Picks and Pans Review: Midnight Love
updated 12/20/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/20/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST
Motown mogul Berry Gordy Jr. discovered Gaye crooning with Harvey Fu-qua's Moonglows back in 1961. After having solo smashes with such songs as Stubborn Kind of Fella and Ain't That Peculiar, Gaye did a series of memorable duets with divas Mary Wells, Diana Ross and, most notably, the late Tammi Terrell. Then he broke new ground in the '70s with his powerful What's Going On? and steamy Let's Get It On albums. This new collection, his first in three years, reestablishes Gaye, now 43, as the champ of sensuous soul. It also marks his departure from the Motown stable. Gaye in recent years has been involved in a messy divorce. He has lived in Europe since 1979. His travails, however, seem to have added emotional range to his heart-melting tenor. Sexual Healing, a track that ought to inspire more than a few sessions of playing doctor, shows him at his vocal best, building to a finale where he pleads: "Darling, you're so great/ I can't wait for you to operate.../ When I get this feeling/ I need Sexual Healing." The cut also shows off his instrumental virtuosity—on drums, guitar, synthesizer, organ, orchestra bells, finger cymbals, bongos, congas and even the glockenspiel. On Midnight Lady and Rockin' After Midnight, Gaye delivers upbeat party favors, and there is even a whimsical Caribbean flavor on the album with the Rasta rhythm of Third World Girl ("Peas and rice/ They're awful nice/ But not as nice as you"). But heavy-breathing gospel still is the primary source of inspiration for Gaye; he could have them swaying in the pews instead of swinging in the discos anytime he wanted.