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Soul - Released October 18, 2019 | Motown

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In 2001, Marvin Gaye fans were treated to a previously unreleased live performance from their idol (recorded on May 1, 1972 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.) in the bonus section of the Deluxe Edition of the masterpiece What’s Going On (released a year earlier, in May 1971). This October 2019 sees the astounding concert benefit from autonomous publication as well as remastering and 24-Bit processing. At the time, the singer was at a turning point in his career. Shaken by the death of his colleague Tammi Terrell, who died of cancer in 1970 at the age of 24, Marvin Gaye withdrew from the business and fell into depression. However, he soon returned to music. As America was fighting its own demons, both internal (segregation) and external (Vietnam), he released a masterpiece of thought-provoking soul. Packed with politically engaged prose, What’s Going On appeared on the label Motown and questioned what the American dream really meant. As a poet and entertainer, Marvin Gaye made his message resonate like no other. The album is a skilfully measured symphony, with strings that seem to hypnotize the rhythms and choirs. It was the cornerstone of black American music, which made it somewhat difficult to release as Berry Gordy, Motown’s boss, feared that this highly politicized work would ruin the positive image of both his label and protégé. With What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye forced Gordy to face up to the Vietnamese conflict, interracial tensions and the degradation of major American cities. And the album was an immediate success. For the first time, a Motown record was created differently, without Gordy’s total control. This live recording from Gaye’s hometown showcases his artistic transition by starting with a sumptuous medley of his hits from the sixties, including the brilliant song I Heard It Through The Grapevine. Marvin Gaye then performs on stage the wonders from What’s Going On, a record that went through a lot of changes in the studio. Throughout the concert (which lasts just over an hour) he stretches out certain songs, improvises and above all communicates with his audience like never before. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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R&B - Released May 17, 2019 | Motown

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Soul - Released March 29, 2019 | Motown

Putting the words “previously unreleased” next to the name Marvin Gaye has always had quite the effect. When the Deluxe Editions of What’s Going On, Let’s Get It On, Hear, My Dear and other albums were released, fans of the master of soul who died in 1984 got their money’s worth of alternative takes and previously unreleased recordings. This time, You’re the Man released in 2019 is a kind of Holy Grail of his music that has finally been unearthed. When he published What’s Going On in May 1971, Marvin Gaye completely transformed soul music and Motown as well as the history of popular music in general. This very mindful and deliberate masterpiece forced Berry Gordy, the label’s boss, to face the war in Vietnam, interracial tensions and the poverty in American cities. This was the first time that a Motown album was produced without Gordy’s total control and dealt with social issues rather than pleasant love songs. It was also the first time that Marvin Gaye, the entertainer, now had a social and political voice. In the wake of What’s Going On, the star began working on a new album called You’re the Man and released a single with the same title as an attack against the incumbent president, Richard Nixon. However, this attack was not to Gordy’s taste and after agreeing to release the single he refused to proceed with the album and even persuaded the singer to change his mind too. Some of the songs planned for You’re the Man were added here and there on some of his future recordings, but the 2019 version finally presents the album that Marvin Gaye dreamed of releasing in its entirety. This album’s resurrection is all the more enjoyable in the midst of Donald Trump’s presidency and lyrics like We don’t want to hear more lies / About how you plan to economise emphasise the timelessness of his music. The same struggles faced by black people under President Nixon are now faced by those under Trump. He even touches on feminism in the song We Can Make It Baby. For the production of You’re the Man, Marvin Gaye alternated between what he did on What’s Going On as well as the soundtrack of the film Trouble Man released in 1973. His voice fits perfectly with an instrumentation that is somewhere between groovy soul and light funk. To bring all of this together, it is also worth pointing out that Motown relied on producer Salaam Remi, known for his association with Nas, Amy Winehouse, the Fugees and Miguel. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Soul - Released December 14, 2018 | Motown

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Soul - Released December 14, 2018 | Motown

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Funk - Released July 8, 2014 | Motown

