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I Want You (album)

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I Want You
Studio album by Marvin Gaye
ReleasedMarch 16, 1976
Marvin's Room, Hitsville West
(Los Angeles, California)
GenreSoul, funk, quiet storm, jazz-funk, disco
ProducerMarvin Gaye, Leon Ware, Arthur "T-Boy" Ross
Professional reviews
Marvin Gaye chronology
Let's Get It On
I Want You
Here, My Dear
Singles from I Want You
  1. "I Want You (Vocal)"
    Released: 1976
  2. "After the Dance (Vocal)"
    Released: 1976
  3. "Since I Had You"
    Released: 1976

I Want You is the thirteenth studio album by American soul musician Marvin Gaye, released March 16, 1976, on Motown-subsidiary label Tamla Records. Recording sessions for the album took place throughout 1975 and 1976 at Motown Recording Studios, also known as Hitsville West, and Gaye's personal studio Marvin's Room in Los Angeles, California. The album has often been noted by critics for the erotic, sexual themes in Gaye's intimate lyricism and producer Leon Ware's exotic, downtempo production. The album's cover art adapts neo-mannerist artist Ernie Barnes's famous painting The Sugar Shack (1971).

I Want You consisted of Marvin Gaye's first recorded studio material since his highly successful and acclaimed 1973 album Let's Get It On. While the album marked a change in musical direction for Gaye, as it departed from his trademark Motown and doo-wop styled sound for funky, light-disco soul, I Want You maintained his previous studio album's romantic themes. Following an initial mixed response from critics, I Want You earned recognition from writers and music critics as one of Gaye's most controversial and influential works, serving as a major influence on disco, quiet storm, R&B, and neo soul music.




Gaye's relationship with Janis Hunter inspired him during recording.

By 1975, Marvin Gaye had come off of the commercial and critical success of his landmark studio album Let's Get It On (1973), its successful supporting tour following the album's release, and Diana & Marvin (1975), a duet project with Diana Ross. However, similar to the conception and recording of Let's Get It On, Gaye had struggled to come up with an album to compete it with. And much like Let's Get It On, outside help and assistance came in the form of Leon Ware, a singer and songwriter who had found previous success writing hits for fellow Motown alum, including pop singer Michael Jackson and the rhythm and blues group The Miracles.[11] Ware had been working on songs for his own album which he later titled Musical Massage, a collection of sexually erotic singles Ware had composed with a variety of writers, including Jacqueline Hillard and Arthur "T-Boy" Ross, brother of Diana Ross.[11] When Motown CEO Berry Gordy paid a visit to Ware, the songwriter was more than happy to play Gordy his selection of tracks. After hearing a preliminary mix of the songs, however, Gordy figured that Ware let Gaye handle his material.[11]

While the majority of the songs for I Want You were conceived by Ware, the album had been transformed into a biographical centerpiece for Gaye, who was then in a volatile marriage with Anna Gordy, sister to Berry Gordy, and also in a long-standing affair with Janis Hunter, who would later become the mother of his two youngest children.[12] Marvin Gaye and Janis Hunter were introduced to each other by producer Ed Townsend, while Gaye and Townsend were recording during the Let's Get It On sessions in early 1973 at Hitsville West. In his book Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves, and Demons of Marvin Gaye, literary author and music writer Michael Eric Dyson elaborated on the relationship between I Want You and Gaye's affair with Hunter that had influenced the music on the album, stating "I Want You is unmistakably a work of romantic and erotic tribute to the woman he deeply loved and would marry shortly, Janis Hunter. Gaye's obsession with the woman in her late teens is nearly palpable in the sensual textures that are the album's aural and lyrical signature. Their relationship was relentlessly passionate and emotionally rough-hewn; they played up each other's strengths, and played off each other's weaknesses."[13] Though it was often hinted that Let's Get It On was the album Gaye had dedicated to her, Marvin cited this album as being dedicated to Hunter, with whom is believed to have been in the studio when Marvin recorded the project. Her presence may have increased the emotion in Ware's and Gaye's conception of I Want You, according to music critics.[12]


