"All the Way Round" off of I Want You is everything good about the music of Marvin Gaye in one loose soul classic.
You have to start off, of course, with Gaye’s lead vocal. It starts out so softly just over an “Ooo.” By the time we get to the verse and Gaye is singing lyrics, he’s still playing it down, leaving plenty of room to build. Dynamics are one of the least utilized aspects of modern pop music. The vocals in those modern tunes are always mixed to be the same volume. It’s not enough to pull off of the instrumentation when you want to be soft, you have to do the whole thing or nothing at all. Marvin Gaye understood this and that’s why you hear every aspect of this tune builds slowly over the course of the song.
It’s got those classic Motown strings. Even though the album was recorded in L.A., the string sound exhibited right at the start of the tune is closely tied to the tunes he recorded in Detroit for so many years. You even get to hear some nice work on the vibes, an instrument that - when it comes to modern music - is limited almost entirely to jazz to the point where non-musicians will mostly likely call it a xylophone if they see it.
It’s got the classic tight vocal background harmonies by Gaye. It’s always a treat to listen to him do these sort of light, rhythmic background vocals. They’re so good that, to me, they’re basically the melody. Like the second time through the chorus at 1:34, the background vocals are so good it almost eclipses Gaye’s melismas. You can hear the influence of this style of tightly harmonized background vocals in the works of D’Angelo.
It’s got some sick bass work that is just amazing, especially when it is given a little more freedom to move around during the saxophone solo. The horn arrangement is splendid, as well. The sound during the chorus of muted trumpet doubled up and octave by flute is one of my all-time favorite instrument doubles. I mean, it’s great here in this early part of the tune, but by the time when everything is let loose during the repeated coda at 2:53, it turns into this mind-blowing groove. You get all the great aspects of the tune, Gaye’s lead vocal, his tight background vocals, the horn arrangement, the strings, the bass, vibes, and drums coming together at the same time to create the groove of a lifetime.