** Various artists, "Inner City Blues: The Music of Marvin Gaye," Motown. This tribute album serves a valuable purpose, though certainly not the one intended: Most of the remakes will make you want to hear Gaye's real versions so badly that the album will probably increase his catalogue sales.
Boyz II Men's sexless version of "Let's Get It On" illustrates the futility of trying to duplicate Gaye's matchless, melodious mix of the sanctified and the sinful. That's the approach that dominates the collection, but there are some redeeming moments along the way.
Madonna's sultry turn at "I Want You" gives a coy nod to the original while clearing its own creative space. Stevie Wonder's "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" evokes the brio of Motown's bygone era, while his harmonica embellishments make it very much his own. But Speech and Digable Planets give the best tribute of all, by building on Gaye's legacy with original compositions that carry on his spirit without sacrificing their own musical agendas--Speech on "Like Marvin Gaye Said (What's Going On)" and the Planets on "Marvin, You're the Man."
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