Gaye and Ware recorded and mixed the album at Marvin's newly-christened "Marvin's Room Studio", located on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles and at Motown Recording Studios.[11] The recording sessions took place throughout 1975 and 1976.[14] Much like Gaye's previous studio effort Let's Get It On, I Want You featured Gaye's contribution of background vocals and their heavy multi-tracking. The style of Gaye's vocalizing was in classic doo-wop tradition accompanied by the low tempo of string arrangements and other instrumentation, which was provided by The Funk Brothers, the same group of studio musicians who had backed Gaye up on his breakthrough album What's Going On and its follow up Let's Get It On.[15]

The production of Gaye's albums, especially Ware's production for I Want You, has been influential on modern soul music and contemporary R&B.[12] EMI Artists and Repertoire executive Gary Harris, who later assisted neo soul singer D'Angelo in recording his highly acclaimed debut album Brown Sugar (1995), later commented on Gaye's significant artistry on I Want You and its opening title track.[15] In an interview with writer Michael Eric Dyson, Harris said:

With the opening, with the congas and the strings; it's like the sun is rising. It's a very cinemtatic approach to the whole thing. It shows a thing Quincy Jones called "ear candy." The voicings and the arrangements convey no only mood but time, place and image. He's talking about "dreamed of you this morning." It's crazy. The other thing about Marvin and the song is he always, no matter what he was doing, how many risks he would take, he was a radical traditionalist and always held onto his doo-wop upbringing. Those background harmonies ... no matter how increasingly percussive he got, how funky, the background vocals were always steeped in that tradition.[15]
Garry Harris

Another significant feature of the recording sessions for I Want You was Gaye's use of the synthesizer in his music. During the time of recording, the instrument had entered its modern period of use and had been included in the music of such popular acts as Stevie Wonder and Led Zeppelin. For the instrumental version of "After the Dance", Gaye implented it for a more spacey sound than his previous recordings had featured. Other recordings from these sessions to feature Gaye's synthesizer were later featured on the deluxe edition re-release of I Want You.[11]

Album artwork

Promotional artwork for I Want You

The original Sugar Shack painting, which was later used for the front album cover of I Want You, was painted and released by neo-mannerist artist Ernie Barnes in 1971.[16] In 1974, Barnes redesigned the painting for use by television producer Norman Lear for the opening credits of Good Times, his hit CBS sitcom that ran from 1974 to 1979.[17] The Sugar Shack portrays a cultural image of a shack full of black people dancing. The Sugar Shack was painted by Barnes in his signature post-mannerist style, using serpentine lines, elongation of the human figure, clarity of line, unusual spatial relationships, painted frames, and distinctive color palettes. This style of technique and composition is similar to the mannerist style of 16th century artists such as Michelangelo and Raphael, which has led Barnes to be credited as the founder of the Neo-Mannerism movement.[18] Art critic Frank Getlein later called The Sugar Shack a "stunning demonstration of the fusion of Neo-Mannerism and Genre painting that Barnes alone has perfected and practices", and went on to say:

The dances of ordinary people have been a standard subject of Genre painting since it was invented by Breughel. The perfectly-controlled lighting and the elaborate poses of the elongated figures are class Mannerism. Sugar Shack effortlessly combines the two heritages in Neo-Mannerism Genre painting. Any Mannerist painter would be proud of the succession of figures in the main, central group of dancers, but the whole is infused with the innocent exuberance of Breughel and his fellow Flemings.[18]
Frank Getlein

The Sugar Shack has been known to art critics for embodying the style of art composition known as "Black Romantic", which, according to Natalie Hopkinson of the Washington Post, is the "visual-art equivalent of the Chitlin' circuit."[5] According to Barnes, he created the original version after reflecting upon his childhood, during which he was not "able to go to a dance."[19] In an interview with SoulMuseum.net, Barnes was asked whether there were any messages he was attempting to express through the painting. He stated "'Sugar Shack' is a recall of a childhood experience. It was the first time my innocence met with the sins of dance. The painting transmits rhythm so the experience is re-created in the person viewing it. To show that African-Americans utilize rhythm as a way of resolving physical tension"[16]

Marvin Gaye was initially introduced to Barnes by colleague Barbara Hunter, which led to him buying eight Barnes originals, including The Sugar Shack. After Gaye asked him for permission to use the painting as an album cover, Barnes then augmented the painting by adding references that allude to Gaye's album, including banners hanging from the ceiling of the shack promoting the album's singles.[11][5] Since receiving wide acclaim for The Sugar Shack, Barnes has gained recognition from art critics as one of the best black painters of his time and was cited by the Oakland Tribune as the "Picasso of the black art world."[19][18]


Commercial performance

Gaye and Leon Ware received mixed criticism for their production.

