Various Artists

Marvin Is 60: A Tribute Album

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Like most tribute albums, Marvin Is 60: A Tribute Album serves as a reminder of the greatness of the featured artist, not because the music is so strong, but because nothing on the record is as good as the original. That's not to say that Marvin Is 60 is a bad album -- given the caliber of Gaye's songs, it would be hard to make a bad album with them -- but it's a pointless one. Motown assembled a strong roster of contemporary urban soul artists (many of which, it has to be said, are signed to Motown) and had them cover familiar Gaye songs, mostly from the '70s and early '80s. In other words, it's Marvin the Loverman, even on selections from What's Goin' On? That interpretation isn't surprising, since Gaye laid the groundwork for contemporary urban soul with his '70s music, but it makes the album sound a little monotonous. The real problem with Marvin Is 60, however, is the fact that almost nobody takes chances or attempts to make the songs their own. Only the Grenique and Tony Rich duet on "If This World Were Mine" offers a significant rearrangement and modernization and, not coincidentally, it's the most captivating song on the record. The rest of the album is always listenable and always predictable -- even the promising Erykah Badu and D'Angelo duet on "Your Precious Love." It's as if all of the artists are trying so hard to be respectful, they can't help but deliver a facsimile of his performance. Since most of the featured artists are fine performers, it's a pleasant listen, but it never delivers any revelations about the songs, Gaye or the performers. Which means that it's hard not to finish Marvin Is 60 and wonder why it was even made. [Marvin Is 60 was also released as a limited-edition CD, containing a bonus disc featuring the original versions of all 13 songs on the tribute album. The disc just confirms that nobody does Marvin like Marvin.]

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