30 September 2016, No. 194, Marvin Gaye, ‘‘T’ Plays It Cool’

Not to be confused with “Tee’s Happy,” the B side of Northend’s “Happy Days” 12 inch and No. 467 on our list, today’s tune is from a movie I’ve never seen. Now that I know Marvin Gaye composed the score and the soundtrack for Trouble Man, I may check it out. No. 194 is “‘T’ Plays It Cool,” and for my taste it’s a little too laid back to be the second cut on an LP, but that by no means disqualifies it from our list. Bolsters its presence, in fact, since having some lower-energy tunes in a long set is always a plus. People need to order drinks and go to the restroom, talk to one another and be heard for a few minutes. After laying down a mushy Minimoog texture (the synth itself a gift from Stevie Wonder), Gaye’s staccato pecking with a quick decay on the filter envelope builds enough steam to support Trevor Lawrence’s sax solo, which while climactic still plays it relatively cool.

The character Mr. T in Trouble Man has nothing to do with bouncer-turned-bodyguard-turned-actor Mr. T, who in 1972 was either in college or the Army and whose acting career didn’t commence until the 1980s. While looking into this, I learned that the real-life Mr. T’s signature gold jewelry started as a collection of items lost on the dance floor and in fights at the club where he was a bouncer. I guess many potential claimants decided not to bother when they saw such an imposing lost and found.

Back to the record, if you listen closely there are pretty distinct, heavily reverbed hand claps throughout most of the song, and I picture Marvin Gaye standing near a microphone, clapping along to whichever elements they’d tracked so far. I like to imagine it was in a big echo chamber, not done with a plate reverb, and that’s possible since it was recorded in an L.A. film studio. Mean sax solo notwithstanding, this tune gets a “funk/chill” designation in the genre ID3 tag, and I think you’ll agree that it’s both.