We gave it a C
Smooth and supple, the voice of the late Marvin Gaye remains one of pop’s great aphrodisiacs. Released in the week of Gaye’s birthday (he would have been 52), Marvin Gaye: Greatest Hits Live captures 55 minutes from a 1978 performance in Holland. Gaye soars, but his huge backup band too often drags him back down. Their playing is, by turns, tepid and leaden, lessening the impact of such swirling soul songs as ”What’s Going On.” Even material as naturally punchy as Gaye’s early Motown hits, including ”Ain’t That Peculiar” and ”I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (corralled here into a medley), are rendered paunchy by the band. Likewise, Florence Lyles, the female singer who helps Gaye re-create his famed duets with Tammi Terrell and Mary Wells, falls short of the originals. It doesn’t help that the tape’s sound is borderline cheesy, or that the camera work is lackadaisical. Still, any program that features a voice like Gaye’s can’t be a complete waste. His hypnotic croon alone makes the tape worth renting for one night — and for night only, of course.