It's arguably the finest soul album ever recorded. After a decade as Motown's premier hit maker, Gaye wanted to tackle themes of urban decay, war, and our mortgaged future. When Motown's Berry Gordy balked at releasing the titular single (written from the soul-searching perspective of a returning Vietnam vet), Gaye refused to record anything else. Gordy relented and its success vindicated Gaye. He quickly recorded the rest of the album with the Funk Brothers, exploring a spacious, richly orchestrated, jazzy feel unlike anything he or the label had ever released. Gaye's concerns seem even more prescient now from the sumptuous outrage of "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" to the funky passion and despair of "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)." This box set includes the lushly remastered album complete with earlier mono single mixes, and a second CD of instrumental jazz-funk jams cut with Hamilton Bohannon's band. While those loose, largely unreleased jams are true fire starters, the highlight is the accompanying vinyl of the album's original unsweetened "Detroit Mix." Originally released on CD to accompany the album's 30th anniversary, vinyl's clearly the way to hear these earthier takes, which give this signature album a darker, even deeper feel.
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