1. (I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over // 2. My Funny Valentine // 3. Witchcraft // 4. Easy Living // 5. How Deep Is the Ocean (How High Is the Sky) // 6. Love For Sale // 7. Always// 8. How High the Moon // 9. Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide // 10. Never Let You Go (Sha Lu Bop) // 11. You Don’t Know What Love Is
It’s easy deduce without much prior knowledge from listening to the solemn standards album The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye that it is a compromise between its star and his label boss Berry Gordy following a rift about creative direction. One would however be hard pressed to believe that the carefully dosed emotions of the clean, sweet tenor heard covering familiar ground on this album belong to the same person who later on in his career passionately sang such classic original songs as Heard It Through the Grapevine and Let’s Get It On, employing a much more passionate gospel-inspired style with rougher edges. Around this time Marvin had a lot of developing to do as far as his artistic identity and signature sound were concerned, but such is the way of the world. It is after all Gaye’s debut and everyone has to start somewhere.
Not that it’s a bad record, mind you. This contains some expertly sang saloon jazz, with some rather pleasant arrangements. It also has a pleasant length of approximately half an hour, which may very well be the ideal length for any album as far as this reviewer is concerned. It’s just that it absolutely pales in comparison to Gaye’s career highlights including but not limited to the previously mentioned songs. It also makes the Miracles’ debut sound positively amped by comparison.
Gaye already had a fledgling career in music prior to introducing himself to Berry Gordy at a Motown christmas party in 1960. Following a stint in the US Airforce he had been a member of Chess Records vocal ensemble Harvey & the New Moonglows which racked up a few hits of their own and sang background for labelmates such as Chuck Berry and Etta James. After impressing Gordy he was transferred from Chess to Motown and would write history, but not right away. The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye tanked commercially. This brings us back to the before-mentioned creative argument between Gaye and Gordy: Gordy wanted his new artist to cater to the same R&B audiences Smokey Robinson & the Miracles catered to while Gaye wanted to sing jazz standards like Ray Charles and Nat King Cole did, because he considered jazz to be a more mature form of music than R&B. Gaye ultimately pretty much got his wish for what his debut album was to sound like and Gordy got proven right about the marketability of that type of music at that time.
There’s two songs which are new compositions, and they stand out like two sore thumbs on The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, but would’ve slipped seamlessly onto Hi… We’re the Miracles. Recording them was the concession Gaye made to Gordy. The former is the Who’s Lovin’ You-esque Gordy slow jam Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide and the second one is the Shop Around-reboot dance song Never Let You Go (Sha Lu Bop), written by Gordy’s sister who was Gaye’s at the time girlfriend. Both these songs also fail to give Gaye and identity of his own and make him sound like the Miracles in stead of Nat King Cole.
In conclusion The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye is an unimaginative but competently made lounge jazz album with some decent early Miracles-songs tacked on for good measure. And while there’s nothing wrong with any of that only people who find that description sound appealing, or people interested in Gaye’s artistically humble beginnings, need to bother with this one.
Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide
Never Let You Go (Sha Lu Bop)
This one is for lovers of jazz standards and Marvin Gaye fanatics/ biographers only.