With his hustler look, his stash of coke and his huge ego, Rick James was the free electron from planet funk. Pushing everything to the limits, both in his life and his music, he embodied the crazy side of America in the ‘80s. With more than 100 tracks, this box set brings together all his recordings for Motown, including B-sides and maxis. There are essentially nine albums: Come Get It! (1978), Bustin' Out of L Seven and Fire It Up (1979), Garden of Love (1980), Street Songs (1981), Throwin' Down (1982), Cold Blooded (1983), Glow (1985) and The Flag (1986).Of course, Street Songs is the masterpiece that stands out from the crowd. It’s like the missing link between the P-Funk universe and Prince's Purple Rain. Perfectly encapsulating the African-American music from the early eighties, Street Songs is a brilliant fusion of disco and funk. But Rick James injects only the most essential bone marrow of disco into his raw, wild funk. And while the aim is to fill the dancefloor, the lyrics are far from meaningless… Leave Prince alone for two minutes, and rediscover this 5-star funkster, the only musician to ever bring us such a sizzling style of funk and a brand-new sound to Motown in the ‘80s. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Soul - Released May 21, 1971 | Motown

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Devastated by the death of his partner Tammi Terrell, who died of cancer on 6 March 1970 at the age of just 24, Marvin Gaye withdrew from show business and fell into a deep depression. He threw himself into football and signed with the Detroit Lions. In June of the same year, however, the social and political situation compelled him to return to recording. As America struggled with its own demons, both internal (segregation) and external (Vietnam), he released a masterpiece of conscious soul. With its politically-engaged prose, What's Going On, which was released on 21 May 1971,  shook the Motown label out of its rosy American dream and forced it to confront the realities of the time. But Marvin Gaye, a poet and above all an entertainer, saw to it that his social and political sermon was delivered with a truly unique groove. The album is a masterful symphony, both measured and calculated, in which the string section enchants the rhythm and chorus. But it wasn't easy to lay this cornerstone of Black American music: Berry Gordy, the head of Motown, was worried that this politically-charged project would damage the very positive (perhaps too positive) public image of both his label and his protégé. With What's Going On, Marvin Gaye forced Gordy to face up to the war in Vietnam, interracial tensions and the degradation of great American cities. The success of the record was immediate and hugely impressive, with What's Going On raking in heaps of awards. Perhaps more notable was the fact that this was the first time a Motown record had been produced and designed in this way, without complete control from Gordy. Marvin Gaye went on to sign a new contract with the label, this time for a million dollars, making it the biggest contract ever signed by a black artist at the time. As for What's Going On, it remains one of the greatest albums of the twentieth century. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Soul - Released October 1, 1976 | Motown

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Songs in the Key of Life was Stevie Wonder's longest, most ambitious collection of songs, a two-LP (plus accompanying EP) set that -- just as the title promised -- touched on nearly every issue under the sun, and did it all with ambitious (even for him), wide-ranging arrangements and some of the best performances of Wonder's career. The opening "Love's in Need of Love Today" and "Have a Talk with God" are curiously subdued, but Stevie soon kicks into gear with "Village Ghetto Land," a fierce exposé of ghetto neglect set to a satirical Baroque synthesizer. Hot on its heels comes the torrid fusion jam "Contusion," a big, brassy hit tribute to the recently departed Duke Ellington in "Sir Duke," and (another hit, this one a Grammy winner as well) the bumping poem to his childhood, "I Wish." Though they didn't necessarily appear in order, Songs in the Key of Life contains nearly a full album on love and relationships, along with another full album on issues social and spiritual. Fans of the love album Talking Book can marvel that he sets the bar even higher here, with brilliant material like the tenderly cathartic and gloriously redemptive "Joy Inside My Tears," the two-part, smooth-and-rough "Ordinary Pain," the bitterly ironic "All Day Sucker," or another classic heartbreaker, "Summer Soft." Those inclined toward Stevie Wonder the social-issues artist had quite a few songs to focus on as well: "Black Man" was a Bicentennial school lesson on remembering the vastly different people who helped build America; "Pastime Paradise" examined the plight of those who live in the past and have little hope for the future; "Village Ghetto Land" brought listeners to a nightmare of urban wasteland; and "Saturn" found Stevie questioning his kinship with the rest of humanity and amusingly imagining paradise as a residency on a distant planet. If all this sounds overwhelming, it is; Stevie Wonder had talent to spare during the mid-'70s, and instead of letting the reserve trickle out during the rest of the decade, he let it all go with one massive burst. (His only subsequent record of the '70s was the similarly gargantuan but largely instrumental soundtrack Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.) © John Bush /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 1972 | Motown

