Hotter Than July

Stevie Wonder

Tamla, 1980

REVIEW BY: George Agnos


After having three albums in a row win the Grammy award for Best Album, Stevie Wonder got a little too ambitious and produced the bomb, Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants, a concept album about...well...plants. His 1980 release, Hotter Than July, was a pivotal album in that Wonder had to bounce back and show the world he was still a viable artist.

Did he succeed? For the most part, yes. Hotter Than July is a good, solid album but it is not quite up to the level of his greatest works such as Talking Book or Innervisions.

That said, there is a lot to recommend on Hotter Than Julymy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 . He starts right off the bat like he means business with a funky piece of joy called "Did I Hear You Say You Love Me". This seques very well into "All I Do", a simmering slower tune with a catchy chorus and some nice backup vocals.

"As If You Could Read My Mind" is another funky tune highlighted by an excellent synthesized rhythm that makes a nice counterpoint to Wonder's harmonica solo. "Do Like You" and "Cash In Your Face" are lesser tunes but they have plenty of beat for those that like to dance.

Wonder explores other musical idioms on Hotter Than July. He shows he can do a decent reggae on the hit "Master Blaster (Jammin')". Another genre he tackles with less success is the country/western meets R&B sounds of "I Ain't Gonna Stand For It". On paper, it must have been an interesting idea, but Wonder's country singing in the verses is just as bad as Todd Rundgren's excersion into country: "Range War". It just proves that country singing isn't as easy as it looks.

Wonder's balladeering is strong as usual. "Lately" is a very pretty old-fashioned type tune. And then there's the more contemporary "Rocket Love" which recalls Michael Jackson's style of singing, not surprising since Jackson's megahit album Off The Wall was all over pop and R&B radio at the time this was being recorded.

I have two minuses with Hotter Than July. While it has its share of good songs, there is nothing here that comes close to matching his best work. It lacks those two or three killer songs that would make this a great album.

The second minus is the final song "Happy Birthday" which is Wonder's plea to turn Martin Luther King's birthday into a holiday. At best, it sounds like a commercial jingle for the cause, but it becomes very preachy toward the end. I don't disagree with the message but I feel Wonder has tackled other issues with more flair than he does here.

So Hotter Than July is a well done album that is a little off by Wonder's high standards. I would recommend picking up his 1970's albums over this one (except for the one with plants), and if you like what you've heard there, then this would be a nice addition to your collection.

Rating: B

User Rating: A


Very few music lovers would agree with the review.
Not that you gave it a bad review, but any body that knows Stevie's music knows that this album is
on par with his best work. I think the C & W song was meant to be lighthearted. Even though it is still a jam. Happy Birthday was meant to be a commecial for the holiday that did finnally happen. I remember the frown on Reagan's face signing the bill, and Stevie was standing there. That song did exactly what Stevie meant for it do

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