Additional Marvin Gaye Duets (Released 2001)

“Different people look at life with different points of view…”

The 1973 album Diana & Marvin remains an interesting — if frustrating — listen decades after its initial release.  Released at a peak time in each performer’s career (Marvin Gaye just off of “Let’s Get It On” and Diana Ross having scored with “Touch Me In The Morning”), nothing on the album even comes close to the quality of each artist’s solo work.  That’s not to say the LP is a failure; songs like the UK hits “You Are Everything” and “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)” both manage to hit upon an appealingly slick, sultry vibe, and others like “Love Twins” and “I’m Falling In Love With You” are solid and memorable recordings.  Still, there’s really not a bona-fide classic to be found on the album, and it didn’t produce any big hits on par with the singles each singer had released separately before or after the project.

That’s why the addition of four “bonus” tracks — three previously unreleased — was so exciting when Motown re-released Diana & Marvin in 2001.  The hope for all fans, of course, is that one of the songs lifted from the vaults would be that perfect duet, a song that really showcased both Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye equally well.  One of them, “I’ve Come To Love You So Much,” held an especially unique promise, in that it was written and produced by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, who’d churned out classics for both singers — including the song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” which was a major hit for them both.  Producer Hal Davis — who helmed most of Diana & Marvin, including the notable single “My Mistake (Was To Love You)” — is responsible for the other two newly-discovered songs, “Alone” and “The Things I Will Not Miss.”  The final addition is the funky “I’ll Keep My Light In My Window,” which had been issued on the 1979 Motown compilation Pops, We Love You…The Album.

In the end, the new tracks are as uneven as the original LP in terms of song quality and vocal performance.  The duo sounds great on “I’ve Come To Love You So Much” — a song that should have been on the 1973 release — and “I’ll Keep My Light In My Window.”  But “Alone” features Marvin in fine voice totally outsinging Diana Ross, while she runs circles around him on “The Things I Will Not Miss,” which has got to be one of Marvin’s weakest hours on record.  Those two songs, while interesting listens, display an audible and distracting lack of chemistry, something that already ruins bizarre songs like “Include Me In Your Life” from the LP.  So do the four bonus tracks improve Diana & Marvin?  Not really.  But to be fair, it would have taken a batch of really, really amazing recordings to elevate the quality of an album that was so unbalanced to begin with.

***

Alone:  An odd song written by Wade Brown, Jr. and David Jones, Jr. (who also penned “I’ll Be Here [When You Get Home]” — recorded by Miss Ross around the same time and eventually released on the Hip-O Select reissue of her Last Time I Saw Him), this is probably the weakest of the four tracks solely in terms of Diana Ross’s performance.  She opens the track singing in an almost childlike voice, nailing the notes dead-on but without much personality or sense of purpose.  This continues for the first 1:20 of running time, and there is such a startling lack of charisma that it’s almost difficult to continue listening.  The problem is compounded by the fact that Marvin Gaye sounds so much more “into” the song, soulfully wailing and adding much-needed life and color to it.  Though it seems to close to coming together for awhile — the pair sing in unison for a few lines, which works better, and Marvin’s solo parts showcase his gorgeous instrument — “Alone” remains an apt title for the song, as the two basically sing at each other, instead of with each other.  Though there are a few opportunities, Diana never cuts loose, something that’s desperately needed; she is so controlled and rigid with her singing that there’s just no chance at any real life to the tune.  Aside from all that, “Alone” isn’t a catchy song; there’s really not a discernible verse or chorus here, which makes it difficult to follow.  While it’s always fun to hear a song from the Motown vaults, it’s not difficult to figure out why this one was there in the first place.