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After releasing two "head" records during 1970 and 1971, Stevie Wonder expanded his compositional palette with 1972's Talking Book to include societal ills as well as tender love songs, and so recorded the first smash album of his career. What had been hinted at on the intriguing project Music of My Mind was here focused into a laser beam of tight songwriting, warm electronic arrangements, and ebullient performances -- altogether the most realistic vision of a musical personality ever put to wax, beginning with a disarmingly simple love song, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" (but of course, it's only the composition that's simple). Wonder's not always singing a tender ballad here -- in fact, he flits from contentment to mistrust to promise to heartbreak within the course of the first four tracks -- but he never fails to render each song in the most vivid colors. In stark contrast to his early songs, which were clever but often relied on the Motown template of romantic metaphor, with Talking Book it became clear Wonder was beginning to speak his mind and use his personal history for material (just as Marvin Gaye had with the social protest of 1971's What's Going On). The lyrics became less convoluted, while the emotional power gained in intensity. "You and I" and the glorious closer "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)" subtly illustrate that the conception of love can be stronger than the reality, while "Tuesday Heartbreak" speaks simply but powerfully: "I wanna be with you when the nighttime comes/I wanna be with you till the daytime comes." Ironically, the biggest hit from Talking Book wasn't a love song at all; the funk landmark "Superstition" urges empowerment instead of hopelessness, set to a grooving beat that made it one of the biggest hits of his career. It's followed by "Big Brother," the first of his directly critical songs, excoriating politicians who posture to the underclass in order to gain the only thing they really need: votes. With Talking Book, Wonder also found a proper balance between making an album entirely by himself and benefiting from the talents of others. His wife Syreeta contributed two great lyrics, and Ray Parker, Jr. came by to record a guitar solo that brings together the lengthy jam "Maybe Your Baby." Two more guitar heroes, Jeff Beck and Buzzy Feton, appeared on "Lookin' for Another Pure Love," Beck's solo especially giving voice to the excruciating process of moving on from a broken relationship. Like no other Stevie Wonder LP before it, Talking Book is all of a piece, the first unified statement of his career. It's certainly an exercise in indulgence but, imitating life, it veers breathtakingly from love to heartbreak and back with barely a pause. © John Bush /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | Motown

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Soul - Released January 1, 1983 | Motown

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On Can't Slow Down, his second solo album, Lionel Richie ran with the sound and success of his eponymous debut, creating an album that was designed to be bigger and better. It's entirely possible that he took a cue from Michael Jackson's Thriller, which set out to win over listeners of every corner of the mainstream pop audience, because Richie does a similar thing with Can't Slow Down -- he plays to the MOR adult contemporary audience, to be sure, but he ups the ante on his dance numbers, creating grooves that are funkier, and he even adds a bit of rock with the sleek nocturnal menace of "Running With the Night," one of the best songs here. He doesn't swing for the fences like Michael did in 1982; he makes safe bets, which is more in his character. But safe bets do pay off, and with Can't Slow Down Richie reaped enormous dividends, earning not just his biggest hit, but his best album. He has less compunction about appearing as a pop singer this time around, which gives the preponderance of smooth ballads -- particularly "Penny Lover," "Hello," and the country-ish "Stuck on You" -- conviction, and the dance songs roll smooth and easy, never pushing the beats too hard and relying more on Richie's melodic hooks than the grooves, which is what helped make "All Night Long (All Night)" a massive hit. Indeed, five of these songs (all the aforementioned tunes) were huge hits, and since the record ran only eight songs, that's an astonishing ration. The short running time does suggest the record's main weakness, one that it shares with many early-'80s LPs -- the songs themselves run on a bit too long, padding out the running length of the entire album. This is only a problem on album tracks like "Love Will Find a Way," which are pleasant but a little tedious at their length, but since there are only three songs that aren't hits, it's a minor problem. All the hits showcase Lionel Richie at his best, as does Can't Slow Down as a whole. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul - Released August 28, 1973 | Motown

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Soul - Released May 4, 1982 | Motown

