The Many Takes of ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
— News — — Editor
Tuesday marked the 50th anniversary of the release of Marvin Gaye’s era-defining single, ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’. Although his is arguably the best-known recording of the Whitfield/Strong composition, it was by no mean the first and since its release, numerous other artists have put their own spin on the track.
The song was initially a number one for Gladys Knight & The Pips in 1967, but Tamla/Motown founder Berry Gordy was hesitant to allow it to be a single for Gaye the following year. To his irritation, disc jockeys purportedly took to playing the cut from the album, instead of the single Gordy had chosen in its place, effectively forcing the label executive’s hand. Gaye’s recording topped charts on both sides of the Atlantic, introducing the song to a wide listening audience and presumably, some of the artists who later covered it.
Not every interesting version of the song appears on Spotify, but we’ve compiled a selection of the ones that do into a comprehensive Grapevine omnibus. Many will know and love the version laid down by country rock giants Creedence Clearwater Revival and soul legends The Temptations, but lesser known are the subtle soul rendition by Hungarian vocalist Sarolta Zalatnay, the psychedelic soul take by The Rustix (featuring a bass break John Entwistle would’ve been proud of and a wicked, fuzzed-out guitar solo,) and TeeRoy Morris’ audacious electro rework. Dick Rosmini’s country-funk rendition, occurring 26 minutes into A Genuine Rosmini, is also a highlight for the lead guitarists to appreciate.
Aside from those rarer renditions, you can bask in the glory of Roger Troutman’s ten-minute vocoder homage, Tuxedomoon’s maniacal avant-garde cover and the awesome jazz and reggae renditions cut by Earl Klugh and Jazz Jamaica respectively. If you didn’t believe I Heard it through the Grapevine to be a special and diverse piece of pop writing before hearing the playlist, you’ll certainly appreciate its adaptability by time you’re done!
The Repeat Listen: Richard Spaven – Real Time
Tasting Notes: Kruder & Dorfmeister – G-Stoned, Alpha Mist – Antiphon, Floating Points – Elaenia, Okvsho – Traphouse Jazz, Myele Manzanza – One
‘The drums on my records tend to be subtle,’ Richard Spaven expressed to us in an interview late last year, ‘but for the discerning listener there is quite often a layer of complexity that is there – without bringing too much attention to itself.’ That’s certainly true of his new LP, Real Time. A gentle yet deeply grooving nine-track collection, the surprises it unleashes are ones that coax you deeper into the soundscape, rather than asserting themselves with volume or flamboyance.
Spaven’s choice of drums are vital to the sound he captures on this record. Take the track Control, where the hi-hats and cymbals aren’t particularly bright or sharp, but the whip crack of every snare strike is colossal and reverberant. There’s nothing ‘off the peg’ about his drum sound, it’s one that requires the same amount of care and consideration that a guitarist would put into selecting their instrument, pedals and amp to achieve the desired tonal range. Helsinki Trio is another track where Spaven’s unique drum sound stands out, but so too do Stuart McCallum’s layers of acoustic guitar, some seemingly reversed, others hypnotic fingerpicking cycles.
The record contains some delightful covers: a version of Andy Bey’s Celestial Blues – first recorded with jazz saxophonist Gary Bartz c. 1970 and later for Bey’s solo record released in 1974 — as well as a tremendous cover of J Dilla’s Show Me What You Got, wonderfully reimagined by McCallum and featuring the distinctive, ever-moving vocals of Jordan Rakei.
Taking five outstanding musicians and dropping them into a state-of-the-art studio like Real World doesn’t guarantee you a great record. There needs to be chemistry, complementary skill sets and a willingness to concede or seize the lead, in order to achieve a shared musical vision. Here, the core group of Richard Spaven, Jordan Rakei, Stuart McCallum, bassist Robin Mullarkey and keys player Oli Rockberger have ticket those boxes with aplomb. They captured nine contrasting yet complementary tunes, each cleverly constructed so at to please the domestic listener and sound great over a venue sound system. Each of these players has the requisite skill to overplay, but the experience and understanding to ensure that they don’t.
London-based spiritual/Afro-jazz outfit Maisha released a new track from their forthcoming debut full length this week. Eaglehurst/The Palace premiered via Stamp the Wax, who described it as ‘a euphoric sax and drum led tune,’ owing to the prominent contributions of drummer Jake Long and saxophonist Nubya Garcia. The track blooms gorgeously at the two-minute mark, Amané Suganami’s keys and the dual percussion of Yahael Camara-Onono and Tim Doyle elevating the piece to new heights.
Trumpeter and composer Marquis Hill released a delicate, jazz-infused RnB single entitled Kiss and Tell this week. It features saxophonist/vocalist Braxton Cook and vocalist Rachel Robinson and drifts effortlessly between the traditional and the contemporary: the drums at times imitating programmed trap patterns, before dipping back into subtle jazz grooves. Hill’s wandering lines and the beautiful harmony he creates with the sax, show the depth and class of the man’s composition.
Ahead of the release of Brainfeeder X, a compilation marking Flying Lotus’ label’s ten years worth of importance to the L.A. Beats scene, we were able to enjoy Thundercat’s new track King of the Hill this week. The cut features acclaimed quartet BADBADNOTGOOD and Flying Lotus himself. If you dig the vibe and the wider L.A. Beat scene, make sure you catch Cykada paying homage to it at Soup Kitchen on 29th November.
Manchester-based dream-pop outfit Diving Station released a live version of You’re Not Listening, the first single from their upcoming EP Feather Mouth, this week. Shot at the countryside home of their producer Hugo Meredith-Hardy by Tom Chimiak and Matt Williams, it captures the band’s skill and togetherness, sounding as polished and assured as the studio version they’d previously released.
Contemporary experimental composer Tashi Wada released a new visual for Mutable Signs, his track with Yoshi Wada and Friends, recently. Created by Dicky Bahto and dedicated to the memory of their friend Paul Clipson, it is an abstract and colourful accompaniment to Wada’s moving composition.
Finally, Ammar 808 published a raw live video for the track Magic Mirrors this week. Shot from the crowd at Nancy Jazz Pulsations, it captures the dark, unique energy of his shows, the electronics combining with Cheb Hassen Tej’s vocals and Lassaed Boughalmi’s zorka playing to enrapturing effect.