The Things I Will Not Miss:  Another strange choice for a Diana/Marvin duet, this is a Burt Bacharach/Hal David piece written for the 1973 musical film Lost Horizon.  Thus, the talent involved in this one recording is pretty impressive — Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Burt Bacharach, Hal David, and producer Hal Davis — each among the most successful in his or her field at the time, if not of all time.  The song’s musical origins are obvious; this is a showtune, and it sounds like a showtune.  Diana Ross, known for her versatility and adaptability to just about any genre, is up to the challenge of this fast-paced, wordy song; she delivers it like a pro, full of energy and spunk and letting the “actress” in her have a field day with the lyrics (although, to be honest, she does seem to be a little confused at times, ad-libbing little quips that are completely at odds in meaning with the lyrics she’s just sung).  Marvin Gaye, on the other hand, comes off as badly as Diana did on the previous song; he hits the notes, but that’s about it, and seems to have zero interest in what he’s doing.  There’s a joyful exhilaration to Davis’s production here that matches Miss Ross’s buoyancy; the urgent bells and racing percussion are certainly unique and memorable, and the instrumental track really becomes the focal point of the entire listening experience.  Though the song is written as a duet and the lyrics really wouldn’t make any sense otherwise, it’s a shame Diana Ross couldn’t have somehow just recorded the song herself and included it on another album.  As it’s a duet between two women on the film soundtrack, it’s compelling to think what could have been had Motown paired Diana with someone like lablemate Thelma Houston on this track.

I’ve Come To Love You So Much:  At last, a song that sounds like it could have become something of a classic for Ross and Gaye; this is a beautiful, lazy-Sunday ballad written and produced by Ashford and Simpson, who also contributed the track “Just Say, Just Say” to Diana & Marvin before leaving Motown.  It’s a complete mystery as to why this song was left off of the final album lineup; it is so superior to pieces like “Don’t Knock My Love,” “Pledging My Love,” and “Include Me In Your Life” that replacing one of those with “I’ve Come To Love You So Much” seems like a no-brainer (though, perhaps because Ashford and Simpson had left the company, Motown didn’t want to give them another chance at having a hit — which this could have been).  Given Diana’s track-record with Ashford and Simpson, it’s no surprise that she sounds fantastic here; her vocal is relaxed and warm, with the same kind of maturity and sophistication that made her work on “Touch Me In The Morning” so notable.  Marvin Gaye delivers an equally effortless vocal, allowing his gorgeous tones to blend beautifully with Diana’s and never sounding as though he’s singing against her.  They sound best together starting at around 2:35, as they harmonize on the lyrics, “But all my doubts, and all my fears” — Marvin Gaye then takes over, his voice raw and powerful on the line, “…were suddenly wiped away.”  Miss Ross’s next line, “So please believe me when I say…” is powerful and soulful, too, bringing the song back to the sweet and simple chorus and proving that when motivated, the two really could mesh together well and enhance each other’s voices in the process.  This is a song that didn’t deserve to sit in the vaults for so long; it’s one of the few cases on which both Ross and Gaye are vocal equals, rather than one totally showing up the other.  This should have been on the 1973 LP release, and would have even made a better lead single than “You’re A Special Part Of Me” — which ended up at #12 on the pop charts in the US.

I’ll Keep Me Light In My Window:  Previously released but relatively unheard, this song first appeared on the 1979 Motown compilation Pops, We Love You…The Album and was then interestingly added to 1981’s Diana’s Duets.  The song had been recorded a few times, including a version by The Temptations from 1984’s Truly For You, but here uses the arrangement as released by Caston & Majors on Motown in 1974 (the song was written by Leonard Caston and Terri McFaddin — and Caston also co-produced this version); the vocals here also match those on the  Caston & Majors release almost note-for-note.  This is an uplifting, funky tune that mixes elements of disco, gospel, pop, and soul; the production is absolutely fabulous, with a popping bass, well-used “wah-wah” guitars, and eerie, almost robotic background vocals.  Front and center are Diana and Marvin, both sounding full of energy and passion; they are both at the top of their game here.  Diana in particular delivers a soulful vocal; she is really loose, throwing in little flourishes and ad-libs that aren’t necessarily characteristic of her singing.  Listen to her at 1:28, as she sings, “I feel so good when I help my fellow man…” and then “‘Til love and mercy shine throughout the land…” — she sounds strong and confident, and follows it all with a nice little run of notes from 2:15-2:19 that are full of feeling and vocal muscle.  Mr. Gaye is just as impressive, getting to show off both the smooth, relaxed side of his range on the verses and then pushing himself and jumping all over the musical scale during the refrain.  Also helping the recording immensely is the fact that the song is insanely catchy; it’s hard to listen to it from beginning to end and then not have it trapped in your head for hours afterward.  The Pops, We Love You project was a unique addition to the Motown catalog, as it served basically as a tribute to Berry Gordy’s father, and the “Pops, We Love You” single wasn’t a big hit despite featuring four of Motown’s shining stars (Ross, Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson all sang on the track); still, Motown should have pulled this song as a single, too, as it probably could have given Diana and Marvin at least a nice R&B and dance hit.