I Want You was released March 16, 1976 in the United States on the Motown-subsidiary label Tamla Records.[20] While not as successful sales-wise as Gaye's previous landmark albums What's Going On and Let's Get It On, I Want You sold in excess of 1 million copies in the United States with help mostly coming from its first single "I Want You". The single topped the Billboard Soul Singles chart, quickly becoming Marvin Gaye's eleventh number-one hit on that chart, while peaking at number fifteen on the Billboard Pop Singles chart.[12]

The album's second single, the quiet storm track "After the Dance (Vocal)", charted modestly, peaking at #14 on the Soul Singles chart and #74 on the Pop Singles chart, while another single release version of the song, a double A-sided vinyl record for dance clubs and discothèques, hit the top ten of the Billboard Disco Singles chart. The song became a staple of dance clubs and discothèques during the late 1970s.[12] "After the Dance" was hailed as one of Marvin's signature songs during the late 1970s and was later described by Gaye-biographer David Ritz as "emblematic for the final chapter of his career."[12] I Want You became his fourth album to reach the top ten of the Billboard 200 chart and his fifth number-one album on the Soul Albums chart.

Critical response

Despite its chart success, I Want You initially received mixed reviews from music critics.[12] It has been noted by music writers that the critical reception of disco music in general had been poor and ill-conceived, which may have caused the slightly disco-styled I Want You to suffer critically, in comparison to Gaye's previous albums.[12] Los Angeles Times writer Dennis Hunt called the album "disappointing" and "only partially commendable".[21] Rolling Stone's Vince Aletti criticized Leon Ware's production for being too low-key, and perceived that Gaye lacks the certain passion in his lyricism and singing from his previous records.[7] Aletti compared the album to Gaye's previous work, writing "Gaye seems determined to take over as soul's master philosopher in the bedroom, a position that requires little but an affectation of constant, rather jaded horniness. The pose has already been established in Let's Get It On, on which Gaye was hot, tender, aggressive, soothing and casually raunchy—the modern lover with all his contradictions. I Want You continues in the same vein but with only the faintest traces of the robust passion that shot through and sustained the earlier album... one expects something with a little more substance and spirit. But there's no fire here, only a well-concealed pilot light."[7]

Cliff White of NME called the album "almost a voyeur's delight", and was not favorable of Gaye's sensual themes, stating "Although getting down, getting mellow, and getting it on are paramount considerations in the privacy of my own home, I don't particularly want to be party to someone else's night life. Not on record anyway ... Like peeking through the windows of the Gaye residence in the wee wee hours. Perhaps that's your kick, but personally I find it a mite frustrating."[4] White also criticized the album's sound, describing the songs as "all expressions of the same mood. Sensual, satisfied, and spaced out", and calling I Want You "simply the explorative aftermath of Let's Get It On. The sweet nuthin's of a drowsy, sweat-streaked lover."[4] Rock critic Robert Christgau of The Village Voice wrote favorably of the album's sound quality.[3] However, he criticized the lyrical content, as well as Ware's involvement in songwriting, stating "was it Ware who instructed Marvin to eliminate all depth and power from his voice? I mean, if you're into insisting on sex it's in bad taste to whine about it."[3] Following the release of I Want You, Ware released his second studio album, Musical Massage (1976), which received little mainstream notice.[12] Despite this, the album became a cult hit among soul music fans who were intrigued by Marvin's album and songs from that album's producer.[12] Critical recognition of Ware's album would improve and the album was later cited as "the perfect mix of soul, light funk, jazz, and what was about to become the rhythmic foundation for disco."[22]


