Discussion in 'Music Forum' started by cshadows2887, Mar 11, 2016.
Songs in the Key of Life is one of the best albums I've listened to to this day.
I'm already regretting keeping the "signature songs" to 5. The rationale is that if you list too many then why even bother putting the compilation there, but for an artist like Stevie it's so hard
How do you make a list without "Superwoman" and "For Once in My Life" and "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer" and "Boogie On Reggae Woman" and "Isn't She Lovely"?
Looking at this again, I think it's really cool that yor favorite songs on it are not the 3 hits or the opener, which are generally the staple songs
Just shows the depth of his records that your 3 favorites could all be album cuts
I've found this is often the case when I go in blind to an album. I quite honestly couldn't have told you the singles from this album, so I got to just experience it and let the music talk.
Not gonna lie, I wasn't feeling the first two songs on Innervisions, but holy shit that bass line on Living For The City sucked me right in. While I can appreciate when his voice is soft and smooth, I love when he gets a little dirty with it. I'm grooving now
Going to put on Where I'm Coming From and post thoughts. Of his class run in the 70s that I own, it's the one I've heard least. Only once or twice.
- Man, this must have been a trip to people coming off Signed, Sealed Delivered, which was basically perfecting Motown's pop formula. Opening with a medieval soul minuet for "Look Around" was such a bold move.
- It's really cool to hear his signature clav-funk thing emerge almost fully formed on "Do Yourself a Favor", considering he hadn't really done it before. Plus the organ (which wasn't always foregrounded for him later) was an awesome touch.
- I can't even fathom that this was made by a 21-year-old. And that he got the freedom to make it through savvy negotiating of an expiring contract at that age just makes it more impressive.
- He really had a knack for taking songs that, covered by others later, would be almost gooey-sweet and making them sound sincere. "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" was the pinnacle of that, but "Think of Me As Your Soldier" shows he was well on his way already
- His fearlessness with arrangements and combining instruments nobody would have put together before makes a huge difference. "Something Out of the Blue" having his electric piano and harmonica mix with a string quartet and flutes just shouldn't work, but somehow is gorgeous. And the little turnaround at the very end is just a master at work.
- "If You Really Love Me" is a pretty wonderful classic-Motown-sound jam, but even then he's experimenting. The dropping down to the dramatic torch ballad verses. Stripping the arrangements way down from how Gordy would have had them. Even when he was making hit singles, he couldn't resist tinkering
- "I Want to Talk to You" falls pretty flat for me, but I respect that he's trying to be ambitious and talk about race.
- Most reviews I've seen dump on "Take Up a Course in Happiness" but I think it works. Stevie's taking on Sammy Davis' late-career orchestrated positivity anthems and the Beatles' baroque dabblings at the same time and makes it swing with no sweat. Definitely an acquired taste though.
- "Never Dreamed You'd in Summer" is just a masterpiece. Maybe the best he ever delivered a ballad ever. It sounds like it might have been written for Frank Sinatra 20 years earlier, so the fact that he wrote it only makes it more spectacular. As does knowing how to strip it down and build it up effortlessly.
- "Sunshine in Their Eyes" is a perfect pairing with it. Just A+ balladry on the back half of this record. Billy Joel has never cited him as an influence, but listening to this song, it wouldn't shock me.
Decided to go backwards and listen to Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius from 1963. It's massively impressive! "Little" Stevie's confidence for a 12 year old is absolutely remarkable, to be leading a proper band and commanding an audience like he does is such a talent. And to do all that while he was a child is just extraordinary. He doesn't sing much on it, just bits and pieces, instead he plays the harmonica and the drums.
The band he's playing with are ferocious, and it just sounds like a real raucous and wild live show. Really good fun, and so so impressive when you consider how old he is.
It's only 25 minutes long, absolutely flew by.
Man, the downgrade in ambition between Hotter than July and In Square Circle is pretty dramatic. It's my first time with his 80s stuff. I love 80s sounds that others would call cheesy and the dude could crank out effortlessly quality pop in his sleep, so I still like it a lot. But he's just settling for good pop music here, which is so weird having only heard stuff from 1980 and before.
alright ive never heard a full stevie album but obviously ive heard the bigger singles, what would be my best bet? innervisions? i see he has....23 studio albums....so plz help hahaha
Did you say 80's sounds?! I can't wait for that
Innervisions is the safe bet (and therefore the one I put as recommended) but you can't go wrong with Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness's First Finale or Songs in the Key of Life. All tremendous.
I'd say whichever one has more of the singles you already know you like, go that way. You can't go wrong.
Haha. You'll like it. But he's capable of more as a writer.
About halfway through Innervisions. I actually haven't ever heard a full Stevie Wonder record. This is really interesting though. He leans much towards jazz than I ever realized he did.
That's a thought I had midway through that album as well. The drumming in particular made me think that.
You or Ben would be able to say better, but I think Songs in the Key of Life probably incorporates the most jazz of his records I've heard. But he is a master of blending it with R&B and soul and pop ballads and funk. He even gets very sporadically country
I was gonna do Signed, Sealed, & Delivered next but maybe I'll do that one instead. I also love his use of subtle Latin references throughout. His music is so fucking layered.
Yeah when he started they didn't even have him singing. He played piano, harmonica and bongos. And if you play bongos, you KNOW there's gonna be some Latin flavor
Signed Sealed is amazing. It's very much the Motown sound
Hmmm I'll see which I'm in the mood for. Really excited to keep hearing some of the deep cuts though.
Thoughts on Innervisions other than it being jazzy?
Kidding obviously. I really liked it. It's kind of evidence of what I've always known? I've always known Stevie is a great song-writer and a great musician, and this album is a shining example of that. I really like how he finds a way to weave genres and influences together into this really cohesive quilt. It doesn't hit you over the head that he's basically created a musical casserole because it's so fluid and makes so much sense in the context he does it.
I tried looking up the credits to "Living For The City" to see who was singing after the spoken word part but apparently Stevie played every fucking instrument on that track?! Is that really him singing that part?
That guttural part? Yeah that's him. Dude was versatile
If you get to Music of My Mind he does this crazy old man voice
But yeah Prince and Kendrick's use of "character" voices definitely owes a bit to Stevie
The story behind the guttural part is quite funny. Apparently it wasn't always going to be that way, but the producer intentionally made Stevie do so many takes that his voice was absolutely shot, leading to the really raw and rough vocals, with the barely hidden anger in his voice.
I'm paraphrasing and probably misremembering, but that's the gist I think!
So, having a wee browse on Wikipedia, I see that he released Innervisions in August 1973. 3 days after it was released, he was in a serious car accident, that left him in a coma. His recovery was slow, and he even lost his sense of smell and was seriously worried that he'd lost his musical ability. He was on pain medication for a year and suffered severe headaches and tiredness, and was generally in a very bad state.
He released Fulfillingness' First Finale in July 1974. What a machine.
I like this quote;
Holy crap. Worried he might have lost his ability, then knocks out a stone cold classic and wins album of the year.