Dream of a Lifetime is Columbia’s first plunge into the barrel of unreleased Marvin Gaye material. Although inconsistent, it is not without merit. Two of the songs come from the last recording session before Gaye’s death; a third was recorded in the late Seventies; the five others, made earlier in the singer’s career and “entrusted to his mother for safekeeping,” are musically superior.
The three later songs are primarily notable for their sexually explicit lyrics. A warning on the jacket states that the record contains lyrical content that may be considered offensive by some listeners. Beyond that, the songs offer little of interest. “Sanctified Lady” is a slack reworking of Midnight Love‘s synthesized grooves; “Savage in the Sack” and “Masochistic Beauty” are novelty songs, the former a melodically undeveloped love boast, the latter a tale of sadistic triumph with lines as bad as “I love your booty/And it’s my duty/To spank your booty.”
A few of the older songs are pleasant surprises. The splendid harmonies of “Ain’t It Funny (How Things Turn Around)” feature a multitracked Gaye and a funky bass line punctuated by jazzy saxophone. Though dated by sentimental Hollywood string arrangements, the reflective title cut and “It’s Madness” – which finds Gaye pleading with his lover to return – remind us of just how tender the singer could be. Dream of a Lifetime also includes “Life’s Opera,” an autobiographical minisuite that modulates from a secular celebration of getting down to a gospel-tinged affirmation of faith and concludes with the Lord’s Prayer.
Were it not for the most recent songs, this collection could stand alongside Gaye’s finer works as part of the lasting legacy of a brilliant artist.