(UCM/Island, out Fri 29 Mar 2019)

Thirty five years on from his untimely death, Marvin Gaye still stands as one of the all time greats. To celebrate what would have been his 80th birthday on 2nd April, UMC/Island are releasing his never-issued 1972 Tamla Motown album, You’re The Man, in 2-LP gatefold vinyl and digital editions, with a CD release to follow in April.

Following the success of 1971’s critically acclaimed What’s Going On, You’re the Man was intended as another socially conscious record. The title track, a single issued as the 1972 US presidential campaign was getting underway, was a political dig. It reached number 7 in the US soul charts but made little impact in the pop charts.

Disappointed with the reception to the single, Gaye chose not to release the album, citing his differing political views to Motown’s founder Berry Gordy. For years You’re The Man was considered the “great lost album”, although most tracks have since appeared on assorted compilation CDs. For 15 of the 17 tracks, this will be the first time they have been available on vinyl.

The World Is Rated X was another masterpiece looking at the conflict in the world, a track with views that are equally valid today. “The world is in a grave situation,” he sings. After all those years, little has changed…

Three tracks on the album have been newly mixed by SalaAM ReMi, the songwriter and producer long associated with Nas, the Fugees, and Amy Winehouse. Unreleased at the time, My Last Chance would eventually find another life on The Miracles’ 1973 album Renaissance, as I Love You Secretly and the original eventually surfaced on a Marvin Gaye “Best Of” compilation in 2001. ReMi’s remix makes the most of Gaye’s dreamy vocal quality, as do his reworks of Symphony and I’d Give My Life for You.

Piece of Clay looks at the struggle for self identity and expresses Gaye’s hope that people should love one another no matter what kind of person they are. The production is relatively uncomplicated and straightforward, providing the perfect platform for Gaye’s pained vocals to deliver a powerful plea.

The album also features the long version of I Want to Come Home for Christmas, inspired by Gaye’s anger at the Vietnam War and his brother’s experiences over there.

The vinyl record comes with new liner notes from Gaye’s biographer, David Ritz, that delve into Gaye’s deeply personal internal conflict as a source of creative vigour and emotional burden following the massive success of What’s Going On and all that came with it.

“Now I could do what I wanted,” Gaye told Ritz. “For most people that would be a blessing, but for me the thought was heavy. They said I’d reached the top, and that scared me. When you’re at the top there’s nowhere to go but down. No, I needed to keep going up – raising my consciousness – or I’d fall back on my behind. When would the war stop? That’s what I wanted to know – the war inside my soul.”

Many of these tracks have been heard before, but to have the collection in one place only serves to highlight what a talent Marvin Gaye was. One simply laments a life, and a career, cut short and what this world has missed without him.