Let's get this straight: this is no review of Gaye's classic 1973 classic homage to "sex between consenting anybodies". As spiritual and compassionate as What's Going On is as sensual and passionate is its follow-up, Let's Get it On. Both albums are amongst the greatest of our time, and -- if you don't already own them -- you should rush out and buy them both.
But nowadays, thanks to the over-eager folks at Motown, Tamla and Universal, buying these albums, or replacing the well-worn grooves of your vinyl is no such easy matter. No fewer than four different digital versions of Let's Get It On can be found in the racks of your local record store (or on the pages of your international internet conglomerate): the first CD release rushed, unremastered, into the new format; the September 2001 expanded "Deluxe Edition"; the January 03 remastered version; and the most recent Super Audio Hybrid treatment. Which one of these is right for you? It all depends on what you're looking for...
If price is your biggest determinant, go out and purchase any of the myriad original CD releases of Let's Get It On that are currently filling the used racks of your local shop thanks to the record company's glut of continuous re-releases. If you don't want to spend more than six bucks, and don't care if the album sounds as crackly and limited as an old cassette played on a COBY boom box, come get to this cheapest of all possible packages.
If thrift is not the issue, the waters are far murkier. Sonically, the remastered version and the SACD hybrid both sound excellent on any regular player: they differ only in minute ways. To begin with, if you've gone out and plunked down a fortune for an SACD sound system in your home or car, then you obviously won't mind paying another 18 bucks to hear Marvin keep gettin' it on is new sonic fashion. But even if you don't own a SACD player, this hybrid format might be the right one for you. Although on a regular player it sounds just like the earlier remaster, it has the benefit of only containing the eight tracks original to the album that seems to exist just to keep you satisfied. The non-SACD package adds on two additional tracks, a single edit of the title track, and a single mix of "You Sure Love to Ball". If you're the kind of person bothered by extraneous appendages to reissues of classic albums, then please stay with the purist route of the SACD.
And if you really don't like bonus material cluttering up your listening experience, then the "Deluxe Edition" might make you feel as if you should die tonight: it contains 29 additional live, studio and demo versions of songs recorded on or around Let's Get It On. But if you need to hear alternate versions numbers one and two of the non-album track "You're the Man, then make sure the two-disc package is no distant lover. In addition to three versions of the title cut (not including the album version "Getting' It On"), you'll also be able to hear instrumentals ("Mandota", "Cake"), unreleased tracks ("My Love Is Growing", "The World Is Rated X"), and no fewer than four full versions of the albums magnificent closing song, "Just to Keep You Satisfied". By the end of listening to all this bonus material, all save the die-hard Gaye-ophiles out there will be saying, "Let's get it over".
Which is about where this review is, namely, over. In a truly democratic fashion, or at least with a completely capitalistic wont, the folks at Universal seem to want to make sure that everyone can go out and get the precise version of Let's Get It On that's right for them. And while I have my nagging suspicions about over-saturating a market (and, not to mention, releasing a deluxe edition for true fans only to outdate it within two years with a remaster), I can't argue with a system that lets consumers choose what they want to hear. And, now that I've said my piece, figuring out which version of Let's Get It On you want to listen to is a decision that rests squarely in your hands.