Marvin (Penze) Gaye Geoff Brown - Essay

Geoff Brown

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Three points. First, if you liked "Let's Get It On," Marvin Gaye's last studio album, you'll love "I Want You." Second, it will not convert the unbelievers. Third, it is the sort of album that Barry White and his grunt 'n' groan cronies would dearly love to produce, but can't…. Marvin still looks to sex for direct inspiration. If anything, he's now even more explicit. The title "I Want You" need absolutely no explanation. And much of the remaining music here is likewise straight down the middle: "Come Live With Me Angel," "Feel All My Love Inside," "Since I Had You" and "Soon I'll Be Loving You Again" say most, if not all, in their titles. The important consideration, however, is that "I Want You" is not a series of tracks but a complete, flowing, luxurious mood based on the desire of a man for a woman. Marvin deals with age-old themes and makes passionate truths of standard soul cliches ("hey sugar", "oh darlin'") while the musicianship is beautifully deft. It's a thick-textured album and the deeper one dips into it, the more one finds…. [Marvin's] still as high, pure, warm, light and soothing as ever. He is a singer who needs only to hint at the first syllable of a word and you know the whole sentence. His emotional panache, his ethereal, husky delivery come together on "After The Dance" as he blends the lyric and melodic themes of "I want you / You want me" with the satisfied physical exhaustion of a dancer whose prime drive is to impress his partner. The album is a fine melt of Gaye's personal expression with the current, general themes of black experience in America. Folks, he suggests, know the hardship and austerity of yesterday, but also know there's better to come, whether it is given or they take it. Through it all, however, says Marvin, love is strong and love drives. "I Want You" is highly recommended.

Geoff Brown, in his review of "I Want You," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), May 1, 1976, p. 29.