The Austin Chronicle

Record Reviews


Reviewed by Margaret Moser, May 19, 2000, Music

Stevie Wonder

Music of My Mind (Motown)

Stevie Wonder

Talking Book (Motown)

Stevie Wonder

Innervisions (Motown)

Stevie Wonder

Fulfillingness' First Finale (Motown)

Richard M. Nixon was still president when Stevie Wonder hit his groove on 1972's Music of My Mind. The Vietnam War wasn't over, but the Sixties were, and Music of My Mind closed the chapter on Wonder's career as a Top 40 hitmaker of the previous decade ("Fingertips Pt. 2," "I Was Made to Love Her") and saw him emerge as one of the Motown's most formidable talents. Music of My Mind had little political consciousness, yet it established Wonder as a mature songwriter ("Love Having You Around," "Superwoman") and producer as well as breaking ground with voice synthesizers. Talking Book followed later that same year, illustrating that Wonder's music was evolving at an astonishing pace, as was his appearance: Out were the suits and Afros, in were the daishikis and cornrows. It was not so much a political statement, though (Wonder was always one of the quieter voices of black pride) as it was a break from the Motown cocoon. Rich with pop balladry ("You Are the Sunshine of My Life"), lowdown funk ("Maybe Your Baby"), wistful sentiment ("I Believe When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever"), and a full-fledged monster hit ("Superstition"), Talking Book set the table for '74's superbly realized Innervisions, one of the albums of the Seventies. With signature harmonica squeals and whimsical clavinet underlying 10 gorgeously crafted songs, Wonder's sightless vision had created a truly beautiful world of golden ladies and deep faith with funky, jazzy songs that are unapologetically romantic and loving ("Higher Ground," "Jesus Children of America," "All in Love Is Fair"). By the time the tongue-twisting Fulfillingness' First Finale was released in late '74, Nixon was gone and the world was a little less innocent. FFF isn't as electrifying as Innervisions, but is still an excellent bookend to the three previous releases; it jumps and rocks with the same passion and sweetness ("Boogie On Reggae Woman," "Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away"), but is prone to more soul-searching ("You Haven't Done Nothin'"). These reissues are short, lacking any bonus tracks or outtakes or live cuts to flesh them out -- Talking Book is a mere 44 minutes. Credits were spotty on the originals and remain so on the reissues, but that in no way diminishes the brilliance of these four recordings. Their place in the pantheon of 20th-century music is assured.

(Music of My Mind) ****

(Talking Book) ****

(Innervisions) *****

(Fulfillingness) ****

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