I Want You [Expanded Edition]
This is the third title in Marvin Gaye's catalog to appear in Universal's Deluxe Edition series, following What's Going On and Let's Get It On. I Want You, while it was a Top Ten smash for Gaye in 1976, is not as generally well-known as its predecessors for a number of reasons. First, it marked a sharp change in direction, leaving his trademark Motown soul for lush, funky, light disco. Secondly, its subject matter is as close to explicit as pop records got in 1976. Third, Gaye hadn't recorded in nearly three years and critics were onto something else -- exactly what is now anybody's guess. From the amazing Ernie Barnes cover painting (Back to Sugar Shack) to the Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson string and horn arrangements to Leon Ware's exotic production that relied on keyboards as well as drums and basses as rhythm instruments, I Want You was a giant leap for Gaye. The feel of the album was one of late-night parties in basements and small clubs, and the intimacy of the music evokes the image of people getting closer as every hour of a steamy night wears on. The first 11 tracks on disc one comprise the album as it was issued. Tracks 11 through 14 are mixes of the title track and instrumental versions of it and "Strange Love (Feel All My Love Inside)." Disc two features unedited mixes of "Come Live with Me Angel" and "I Wanna Be Where You Are," alternate mixes of "After the Dance" and "Since I Had You," among others, and an a cappella vocal mix of "I Want You," as well as ten other versions, outtakes, backing tracks, and rough mixes. Given the high quality of engineer Fred Ross' basic tracks, it's a captivating listen -- perhaps obsessively so -- for those interested in process or even just alternate takes. As if the music weren't enough, the package, in a stunning foldout presentation, includes a booklet with rare photos, commentaries by Ware, Jan Gaye, and Art Stewart, among others, with captivating and complete session notes by Richard Torres -- including essays on Barnes' cover painting and Perkinson's string and horn arrangements. I Want You and its companion, Ware's Musical Massage, are the preeminent early disco concept albums. They are adult albums about intimacy, sensuality, and commitment, and decades later they still reverberate with class, sincerity, grace, intense focus, and astonishingly good taste. I Want You is as necessary as anything Gaye ever recorded, and is as compelling in the 21st century as when it was first issued.