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  1. #1

    Marvin Gaye's What's Going On Tops Rolling Stone's Latest 500 Greatest Albums List

    Marvin Gaye’s What's Going On tops greatest albums of all-time list


    Marvin Gaye’s landmark 1971 release, What’s Going On, has topped Rolling Stone magazine’s new all-time albums list.

    The soul legend’s album dethrones the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which led the 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time countdown when it was last published in 2003.

    What’s Going On was sixth on that list.

    Announcing their number one pick on Tuesday, Rolling Stone editors called Gaye’s album “one of the most important and influential LPs ever made,” adding, “After What’s Going On, black musicians… felt a new freedom to push the musical and political boundaries of their art.”

    The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds comes in at two on the new list, ahead of Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and Abbey Road by the Beatles.

    The Fab Four’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band slides from number one to 26.

    Nirvana’s Nevermind, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution, Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill complete the new top 10.

    Meanwhile, the 154 newcomers on the list include albums by Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Beyonce, Adele, and Kendrick Lamar.

    https://torontosun.com/entertainment...-all-time-list

  2. #2
    There's most likely a generational changing of the guard going on here, and older albums are probably being viewed through a rather different lens.

    For instance, Sgt Pepper holds great significance for people "who were there" but might seem slightly more puzzling and less accessible for people who weren't "there". Sadly, those who were "there" are now largely retired and sometimes also, sadly, departed. This means that they will no longer be voting.

    In the end it's actually a great pop album from the late 60s, chock full of great pop songs but with some added quirkiness and inventiveness. Unfortunately, however, the quirks and inventions are all now mainstream and most listeners won't realise that Sgt Pepper was the seminal album from which a lot of those quirks and inventions first sprung.

    By contrast, WGO has a slightly more universal and enduring quality about it as it's actually far less quirky and "of its time" than Sgt Pepper and, therefore, hasn't aged in the same way.

    In fact, if anything, Marvin avoided using anything musically that would have marked the album out as being from 1971. He was definitely inventive, and he set a few trends of his own with WGO but he didn't follow any existing trends and he didn't employ any existing gimmicks.

    Soundwise, as CBS cutting engineer Tim Young said to me 35 years ago, WGO is produced more like a classical album than a pop album.

    Had the Detroit Mix been used instead, with its hard-panned vocals and strong emphasis on percussion would it have had quite the same culturally broad and enduring qualities?

    If the drums and bass had been mixed in a traditional Hitsville style, would it have had the same enduring qualities?

    Lyrically, the messages in WGO haven't aged, either. The lyrics are borne of war, pollution, poverty, ghettos, religion and love; and these are all very much still with us half a century later. In fact, Marvin could have called the album "Being Human."


    Also creeping into the Top 10 are newer albums from newer times and these were probably voted for by people who were "there" in these newer times.

    And so it goes.

    Sam Smith, Adele, Taylor Swift etc. might appear higher up these lists in another 10 or 20 years and then slip down in 30 or 40 years as the guard changes again and again.

    Perhaps, however, WGO will continue to endure because it's not a timepiece.


    It also seems to be the case that people who are serious about their music also find the ability to look into the past as they get older. How many people, for instance, have discovered the wonders of Frank Sinatra in their later days?

    It might, therefore, be interesting to see a breakdown of voting by age. We'd get some very interesting results out of this.

    It would also be interesting to see what people think of all of these albums in 100 years or so, when we're all long gone and these albums have all ended up in the same broad category of music from a bygone era. That would be a very different lens!
    Last edited by Sotosound; 09-23-2020 at 04:13 AM.

  3. #3
    https://www.rollingstone.com/music/m...-on-4-1063232/

    Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece began as a reaction to police brutality. In May 1969, Renaldo “Obie” Benson, the Four Tops’ bass singer, watched TV coverage of hundreds of club-wielding cops breaking up the People’s Park, a protest hub in Berkeley. Aghast at the violence, Benson began to write a song with Motown lyricist Al Cleveland, trying to capture the confusion and pain of the times. He knew he had something big in his nascent version of “What’s Going On,” but the rest of the Four Tops weren’t interested, and Benson’s efforts to get Joan Baez to record it didn’t work out, either.

