Tag Archives: Stevie Wonder

326. Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On”

Much of my TV viewing this year has involving racing through the first 3 series of gritty Baltimore cops and homies drama The Wire.

It weaves a pretty devastating tale of dysfunctional inner-city life. One can only think that Marvin Gaye is shaking his head in disappointment from beyond the grave, and saying ‘why didn’t they listen?’.

Gaye was blessed with one of those voices that could make the phonebook sound soulful, heartwrenching and sexy all at the same time.

He shocked the music world by getting political on this album, bemoaning the plight of the black man and pleading for a stronger, more responsible and responsive attitude from all.

The title track is beautiful, and there are a few other moments of momentous coolness (What’s happening brother, Mercy mercy me, Inner city blues). To have seen this is full swing back in the day would have been a treat:

Unfortunately, too much of this album is god-bothering pap. There are so many ‘praise thees’ on here, you’d think Al Green was at the mic/pulpit.

It was Stevie Wonder who subsequently delivered on the ‘urban plight’ angle of this album on his Innervisions masterpiece. But this certainly set the foundation.

File under: Got it going on, some of the time.

270. The Dirtbombs – “Ultraglide in Black”

As usual I’ve been slack in keeping my eye on my vinyl collection. I missed at least two Ds. Here’s the first of them.

You may recall my delight with the work of The Detroit Cobras. Well here’s some more Michiganites with a love of old soul, and a propensity to get down and dirty.

The Dirtbombs don’t usually do covers, but this release is a bit of a tribute to icons of soul music.

Mick Collins has a fantastic soulful voice, but with a garage sensibility. He’s not concerned with perfect pitch or lusciousness. Instead it’s about the energy and party vibe. He’s more at the James Brown/Screaming Jay Hawkins end of the spectrum than that of his clear idol – Stevie Wonder.

The album highlights include a grungy version of Wonder’s Living in the City and Thin Lizzy’s Ode to a Black Man which is much more amped up than this acoustic version:

OK, here’ it is in full live band format:

As you can see it is four-to-the-floor fun. I love having these sort of records to spice a dull Thursday evening. Add these guys to the growing list of artists I should see when next they cross my path.

File under: Get your motor running…