Japanese exclusive reissue of 1974 album. Packaged in a miniature gatefold LP sleeve. Limited to 5,000 pieces. Motown. 2003.
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Stevie Wonder's Introspective & Soul-Searching Follow-Up To
MUZIK4THAPEOPLE!! | Seattle & San Diego | 07/12/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After the sweeping success of 1973's now iconic "INNERVISIONS"
album had established Stevie Wonder as a creative force of nature
in music who was one of the ones who was on the van garde of where
music was going in the 1970's and beyond, the inevitable question
arose a year later in late summer 1974 of "Could he top Innervisions?"
or "Could he keep the same level of artistic quality and excellence
which he'd already established on his previous two albums leading up
to this one?" Well, as it turned out, the answer was a resounding YES!!
The near-fatal freak car accident which almost took Stevie away from
the world at the height of his creative powers just after the release of
INNERVISIONS in 1973 had made him a much more introspective and
soul-searching individual who was taking inventory of his life
so far, the people in which he surrounded himself, what was the purpose
for him now that he'd been spared from death, how could he use his gifts
to further enrich people's lives, and many other questions which one
puts to themselves in that situation.
Stevie, being the musical genius he is, began to formulate the tones,
timbres, chord progressions, lyrical ideas and vocal expressions he was
feeling inside into the album that was to become the next masterpiece in
his incredible 1972-76 multi-platinum, multi-grammy & AMA, highly acclaimed
"classic period"....FULFILLINGNESS' FIRST FINALE!! (-:
From the opening song, the joyous "Smile Please" to the
faith-through-cynicism anthem "Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away",
to the pretty, brief and country music-tinged "Too Shy To Say" to
the perculating gravely moog bass and dancing piano of the funky
"Boogie On Reggae Woman" to the smooth & mellow, dream-like "Creepin'"...
Stevie knew how to create an atmosphere in his music at that time
which was unlike what anybody else was doing at that time.
Side Two began with a funktified clavinet groove leading into another
1970's funk classic with a message in the vein of "Superstition" and
"Higher Ground", "You Haven't Done Nothin'" came on the heels of
the Nixon administration being exposed for the crooks they were and
Nixon himself being impeached from office. The song was a definite
slam to that administration and the fact that the Jackson 5 had added
their "doo-doo-whops" in there to Stevie's call and response
political commentary made it a sure fire lead single which
zoomed to the top of the R&B and Pop charts!
Black, White, Latino, Asian...it didn't matter!
Everybody was loving Stevie Wonder's music at this time!
He was a worldwide phenom and was breaking records and setting
precedences left and right with everything he did.
Here was a 24 yr old blind black musical artist who had full creative
control over his material, unprecedented commercial & artistic
success, the respect of the music industry and other musicians
in addition to his millions of fans!---This was truly his moment!
From the raw boogie down funk of "You Haven't Done Nothin",
Stevie shifts gears to a groovy smooth breakup song called
"It Ain't No Use", which features backing vocals by the likes of
Deniece Williams and Minnie Ripperton among others.
This song is one of my underrated favorites of Stevie's non-single
material because it just feels so good when I hear it.
From this, he goes into the very melancholy and introspective
sparse, almost classical-sounding piano piece with a mournful
black gospel choir background with a splash of Arp 2600
and Moog bass in there for good measure....the very unique
"They Won't Go When I Go", where Stevie talks about one day being
able to go to a very positive & free space (if he's lived a good life)
where he'll be free from the pain, deceit, greed, phoniness,
manipulation and ugly side of mankind!
This song is powerful and goes straight to your core!
As evidenced by how many people have "attempted" to cover it
through the years, most namely, George Michael's 1990 version,
which is good but comes nowhere near the original, as well as
how many people have selected this song for their funerals,
I'd say Stevie's message has resounded through space & time!
On July 7th 2009, Stevie Wonder himself performed the song
poignantly in tribute to the memory his good freind,
the late Michael Jackson, who'd died on June 25th.
When you reflect on the last 17 yrs of MJ's life, those lyrics
that Stevie delivered so soulfully some 35 yrs before,
rang dead on true!
He closes this brilliant album out with the brazilian-flavored
"Bird Of Beauty", which talks of utilizing the spiritual high
we all possess inside to deal with life's ups and downs instead
of falling prey to the pharmaceutical highs of drugs.
Then there's the very upbeat and melodic "Please Don't Go",
which sounds like something Ray Charles could've cut in his
hey-day if he'd had access to synthesizers back then.
It's just a feel good track that ends the album on an upbeat note.
Of course, this album, just like "Talking Book" and "Innervisions"
before it, topped the R&B and Pop Charts, swept the awards season
of 1975, and carried Stevie's legend further along.
There would be no actual album released in 1975, which is where
the famous Paul Simon grammy quote thanking Stevie for not releasing
an album in 1975, when he won the album of the year in 1976 comes from.
But little did they know though (at the time!), that Stevie Wonder
was busy at work crafting what would become his magnum opus and
the perfect cap off to his incredible "classic period"....
Late 1976's 2 1/2 disc watershed masterpiece "Songs In The Key Of Life"!! (-:"