"Stevland Hardaway Judkins had been under contract with Motown since the age of 12 in 1962. Motown's CEO Berry Gordy gave his the name Little Stevie Wonder, later shortned to just Stevie Wonder. One year later at 13 he experienced his first big hit with "Fingertips PT2" that reached the top of the billboard charts. Throughout the 16 the wonderboy would have many hits like "Uptight", "I Was Made To Love Her", "For Once in My Life" and and "My Cherie Amour" to mention a few. But he still wasn't happy with not having more to say on his music and he had confronted Gordy several times to have more imopact on his music, but with no luck. Many of the 60's albums had been based on singles sales and they contaied the typical motown sound of the time. When Marvin Gaye broke free to release What's Going on he opened the doors to Stevie Wonder aswell. Wonder's current contract with Motown expired when he became an adult at 21. "Where I'm Coming From" would be the last album to be released. Gordy rejected it cause it was too futuristic and diverse in his oppinion. But with an contract about to expire and many arguments he had no choise to release it. For the first time in his life at only 21 in 1971 Wonder did not only sing and write all of the songs (With the assistence of his then wife Syreeta Wright) but he also produced and played most instrumnets on the album. Quite impressive for a 21 year old who was also blind since birth?.
"Where I'm Coming From" is not considered to be part of Wonder's classic 1972-1976 where his creativity came out to it's full capacity, even if it was his first album to be produced entirely by himself. This album is defenitely the blueprint for what was coming and Wonder show hints of his genius time after time, but what differs from latter 70's albums is the production. He doesn't use the trademark synthesizer til his following album Music of My Mind and the overall effort isn't very coherant either, with many diffrent sounds in the mix. A third reason would be that Wonder does not get as socially consious on this album for most of the time. It's just a mix of very good songs, so perhaps Gordy did have a point? but compared to previous albums "Where I'm Coming From" is a mamoth release with a sound that was so diffrent from anything else at the time that it could be hard to market it.
"Look Around" kicks of the album in the best of ways. It's a somewhat psychedelic midtempo song that features Wonder playing the clavinet, very unusual instrument in Popular music so you will not miss it. Wonder sings lyrics that sounds philosopical "Look around and you'll see/Ruins of the human history/ Look around and you'll see/ Time is only floating in your mind". "Do Yourself a Favour" does really stick out, it got a funky Hammond organ sound that would make you think of latter songs and the lyrics are about the black youth, "Do yourself a favour/ Educate your mind/ Get yourself together/ Hey there ain't much time" This was one of the first times Wonder was getting socially consious and it worked perfectly fine. A sweet soul ballad "Think of Me as Your Soldier" almost sound like it's classical music with it's sensual aproach. "Something Out of the Blue" got a very simular sound, once again the clavinet is used and it sounds classical. "If You Really Love Me" sounds like a personal take of the Motown sound, it's a very uplifting uptempo and became the biggest hit of this album reaching #8 on the Pop Charts. On the odd "I Wanna Talk With You", Wonder portait a racially charged conversation between a black and a old white man. Apparently Gordy is suppost to be the white man, while he wasn't white per se, he didn't want to lose his grip over his empire and controlled motown in every detail. "Take Up a Course in Happiness" is a very meliodic midtempo with strange arrangements while "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer" a slow piano song show Wonder at his best with lots of vulnerability and emotion. The last "Sunshine in Their Eyes" is dedicated to poor children and you can hear children choirs in this one too. It's also a slow-paced song full of emotion.
Overall, A wonderful collective of songs, but like aformentioned they don't make up a real concept cause many songs are as diffrent as night and day. That's why I'm only giving it 4 stars. However, "Where I'm Coming From" is full of great songs, the only one I didn't like was the conversation song "I Wanna Talk With You". And it does work as a blueprint for what was coming during his classical period starting the year after. Even if this one is vastly overlooked, it's a great and enjoyable album fullpacked with memorable songs. Recommended incase you want to start your collection with Wonder's emancipation."
A Warmup to Future Classics
John L. Hughes, Jr. | Nashville, TN | 11/03/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"On 1971's WHERE I'M COMING FROM, The then 21-year-old Wonder man finally produced an entire album by himself and co-wrote all nine songs with his then-wife Syreeta Wright. Future Grammy-winning Wonder trademarks are on display here like funky electronic workouts("Do Yourself A Favor"), lovey-dovey ballads ("Think of Me As Your Soldier", "Something Out Of The Blue", "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer"), and somewhat preachy message songs ("Look Around" and "Sunshine In Their Eyes"). "Take Up A Course In Happiness" is a positive song done in an "Up With People" type of gleeness, while "I Wanna Talk To You" (with that irritating high-pitch voice) attacked generation and racial gaps two years before he recorded his masterwork "Livin' For The City". The top-ten hit single "If You Really Love Me" has its charms by featuring Syreeta on backing vocals and a snappy horn arrangement that would make Chicago proud. Not a perfect album, but essential to hear the early development of a future legend."
A straight up masterpiece.
Eric Robinson | DETROIT, MI | 05/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't understand how in the heck Motown never released this Stevie Wonder classic on cd. Not only should it been released, but it should be remastered as well. These songs were very socially conscious. It was a great prelude to his other follow up albums of the 70's."
(2.5 stars) Mostly decent, but not up to the standards of St
finulanu | Here, there, and everywhere | 07/17/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The last record Stevie put out before he freed himself from the oppressive Motown industry. Stevie took that opportunity to experiment like crazy, resulting in a weird, confusing, uneven record that isn't anywhere near as good as his classic material. There are some great tracks, for sure: "Do Yourself a Favor" is wonderfully funky and doesn't deserve to be obscure as it is; "If You Really Love Me" is a fine pop song; and "I Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer" is a very powerful ballad. But Stevie's insistence to try everything at least once, while admirable, results in a few weak compositions. The psychedelic "Look Around" tries way too hard, and doesn't work out at all - there's something in that awful keyboard tone that doesn't work out. The ballads "Think of Me as Your Soldier" and "Something Out of the Blue" are pretty far from peak Stevie, too: "Soldier" is decent, but the arrangement on "Something Out of the Blue" totally kills the song, and I'm quite glad that he was quick to abandon such cornball arrangements very soon. "I Wanna Talk to You" is an awful novelty, with Stevie adopting one of those really annoying voices that later ruined "Sweet Little Girl." I'm also glad he was quick to abandon the "novelty" direction. The jazz-folk "Take Up a Course in Happiness" is one of the weirdest and most inexplicable things Stevie has ever done, and the odd thing is, despite the awful arrangement, it's not bad. I have a feeling that I should hate it, but for a reason I cannot even begin to explain, it actually manages not to annoy me. It doesn't make any sense to me, either. So anyway, the closing ballad "Sunshine in Their Eyes" again isn't one of Stevie's classics, is way too long at seven minutes, and once more has an awful arrangement (including a children's choir! YEAH! Actually, no), but listen to Stevie sing it! Nobody can sing like Stevie Wonder! Unfortunately, this album does not make an ounce of sense to me. It's like Stevie just took a bunch of random stuff, mashed it together, and called it an album. As such, it's a really confusing experiment, and while it's admirable from that standpoint, it fails just as often as it succeeds. By the way, this album is almost impossible to find - I've never seen it in any store, and the only reason I have it now is because Yahoo! Music merged with Rhapsody, and seeing that Rhapsody is about twelve billion times better than Yahoo! Music, I have no problem with that. So I guess it's worth searching out for "Do Yourself a Favor," but I warn you: it's nothing like the classics that came afterward."