***

When it comes to these four “bonus” songs, Diana and Marvin each score three wins and one miss; Diana sounds good on everything but “Alone,” and Marvin impresses on each song except “The Things I Will Not Miss.”  However, Diana & Marvin is a full-length duet album, which means both artists should work well enough together that it’s impossible to imagine one voice without the other on a track.  That’s really not the case with most of the songs from the LP, which is probably why Diana & Marvin has never been considered a real classic in either singer’s discography.  Still, there are some standouts on the original LP, and had “I’ve Come To Love You So Much” been included, it would have been one of them, too.  It’s just too bad the two artists couldn’t have taken the song’s lyrics to heart when it came to the entire project:  “I’ve come to need and depend on you…”

Best Of The Bunch:  “I’ve Come To Love You So Much”

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About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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19 Responses to Additional Marvin Gaye Duets (Released 2001)

  1. Mikel Patrik says:

    I don’t completely disagree, but I think you’re too hard on the album. In addition to “My Mistake…”, “You Are Everything is a classic and surpasses The Stylistics’ original.

    • Paul says:

      Hey Mikel! Maybe I am a little hard on the album — but it’s only because I really love both Diana and Marvin, and feel they were capable of so much better. I do absolutely love “You Are Everything” and “Stop Look Listen” — as I mentioned in my full review of the album, I think those two are classics and should have been singles in the states! But I just wish the LP wasn’t so uneven.

  2. I have to agree with Mikel, and to be honest I don’t hear any of the issues of the original record release that have been raised concerning Diana & Marvin.

    I might of course be completely biased as it remains one of my favorite records of Diana’s. Yes I am aware that there were challenges when recording this LP, but I hear two equally accomplished artists producing one of the strongest duet records I have in my collection.

    There seems to have been a (purported) level of competition with Marvin towards Diana, so I wonder if this is the disconnect heard? This isn’t Tammi Terrell & Marvin (with all the affection inherent in that coupling, or unequal pairing as Marvin was always the star of that show) this is DIANA ROSS & MARVIN GAYE both at the peak (as you quite rightly observe) of their respective game.

    There isn’t one track on either the original release or the bonus tracks (okay just one of the bonus tracks) that I’m not crazy about.

    I adore ‘Alone’, there is something lovely, lyrical & sweeping about this track, the track most in keeping with the original LP (which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your view ;-)).

    I also agree that ‘The Things I Will Not Miss’ is at the very least an odd choice almost Sondheim-esque (even Marvin Hamlish- circa ‘A Chorus Line’) in style, but again everyone is giving it their very best go, if not completely successfully.

    And not to be irritating on purpose (I promise) however, ‘I’ve Come To Love You So Much’ is probably the track that leaves me a little cold, just a run of the mill kinda of period track/duet sounding the most like filler (which is something I don’t find on the original LP). That and Marvin sounds so far away (or singing through a funnel).

    My favorite ‘new’ track for me is ‘I’ll Keep Me Light In My Window’ (not ever having heard it previously) this is just a funky roll kinda moment, that chorus & the layered production is just perfect (am I the only one that can hear an almost precursor to Michael Jackson’s work with Quincy Jones, no seriously ?!?). Stunning.

  3. Ross says:

    Sorry but I have to disagree….By the way folks Im the one who found this site in its infancy and informed everyone throughout facebook and the yahoo groups…just thought i would say that lol. But Alone is one of my all time favorite Ross songs ever. As a amtter of fact it is probbaly my fave of the unreleased music that has been released. I didnt know the guy who did I’ll be here when you get home did this one but it makes sine to me now, because I like that one almost if not just as much as alone. Love alone

    • Paul says:

      lol Ross…thanks for your support 🙂 Wow…I just don’t hear the quality in “Alone” — there is something about it that just doesn’t gel with me at all. I’ll keep listening…maybe it’ll hit me one day!