    But one of Motown’s biggest stars and greatest voices turned out to be more receptive. Gaye was in a dark and contemplative place, wounded by the death of his frequent duet partner Tammi Terrell, yearning to sing subtler and more substantive material, and mulling over his brother Frankie’s horrifying tales of his recent stint fighting in Vietnam. Gaye had been keeping busy writing for and producing a group called the Originals, and trying to figure out what was next. “I’d been stumbling around for an idea,” he told biographer David Ritz. “I knew there was more inside me. And that was something no record executive or producer could see. But I saw it. I knew I had to get out there.”
    After some hesitation, Gaye embraced “What’s Going On,” and with the help of arranger David Van De Pitte, crafted a version of the song that was jazzier and more sophisticated than any Motown recording to date, layering cinematic strings over James Jamerson’s supernaturally sinuous bass line and a polyrhythmic groove. Gaye unleashed one of his most spectacular vocal performances in a career full of them, scatting and improvising around the main melody.
    Motown Records founder Berry Gordy initially resisted releasing “What’s Going On,” telling Gaye that he thought scatting was out of date and protest lyrics were too commercially risky. But when the song became an instant hit, Gordy gave Gaye a single month to craft an album to accompany “What’s Going On.” Gaye more than rose to the challenge. “I work best under pressure and when I’m depressed,” he told the Detroit Free Press at the time. “The world’s never been as depressing as it is right now. We’re killing the planet, killing our young men in the streets, and going to war around the world. Human rights … that’s the theme.”
    What emerged was soul music’s first concept album, and one of the most important and influential LPs ever made. John Legend recently described it as “the voice of black America speaking out that we couldn’t always smile on cue for you.” Building it all around one finished song lent What’s Going On a musical and thematic through line. “What’s Happening Brother” assumes the voice of a Vietnam vet like Gaye’s brother, puzzled by a changing America and looking for work; “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” is a taut ode to the environment; “Flyin’ High (In the Friendly Sky)” takes on drug addiction.
    After What’s Going On, black musicians at Motown and elsewhere felt a new freedom to push the musical and political boundaries of their art. “When I was struggling for the right of the Motown artist to express himself,” Gaye said, “Stevie [Wonder] knew I was also struggling for him.”
    At the end of the final song on What’s Going On, the lament “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” the music shifts back into a jazzier reprise of the title track. As the album fades out, the groove continues on. Five decades later, it still hasn’t stopped.

  4. #4
    I enjoyed reading the new 500 Greatest Albums list at Rolling Stone. What they did was, they went to recording artists (instead of their staff of critics) to help put this list together. And Marvin Gaye's What's Going On has (possibly) never felt more relevant than right now so the album has earned it's place at Number One.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by jack020 View Post
    https://www.rollingstone.com/music/m...-on-4-1063232/

    Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece began as a reaction to police brutality. In May 1969, Renaldo “Obie” Benson, the Four Tops’ bass singer, watched TV coverage of hundreds of club-wielding cops breaking up the People’s Park, a protest hub in Berkeley. Aghast at the violence, Benson began to write a song with Motown lyricist Al Cleveland, trying to capture the confusion and pain of the times. He knew he had something big in his nascent version of “What’s Going On,” but the rest of the Four Tops weren’t interested, and Benson’s efforts to get Joan Baez to record it didn’t work out, either.

    But one of Motown’s biggest stars and greatest voices turned out to be more receptive. Gaye was in a dark and contemplative place, wounded by the death of his frequent duet partner Tammi Terrell, yearning to sing subtler and more substantive material, and mulling over his brother Frankie’s horrifying tales of his recent stint fighting in Vietnam. Gaye had been keeping busy writing for and producing a group called the Originals, and trying to figure out what was next. “I’d been stumbling around for an idea,” he told biographer David Ritz. “I knew there was more inside me. And that was something no record executive or producer could see. But I saw it. I knew I had to get out there.”
    After some hesitation, Gaye embraced “What’s Going On,” and with the help of arranger David Van De Pitte, crafted a version of the song that was jazzier and more sophisticated than any Motown recording to date, layering cinematic strings over James Jamerson’s supernaturally sinuous bass line and a polyrhythmic groove. Gaye unleashed one of his most spectacular vocal performances in a career full of them, scatting and improvising around the main melody.
    Motown Records founder Berry Gordy initially resisted releasing “What’s Going On,” telling Gaye that he thought scatting was out of date and protest lyrics were too commercially risky. But when the song became an instant hit, Gordy gave Gaye a single month to craft an album to accompany “What’s Going On.” Gaye more than rose to the challenge. “I work best under pressure and when I’m depressed,” he told the Detroit Free Press at the time. “The world’s never been as depressing as it is right now. We’re killing the planet, killing our young men in the streets, and going to war around the world. Human rights … that’s the theme.”
    What emerged was soul music’s first concept album, and one of the most important and influential LPs ever made. John Legend recently described it as “the voice of black America speaking out that we couldn’t always smile on cue for you.” Building it all around one finished song lent What’s Going On a musical and thematic through line. “What’s Happening Brother” assumes the voice of a Vietnam vet like Gaye’s brother, puzzled by a changing America and looking for work; “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” is a taut ode to the environment; “Flyin’ High (In the Friendly Sky)” takes on drug addiction.
    After What’s Going On, black musicians at Motown and elsewhere felt a new freedom to push the musical and political boundaries of their art. “When I was struggling for the right of the Motown artist to express himself,” Gaye said, “Stevie [Wonder] knew I was also struggling for him.”
    At the end of the final song on What’s Going On, the lament “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” the music shifts back into a jazzier reprise of the title track. As the album fades out, the groove continues on. Five decades later, it still hasn’t stopped.
    I bought "What's Going On" after "Save The Children" was released as a single in the UK and received airplay on Tony Blackburn's Radio 1 breakfast show. My musician mother heard it playing and made a favourable comment about the bass line, and that was enough for me. If I liked it and my mother-who-didn't-think-much-of-pop-music liked it then it had something.

