Marvin (Penze) Gaye Stephen Holden - Essay

Stephen Holden

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A two-record concept album about conjugal love, "Here, My Dear" is a fascinating failure, as flawed as it is ambitious. In some respects it seems almost designed to be off-putting. (p. 122)

In the scope of its ambition and the lavishness of its production, "Here, My Dear" bears many resemblances to Gaye's 1971 masterpiece, "What's Goin' On," possibly the most eloquent evocation of social upheaval to come out of the Motown era. In that album, Gaye introduced a moody aural collage in which the brooding inner voices threatened to burst out of the production; the result was ominous, tense, exhilarating. "Here, My Dear" struts the same sort of echoy melange, thick with strings, horns, and chorus. The atmosphere is even more ruminative, the rhythms lighter.

But when turned to soap opera, as opposed to social drama, these textures become repetitive, even pretentious. True, there are some lovely moments…. But the narrator too frequently adopts a conversational singing style that lacks dramatic punch, so the details of the marriage (the album covers the union from courtship through divorce settlement) become the stuff of soap opera: realism without art. Most serious of all, the material is not tuneful enough to sustain four sides—a difficulty compounded by the sound's laidback dynamic evenness. Had Gaye edited all this into a single disc, it might have come together. (p. 124)

Stephen Holden, in his review of "Here, My Dear," in High Fidelity (copyright © by ABC Leisure Magazine, Inc.; all rights reserved; excerpted by permission), Vol. 29, No. 4, April, 1979, pp. 122, 124.