  4. Tony says:

    Ok. Diana has a velvet smooth voice ..like a fine red wine. Marvin has the subtle and delicate , and yet rich voice of a lovely shellfish. THE VOICES DO NOT WORK TOGETHER. And where there are glimps of it working,,,, well those are the exceptions that prove the rule. It just doesn’t work for me at all. She reaches too high and he doesn’t tgive a damn. That’s how it sounds!! Sorry. I’m not usuall this blunt.

    • Paul says:

      Tony — BE BLUNT! I love it 🙂 I agree — they are so gifted — they just should have been capable of so much better than what they produced. The LP, to me, is a wasted opportunity.

  5. spookyelectric says:

    Totally agree with you on the ‘I’ve Come To Love You So Much’ – it’s definitely one of the best tracks from these sessions period – really should have been on the album. There’s a warmth and depth to Diana’s vocals during this period with Ashford & Simpson that is irresistible. Although it builds to quite a rousing climax, generally it’s a lovely sleepy duet that really shows both off well (instead of working apart as you point out). Love Marvin’s ad-libs (I’m just a stubborn kinda fella”) towards the end too. Great track (though not quite the level of ‘Just Say, Just Say’). Shame Nic and Val didn’t get to do the whole album really.

    ‘Alone’ and ‘Things I Will Not Miss’ I tend to think of as more as interesting curios from the vaults. So great vocals on both as you say, but absolutely Marvin is having a rough time with the Bacharach tune. Reminds me of how Dionne Warwick has often pointed out how difficult those Bacharach & David tunes are to sing – lots of strange time signatures and melodic shifts. Diana is a very precise singer so it makes sense she would be able to study the song and turn out a great characterful performance fitting with the stagey nature of the piece. Maybe Marvin was feeling a bit lazy that today – he sounds much more confident on some of his soulful ad-libs towards the end of the tune – there isn’t really enough space in the melody earlier for him to really cut through.

    I do enjoy ‘Keep My Light In My Window’ but it’s inclusion really jars here as it’s such a different sound, a very different era. It’s nice to have all their duets in one place I guess, though they might as well have thrown ‘Pops We Love You’ on there as well.

    • Paul says:

      It really is sad that Ashford & Simpson couldn’t have done a whole LP on these two. What a HUGE difference it would have made. They would have pulled much more from Diana, and restrained Marvin from unnecessary oversinging. Plus, the quality of their songs is almost always to a very high standard. Ah…what might have been…

  6. Diana says:

    I am a little miffed hearing all of the negative comments about Diana & Marvin; although I must concur it is not the strongest effort from either one of them. Still there were some magic moments. For me, the highlights were “My Mistake” and “Pledging My Love.” Shockingly, I have heard many fans speak unfavorably about Miss Ross’s vocals on PML, but never have I heard her sound so etheral and sublime. Marvin’s vocals masterfully caress hers in just the way a love song should. Although, way overproduced, “You’re A Special Part of Me” is a guilty delight. I remember when this album came out, it harkened back to the Supremes’ golden years, as this album could be found in EVERYONE’s household. Oh! And for the record, I much prefer the Stylistics on “Stop, Look, Listen” and “You Are Everything.” I can’t say I was blown away by “Don’t Knock My Love” neither; “My Mistake” should have been the lead single.

    • Paul says:

      No reason to feel miffed! We all have differing opinions here, but it’s because we love and respect Diana’s work that we’re talking about her albums. Because I hold both Marvin and Diana to such a high stardard — a standard they themselves set with their incredible output — I wish a duet album would have been stronger. I think there’s a spark lacking here that would have really elevated the material had it been present.

  7. Pingback: Pops We Love You…The Album (1979) « The Diana Ross Project

  8. Alone is one of my favourite songs! Its so haunting, beautifully sang with Diana’s softness and Marvin’s soul – a perfect combination. Please where can I find the lyrics – I can’t keep making words up to the music (i.e. all this time I thought the lyrics were: “two forsake me for her what be wrong”) Someone please help me out!

  9. Pingback: Diana & Marvin (1973) | THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT

  10. Pingback: Diana’s Duets (1981) | THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT

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