    Previously, the single of the title track had failed to grab me as I found the single mix to dense messy for my ears. (I still don't like the single mix but I love the album mix.)

    Having bought it I then proceeded to listen to it in its entirety every day for a year. Such was its complexity and subtlety when compared with mainstream Motown that each listen brought forth new stuff either lyrically or musically. Some of the messages were also massively engaging for an 18 year-old who was learning about the environment.

    Even now, I still listen to it quite frequently.

    What it actually avoids are race and politics. The messages are broader than that and apply equally to any place where there are people and ghettos and poverty and war and love and religion and environmental concerns. Perhaps that's part of its broad appeal.

    Musically, there's so much going on but none of it is "in yer face". Instead, the listener (well, me) gets drawn into it to the point of immersion. There's jazziness but it's not in yer face. There are grooves but they're not in yer face. There are huge crescendos with strings. There are diminuendos where we come down to a single lonely piano.

    It's a dynamic album with magnificent arrangements by David Ve De Pitte that seem to catch the souls of everyone. Perhaps that's part of its broad appeal.

    And there are some great songs. Even though the title track was never a hit in the UK, there are generations of Brits who'll sing along when they hear it.

    In effect, it hits us on so many levels that resistence is futile.

  6. #6
    I suspect that the album mix of WGO might have faired better as a single in the UK. The USA single mix at times uses the "wrong" lead vocal as well as just sounding "odd" at times.

    I bought the album on release in the UK and it has been my all time favourite album ever since. I am delighted that it has gained this much respected accolade.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by rovereab View Post
    I suspect that the album mix of WGO might have faired better as a single in the UK. The USA single mix at times uses the "wrong" lead vocal as well as just sounding "odd" at times.

    I bought the album on release in the UK and it has been my all time favourite album ever since. I am delighted that it has gained this much respected accolade.
    Agreed about the album mix. Starting the single off with the party chat would have given Tony Blackburn something to spark off. He'd have probably asked "Hey guys, what do you think about this party?" or something similar and then let The Detroit Lions answer with "This is a groovy party."

  8. #8

    A great chose

    I don't think any albums that are less than 25 years old should be considered. I doubt that most of these will stand the test of time, and the great albums get kicked off the list. Of course I would much prefer rock experts pick the list, eg. Dave Marsh, Susan W., etc. vs. artist .

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by tmd View Post
    I don't think any albums that are less than 25 years old should be considered. I doubt that most of these will stand the test of time, and the great albums get kicked off the list. Of course I would much prefer rock experts pick the list, eg. Dave Marsh, Susan W., etc. vs. artist .
    Where every other album on the top ten was the Beatles and Dylan? LOL

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by rovereab View Post
    I suspect that the album mix of WGO might have faired better as a single in the UK. The USA single mix at times uses the "wrong" lead vocal as well as just sounding "odd" at times.

    I bought the album on release in the UK and it has been my all time favourite album ever since. I am delighted that it has gained this much respected accolade.
    This is correct. I actually wish Marvin had got more involved in how they were selling the singles. He probably would've been pissed to hear that Motown sent the version WITHOUT the party chatter at the beginning for the UK version. That doomed the song over there despite it being a heavy favorite over there.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Eddie View Post
    I enjoyed reading the new 500 Greatest Albums list at Rolling Stone. What they did was, they went to recording artists (instead of their staff of critics) to help put this list together. And Marvin Gaye's What's Going On has (possibly) never felt more relevant than right now so the album has earned it's place at Number One.
    Indeed it has. I'm just happy a black artist topped the list. Especially MARVIN. Well-deserved.

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