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Released in 1982, the double-album Original Musiquarium I summarizes Stevie Wonder's classic period of the '70s, concentrating primarily on the hits, but adding a few album tracks to hint at the depth of his albums, as well as four new songs (one for each side, all pleasant, none particularly remarkable). Though there could be some dispute about the album tracks, this does wind up as an excellent overview of Wonder's period of greatest activity, and it's a terrific listen to boot -- any record that sports such hits as "Superstition," "You Haven't Done Nothin'," "Living for the City," "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," "Higher Ground," "Sir Duke," "Boogie on Reggae Woman," and "I Wish" is guaranteed to be a great listen, and it is. Wonder remains a quintessential album artist, but this record is a terrific snapshot of the highlights. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul - Released July 22, 1974 | Motown

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After the righteous anger and occasional despair of the socially motivated Innervisions, Stevie Wonder returned with a relationship record: Fulfillingness' First Finale. The cover pictures his life as an enormous wheel, part of which he's looking ahead to and part of which he's already completed (the latter with accompanying images of Little Stevie, JFK and MLK, the Motor Town Revue bus, a child with balloons, his familiar Taurus logo, and multiple Grammy awards). The songs and arrangements are the warmest since Talking Book, and Stevie positively caresses his vocals on this set, encompassing the vagaries of love, from dreaming of it ("Creepin'") to being bashful of it ("Too Shy to Say") to knowing when it's over ("It Ain't No Use"). The two big singles are "Boogie on Reggae Woman," with a deep electronic groove balancing organic congas and gospel piano, and "You Haven't Done Nothin'," an acidic dismissal of President Nixon and the Watergate controversy (he'd already written "He's Misstra Know-It-All" on the same topic). As before, Fulfillingness' First Finale is mostly the work of a single man; Stevie invited over just a bare few musicians, and most of those were background vocalists (though of the finest caliber: Minnie Riperton, Paul Anka, Deniece Williams, and the Jackson 5). Also as before, the appearances are perfectly chosen; "Too Shy to Say" can only benefit from the acoustic bass of Motown institution James Jamerson and the heavenly steel guitar of Sneaky Pete Kleinow, while the Jackson 5 provide some righteous amens to Stevie's preaching on "You Haven't Done Nothin'." It's also very refreshing to hear more songs devoted to the many and varied stages of romance, among them "It Ain't No Use," "Too Shy to Say," "Please Don't Go." The only element lacking here, in comparison to the rest of his string of brilliant early-'70s records, is a clear focus; Fulfillingness' First Finale is more a collection of excellent songs than an excellent album. © John Bush /TiVo
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Soul - Released September 21, 2004 | Motown

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When it comes to holiday records emitted from the shadows of the mighty Motown hit factory on West Grand Boulevard, few could match the quality and quantity from one of their key artists. This collection from Mr. Wonder dates back to the first golden age of his catalog from the mid-'60s and relies on the successful stomping Motown formula from the first song to the last. A well-balanced mix of traditional and modern standards keeps the disc interesting, with the unquestionable highlight being "What Christmas Means to Me," a vibrant original tune that has undeniably become Motown's finest Christmas anthem and a holiday standard in its own right. Those looking to spice up their musical eggnog during the holiday season would be well served in giving this solid collection a few spins. © Rob Theakston /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 18, 2013 | Motown

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Soul - Released December 8, 1972 | Motown

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Another excellent two-in-one package, even if it's odd to pair a soundtrack album and a general studio release. But each was a standout release, for vastly different reasons. Trouble Man shocked everyone who thought Gaye couldn't possibly deliver a quality soundtrack, while it was only in recent years that even hardcore soul fans have realized how great M.P.G. was when it was released. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Soul - Released May 21, 1971 | Motown

