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April 2006

Jason Miles
What's Going On?
Narada Media

Songs one and two on veteran producer and keyboardist Jason Miles' tribute to iconic soul man Marvin Gaye foretell that something special's at hand. First, Mike Mattison of the Derek Trucks Band alternately sings and growls on the still-relevant protest song "What's Going On?" Gaye's spirit is suitably invoked. And the next tune--the equally anthemic "Sexual Healing"--shuffles along with a reggae beat punctuated by Dean Brown's warbling guitar licks. It's like no "Sexual Healing" you've heard.

Of course, Miles and company--guitarist Nick Colionne, saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and trumpeter Herb Alpert, among others--wrap their chops around many of Gaye's best-loved tunes. But brownie points need to be extended for including lesser-known tunes such as "I Want You," with Chiara Civello's sexy vocals bringing the song to life; "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby," with Guida de Palma's vocals; and "Distant Lover," with Bobby Caldwell's straining voice giving its all. To be fair, all three tunes were pop singles, but they don't endure today like the biggies do. That would include, of course, "Let's Get It On," repackaged here with Alpert's mellow trumpet lead; "Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing," simply stated by Miles' keys; "Mercy Mercy Me," taken in a new direction with Anne Drummond's flute; and, of course, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," with Colionne's sleek guitar lines.

Originally published in April 2006
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