Sunday, November 16, 2008

Here, My Dear

by Don Guarisco

Here, My Dear separates the soul music cultist from the casual listener. This 1978 double-album from Marvin Gaye found the singer chronicling the pain of his divorce to wife Anna by combining elegant, multi-textured funk and soul with the confessional lyrics of the most painful variety. The end result was lovely yet intense and explicit in a way that most listeners and critics weren't prepared to handle: on some tracks he accuses his wife of using their son as a bargaining chip and makes reference to her demand for a million-dollar settlement, on others he confesses to indulging in cocaine and prostitutes. Here, My Dear received harsh critical notices and sold poorly (Gaye would later accuse Berry Gordy -- his wife's brother -- of burying the album). However, the album's haunting music and fascinating backstory allowed it to build a cult following over the years and it is now revered as a key part of Marvin Gaye's artistic legacy.

The respect and awe Here, My Dear inspires can be felt in the recent 2-CD special edition of this album from Hip-O/Motown Select. The album is reproduced in all its glory on the first disc, offering a crisp, richly-hued remaster that allows the listener to savor every vocal overdub and instrumental frill. It also adds "Ain't It Funny (How Things Turn Around)," an outtake that was remixed for this disc by none other than Bootsy Collins. The second disc is one of the more unique offerings in deluxe-edition history -- it contains the Here, My Dear album remixed by a group of producers and devoted Marvin fans in an old-school style.

This approach could have been a disaster in the wrong hands but the gambit pays off handsomely here. The remixers stick to the original sessions (no overdubs, no scratching, etc.) and just use what is there to revisit the tracks from a different angle -- for instance, Marcus Miller's remix of "Anger" takes some doo-wop backing vocals from deep in the mix and uses them as the backbone of the song and restructures the melody so it builds from mellow doo-wop harmonizing to the funky, assertive vocal flourishes that began the original version of the song. Often, the remixers strip down the claustrophobically dense mix of the original album to bring out the elegance of Marvin's vocal and the sophistication of his self-sung harmonies, not to much his surprisingly jazzy touch at the keyboard (there are more horn riffs and solos that get worked in, as well). A great example of that technique is John Rhone's remix of "You Can Leave But It's Going To Cost You," which strips down the original's dual-tracked lead vocal to a single confessional layer and hypnotically shifts the layers of the song's instrumentation so it ebbs and flows from bare-boned verses to throbbing, polyrhythmic choruses.

The cherry on top of the package is a 12-inch instrumental mix of "A Funky Space Reincarnation," which is easily one of the most underrated major-label funk songs ever recorded. The one flaw of this set is the fussy, flimsy packaging, which attempt to replicate the double-albums original packaging via a tiny, foldout cardboard sleeve and results in a package that rips all too easily when you're trying to fish the discs out of their too-tight miniature album sleeves. That said, the Here, My Dear expanded reissue is still an amazing package. If you're a Marvin fan, you're going to want this.

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