After critical re-examination of the album, I Want You has been recognized by writers and music writers as one of Marvin Gaye's most controversial and influential works, and, much like its predecessor Let's Get It On, has served as a major influence on the quiet storm and contemporary R&B genres.[23] Its standing has also improved among critics following an expanded edition release of the album in 2003, which featured extensive liner notes and photography by Ryan Null. Following the expanded edition release on July 29, 2003, Allmusic reviewed I Want You, praising Gaye's different direction in music and the eroticism portrayed in Leon Ware's smooth-tempo production and Gaye's intimate lyricism. Reviewer Thom Jurek wrote:

Its subject matter is as close to explicit as pop records got in 1976... The feel of the album was one of late-night parties in basements and small clubs, and the intimacy of the music evokes the image of people getting closer as every hour of a steamy night wears on... the most astonishing things about I Want You are its intimacy, silky elegance, and seamless textures... I Want You and its companion, Ware's Musical Massage, are the pre-eminent early disco concept albums. They are adult albums about intimacy, sensuality, and commitment, and decades later they still reverberate with class, sincerity, grace, intense focus, and astonishingly good taste. I Want You is as necessary as anything Gaye ever recorded, and is as compelling in the 21st century as when it was first issued.[1]
Thom Jurek

I Want You has also been noted as influential by musicians such as from Todd Rundgren, Robert Palmer, Madonna, while songs from the album have sampled by hip hop artists ranging from EPMD to Mary J. Blige, who sampled the title track for her hit song "Be Happy".[24] The careers of neo soul and R&B musicians such as D'Angelo, Musiq Soulchild, R. Kelly, Maxwell, Sade, and Prince show influence from the soulful sound and equally romantic and erotic lyrics of I Want You, as well as Gaye's previous studio effort Let's Get It On and Leon Ware's Musical Massage.[15] Maxwell's debut album Urban Hang Suite (1996) shows a presence of Gaye's and Ware's musical style on I Want You and Musical Massage.[25] According to one critic, Ware's arrangements "solidified the suite-like theme for the album."[25] Much like Let's Get It On, slow jam music, as well as modern soul and the quiet storm genre, have been seen by critics to have been engendered by I Want You and by Gaye.[23]

Track listing

Original LP

All songs written by Leon Ware, Marvin Gaye and Arthur Ross, except where noted.[26]

Side one
  1. "I Want You (Vocal)" (Ware, Ross) – 4:35
  2. "Come Live with Me Angel" (Hillard, Ware) – 6:28
  3. "After the Dance (Instrumental)" – 4:21
  4. "Feel All My Love Inside" – 3:23
  5. "I Wanna Be Where You Are" (Ware, Ross) – 1:17
Side two
  1. "I Want You (Intro Jam)" (Ware, Ross) – 0:20
  2. "All the Way Round" (Ware, Ross) – 3:50
  3. "Since I Had You" – 4:05
  4. "Soon I'll Be Loving You Again" – 3:14
  5. "I Want You (Jam)" (Ware, Ross) – 1:41
  6. "After the Dance (Vocal)" – 4:40

Deluxe edition

On July 29, 2003, I Want You was reissued by Motown as a two-disc expanded edition release, featuring 24-bit digital remastering of the original album's recordings, previously unissued material, and a 24-page booklet, which contains the original LP liner notes by Marvin Gaye, as well as comprehensive essays by writers including David Ritz.[27]

Original LP (Disc one)
  1. "I Want You (Vocal) – 4:36
  2. "Come Live With Me Angel – 6:30
  3. "After the Dance (Instrumental)" – 4:25
  4. "Feel All My Love Inside" – 3:23
  5. "I Wanna Be Where You Are" – 1:17
  6. "I Want You (Intro Jam)" – 0:19
  7. "All the Way Around" – 3:50
  8. "Since I Had You" – 4:05
  9. "Soon I'll Be Loving You Again" – 3:13
  10. "I Want You (Intro Jam) Ross, Ware" – 1:40
  11. "After the Dance (Vocal)" – 4:42
  12. "I Want You (Vocal) (Promo Only Version)" – 3:38
  13. "I Want You (Instrumental)" – 4:39
  14. "Strange Love (Feel All My Love Inside) (Instrumental)" – 2:57
The Sessions: alternate mixes, vocals & outtakes (Disc two)
  1. "I Want You (Vocal & Rhythm)" – 5:05
  2. "Come Live With Me Angel (Alternate Version)" – 7:37
  3. "After the Dance (Instrumental)" – 5:33
  4. "Feel All My Love Inside (Alternate Version)" – 3:52
  5. "I Wanna Be Where You Are (Alternate Version)" – 6:07
  6. "I Want You (Guitar Jam)" – 0:29
  7. "All the Way Around (Alternate Version)" – 3:52
  8. "Since I Had You (Alternate Version)" – 4:16
  9. "Soon I'll Be Loving You Again (Alternate Version)" – 4:30
  10. "I Want You (Jam) (Undubbed)" – 4:52
  11. "After the Dance (Vocal) (Alternate Version)" – 5:14
  12. "I Wanna Be Where You Are (After the Dance)" – 4:01
  13. "You Are the Way You Are (Instrumental)" – 4:26
  14. "Is Anybody Thinking About Their Living?" – 4:23