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Devastated by the death of his partner Tammi Terrell, who died of cancer on 6 March 1970 at the age of just 24, Marvin Gaye withdrew from show business and fell into a deep depression. He threw himself into football and signed with the Detroit Lions. In June of the same year, however, the social and political situation compelled him to return to recording. As America struggled with its own demons, both internal (segregation) and external (Vietnam), he released a masterpiece of conscious soul. With its politically-engaged prose, What's Going On, which was released on 21 May 1971,  shook the Motown label out of its rosy American dream and forced it to confront the realities of the time. But Marvin Gaye, a poet and above all an entertainer, saw to it that his social and political sermon was delivered with a truly unique groove. The album is a masterful symphony, both measured and calculated, in which the string section enchants the rhythm and chorus. But it wasn't easy to lay this cornerstone of Black American music: Berry Gordy, the head of Motown, was worried that this politically-charged project would damage the very positive (perhaps too positive) public image of both his label and his protégé. With What's Going On, Marvin Gaye forced Gordy to face up to the war in Vietnam, interracial tensions and the degradation of great American cities. The success of the record was immediate and hugely impressive, with What's Going On raking in heaps of awards. Perhaps more notable was the fact that this was the first time a Motown record had been produced and designed in this way, without complete control from Gordy. Marvin Gaye went on to sign a new contract with the label, this time for a million dollars, making it the biggest contract ever signed by a black artist at the time. As for What's Going On, it remains one of the greatest albums of the twentieth century. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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R&B - Released January 1, 2012 | Motown

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As one of the first signees to the Motown label, a young Mary Wells helped define the early sound of the label that would change the tides of American music forever. Though she left the label at the peak of her popularity in late 1964, Wells wrote and recorded feverishly in her four short years at Hitsville U.S.A., leaving behind a vault of unreleased recordings along with her well-known chart-toppers. Enter Something New: Motown Lost & Found. This collection gathers together 47 tracks, about half of which are completely unreleased archival material and the other half are previously unreleased stereo mixes of songs that found release in various places over the years. The weighty collection shows that Mary's creative trajectory walked a remarkably similar path as that of the Motown label as a whole. The set begins with smooth and soulful post-doo wop numbers from 1961 recording sessions. The girl group soul of "Why Do You Want to Let Me Go" fades into a series of collaborations with Smokey Robinson like the happy-go-lucky calypso tinge of "To Lose You" and the smoky heartbreak of "My Heart Is Like a Clock." As the months burned on and Motown began to explode into worldwide popularity, Wells grew into the Motown sound. Tracks like "Have a Little Patience (And Wait)" feature backing vocals by the Supremes and capture the mixture of caffeinated soul and youthful rock & roll that Motown owned the trademark to. The same 1963 sessions yielded coulda-been-hits like "Free from Your Spell" and the spirited "Your Loss, My Gain," which later became a hit for Wells as "You Lost the Sweetest Boy." The set is rounded out by seven duets with Marvin Gaye and a host of standard tunes from the era when Berry Gordy was pushing his artists toward more adult material. Gordy's attempt to win over the fanfare (and larger expendable incomes) of the sophisticated supper club set resulted in some of the more questionable Motown material, and Wells' loungy standards are lacking when compared to the teenage kicks of the other material here. Even four tunes backed by the Four Tops can't completely save the dip in energy and vibe for the second half of Something New. That said, this collection will be a must for Motown completists, and soul fans will appreciate the spirit of fun and camaraderie captured in the earlier soul tracks. © Fred Thomas /TiVo
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R&B - Released July 26, 2011 | Motown

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Kelly Rowland's third album, following a split with manager Mathew Knowles and label Columbia, is as much of a patchwork as 2007’s Ms. Kelly. There’s an extensive cast of producers and songwriters, as well as a handful of guest MCs. The set aims at the R&B, pop, and dance markets with clear distinctions, so several songs sound like isolated projects rather than pieces of a whole. That said, there is a little more focus on appealing to “hip-hop and R&B” radio. Pre-album single “Motivation” creeps and slinks so efficiently that the Lil Wayne verse and Rowland’s vocal -- apart from “Go, go, go, go” -- are immaterial. The following three tracks straddle pop and R&B with appealingly busy productions, some of Rowland’s most forward and energizing performances, not to mention a high level of arrogance that suits her very well. Those familiar with her guest appearances on French house producer David Guetta's One Love won’t be surprised by the singer’s decision to retain “modern Donna Summer” as one of her modes. “Commander,” produced by Guetta with his typical thump-and-whoosh flair, was released as a single in 2010 and topped the club charts in the U.K. and U.S. The newer “Down for Whatever,” produced by RedOne, Jimmy Joker, and the WAV.s, is a more frictional Euro-dance number that deserves equal attention. Although very eclectic taste is required to appreciate in full, this is clearly Rowland’s brightest, most confident album yet. © Andy Kellman /TiVo

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