Stevie Wonder, Talking Book
File Between: Marvin Gaye and Paul McCartney
Comments: It’s hard to even think of things to say about such a seminal masterwork in twentieth-century music. Stevie would go on to make more ambitious, more thematically dense, and even in their way more progressive records, but I don’t know that he ever made a more complete record than this. It’s his second album of the year, and when we looked at Music of My Mind I sort of hinted that it was the better album, and it would be even if it was just “Superstition” on one side and the other side blank. But of course it’s more than that — just as much a protest album as Come from the Shadows, only if possible shrewder in its analysis and righter on in its irony (just listen to “Big Brother” and marvel at the compactness of his writing), an album about interpersonal relations and broader social issues, race very much included, but more than anything an album about sound, music sculpted from studio clay by Stevie and a small handful of hired guns (Jeff Beck, David Sanborn, and Ray Parker, Jr. among them), bookended by two of the most impossibly sweet love songs ever written, songs which reached back to the fluffy innocence of early Motown but rode a wiser, smoother rhythm. Among many other things, it’s one of the first great adult contemporary records, insofar as adult contemporary is a sound and a mood; that it’s also a great funk record, a great soul record, and (you could make the claim) a great jazz record is only further testament to the twenty-two-year-old Stevie Wonder’s genius.
A Keeper? Dude. Don’t even joke about it.
Vinyl Rip: Tuesday Heartbreak