Chart history

I Want You
"I Want You (Vocal)"
"After the Dance"
  • Tamla single LTD-38, 1976[29]
  • B-side: "After the Dance (Instrumental)"
  • US Pop Singles #74
  • US Soul Singles #14
  • US Hot Dance/Disco #10
"Since I Had You"


Sample use

The information regarding sampling of songs from I Want You is adapted from TheBreaks.com[24]


  1. ^ a b Jurek, Thom. Review: I Want You. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-08-01.
  2. ^ Kot, Greg. "Review: I Want You". Chicago Tribune: 4. July 22, 1994. (Transcription of original review at talk page)
  3. ^ a b c Christgau, Robert. "Consumer Guide: I Want You". The Village Voice: April 26, 1976. Archived from the original on 2009-08-01.
  4. ^ a b c White, Cliff. "Review: I Want You". NME: May 8, 1976.
  5. ^ a b c Neal, Mark Anthony. Review: I Want You. PopMatters. Retrieved on 2009-08-01.
  6. ^ Columnist. "Review: I Want You". Q: 132. November 2003.
  7. ^ a b c Aletti, Vince. Review: I Want You. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2009-08-01.
  8. ^ Columnist. "Review: I Want You". Sounds: May 1, 1976.
  9. ^ Columnist. Review: I Want You. Uncut. Retrieved on 2009-10-24.
  10. ^ Johnson, Martin. Review: I Want You. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on 2009-08-01.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Ritz (2003), pp. 2-3.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ritz (2003), pp. 8-10.
  13. ^ Dyson (2005), p. 164.
  14. ^ Marvin Gaye - I Want You (1976 US LP). Discogs. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.
  15. ^ a b c d Dyson (2005), p. 171.
  16. ^ a b Ernie Barnes Interview ( 英語 ). Soul Museum: Ernie Barnes. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.
  17. ^ The Collection Shop - Ernie Barnes Sugar Shack. The Collection Shop Inc. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.
  18. ^ a b c Ernie Barnes Limited Edition Prints. The Collection Shop Inc. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.
  19. ^ a b Oakland Tribune - Top Black Painter Exhibits in Oakland - August 14, 2002. oaklandtribune.com. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.
  20. ^ allmusic {{{ I Want You > Overview }}}. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.
  21. ^ Hunt, Dennis. "Review: I Want You". Los Angeles Times: E22. April 9, 1976.
  22. ^ allmusic ((( Musical Massage > Overview ))). All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.
  23. ^ a b Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (1995-10-10) (HTML). Spin Alternative Record Guide (Ratings 1-10) (1st edi. ed.). New York, NY: Vintage Books. pp. s. 202–205. ISBN 0679755748. OCLC 32508105. http://books.google.com/books?id=50cEAAAACAAJ&dq=spin%27s+alternative+record. Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  24. ^ a b TheBreaks.com album samples - Search results: I Want You. TheBreaks.com. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.
  25. ^ a b Musical Massage: Review. PopMatters. Retrieved on 2009-03-31.
  26. ^ Marvin Gaye - I Want You (1976 NZ LP). Discogs. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.
  27. ^ Discogs.com - I Want You (Deluxe edition). Discogs. Retrieved on 2008-08-17.
  28. ^ Marvin Gaye - I Want You. Discogs. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.
  29. ^ Marvin Gaye - After the Dance. Discogs. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.
  30. ^ Marvin Gaye - Since I Had You. Discogs. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.


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