Chicago's R. Kelly was working the crowd at the UIC Pavilion a few weeks ago like a Chippendales dancer. But when he needed something a little less anxious to set the mood, Kelly reached back for a snippet from Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," and the crowd roared. The hottest new voice in rhythm and blues had unwittingly allowed himself to be topped by a 21-year-old record.
"Love Starved Heart" ((STAR)(STAR)(STAR)) is no substitute for the string o' hits from that era, but the 16 newly unearthed songs are fascinating for what they reveal about Motown in the '60s: Even many of the label's "rejects" were finished gems. Most of the tunes adhere to formula, but what a formula it was: a thumping bass-driven groove accented by piano, tambourine and rhythm guitar, over which a singer would passionately address his or her romantic travails.
On a label laden with talent-Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder-Gaye was the first to break from the hit-factory assembly line. With "What's Going On" ((STAR)(STAR)(STAR)(STAR)), he created soul music's first "art" album, an inner-city response to the Celtic mysticism of Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks," the psychedelic pop of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," the rewired blues of Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited."