REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/14/2006
While there is no statistical information backing the following statement up, I still believe it to be true -- Stevie Wonder has been forgotten. Sure, the critics loved A Time 2 Love, but to the best of my knowledge is has not been a big seller, or brought Wonder back to the forefront of popular music. In my eyes, this is a shame, because the modern day record buying public is shunning one of R&B's most brilliant minds.
Some consider Music Of My Mind to the be the start of Wonder's golden run of albums in the 70's that remains as stunning as it was back in the day. However, to me, Talking Book was the true beginning point of Wonder's best music. And of course, what better subject to write/sing about then love?
I appreciate what Wonder can do in terms of writing politically charged material, but his best works usually come through the guise of a love song. "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" is the ebullient opening track, just overflowing with positive energy, perfectly encapsulated by Wonder's joyous vocals. "Maybe Your Baby" is the antithesis of its predecessor, as Wonder mourns over an ex-love. Musically, this track is a killer, a song that defines "funky." The keyboards simmer underneath Ray Parker Jr.'s guitar work, crafting a groove you can't help but move to. "You And I" is a relatively straightforward track, propelled by Wonder's gorgeous, soft vocal. The thing about Stevie is that it sounds genuine when he sings about love or heartbreak.
Of course, the most famous song off Talking Book is the immortal classic "Superstition." Once that guitar riff and drum beat get going, there is no getting them out of your head. With the exception of the horns, I believe this is one of the many tracks Wonder recorded solely by himself, which makes the quality even more impressive. The track then segues directly into a personal favorite, "Big Brother." A blasting criticism of those in power, "Big Brother" comes off as more resigned than angry, an interesting choice to go with considering the lyrics.
However, the true standout track on Talking Book is the closing number, "I Believe When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever." The opening reminded me a great deal of "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me," and the song itself follows a similar pattern. Starting off slowly, it quickly turns around and hits you with an infectious chorus. The guitar riffs swirl around like music out of dream, underlying the idealistic thinking that is taking place. It is then that the song takes it up another notch, as it slowly picks up the pace, while Wonder and co. repeat the chorus over and over again. I loved Wonder's exclamations underneath the main chorus, showcasing his soulful singing at its best. Then, the whole tempo and beat shifts into a funky groove much like "Maybe Your Baby," transforming the last 30 seconds into a completely new track.
The amazing thing is, Wonder would get even better with his following albums. His moments of brilliance are breathtaking, and the best started right here on Talking Book. That is more than enough of a reason to give it a listen.