he does so in such a way as to make the songs timeless and eternally relevant. Yes, there are hit songs here, but nothing beats experiencing the album as a whole. I suggest that you also buy the album that inspired Marvin to record "What's Going On': Donny Hathaway's "Everything is Everything" album, which came out a year before Marvin's. Together they are an amazing experience.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    This Is Why Albums Exist(ed)

    One Groove. Timeless. Pure. Spiritual. Real. Unbeatable.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    Man with the silk voice

    Marvin Gaye...the man with the soulful, silky voice. The CD took me back to a time when I really was having a good time in life. Marvin sung about what was going on at that time. He truly was a legend. This CD is really worth every penny I spent on it. If you want to hear the smooth sounds of Marvin, please get this CD, no regrets from me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A reviewer

    Although tastes vary, it is almost easy to say anyone who can't connect to this album in some way isn't truly interested in Soul. It has loads of Pop crossover interest: What's Going On Mercy,Mercy Me Inner City Blues...which also thrive in the Soul genre, but along with a handful of Stevie Wonder '70's albums, a couple of Otis Redding's and a James Brown or two from the '60's "maybe a collection instead" this is almost not arguably the best male Soul album around. "I don't place Sam Cooke purely in Soul, and I like this much more than Pickett, Booker T., or Philly Soul of the '70's, all of which I do like. Almost all '60's Motown is Pop, not Soul!" Now, anything black is labelled soul. This is the real thing. As other astute critics have already mentioned, it was one of the first Soul concept albums, with a strong focus on humanity, society, and a concern for our future. It didn't distinguish between black and white, like some Soul albums and it's not as obvious as Sly & the Family Stone in bringing us together "I am a Sly fan too, but this is better." If you had 40 CDs in your collection, this should be one of them. There are many great CDs to own, and this ranks with the classics. It really is Gaye's best album, although there are a few more worthwhile, along with a '60's collection. For this price, remastered, with bonus tracks, it's a bargain...or go for the 2 CD expanded edition if you are convinced, as it has a lot of live stuff that is fine, but may not appeal to those who want the album and then move on. I don't play the live CD 2 much myself, but it's a good thing that a needle isn't digging into my album CD at all! RIP Marvin.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    mercy mercy me

    Marvin gaye's "what's goin on" is the most groundbreaking and influential record to ever come out of the soul music genre. not only are the lyrics gripping and thought provoking, but marvin's delivery and musical arrangements are, to say the least, genius. the over-dubbing of his own voice, is a work of art, and if anyone should over-dub their own voice, it should be Marvin Gaye. it's obvious from the very first song to the very last that Gaye devoted his soul and mind to this brilliant record. "what's goin on" is truely a gift from marvin gaye to the world and, mercy mercy me, what a gift it is. enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    One of the Greatest Albums of All Time

    Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" album is an absolutely brilliant record, in my opinion the two best songs on there would be "Mercy Mercy Me" and "Sad Tomorrow"...I think that those two are the most dreamy on the record, but not in a good sense. More in a melancholy dreamy way, "Sad Tomorrows" is almost a good bye, the chorus near the end of the song stating "I did the best I could, Nobody understood" also "Mercy Mercy Me" outlines how we wasted a beautiful world. I would also consider the song "What's Going On" to be a great song too, dealing with the deaths of our children, domestic breakdown, and unfortunate fact that love doesn't mean anything anymore. Marvin Gaye tried to spread a message, it was beautiful, similar to John Lennon's "All You Need Is Love", I believe Gaye felt the same way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    What's Going On

    Okay, this album is pretty groovy, but it may be one of the most overappreciated albums of all time. The best track is probably the title track, and the rest sort of sound the same, save Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology). I can see how R and B purists worship the ground this album is sold in, but I for one am not an R and B purist, and therefore can't give you the best description of the work. In closing, Marvin Gaye really does have a tremendous voice.

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    Posted January 6, 2009

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    Posted April 27, 2010

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