Friday, April 20, 2012

CD Review: “Innervision” by Stevie Wonder in Limited, Numbered 24K Gold Edition

Innervision 24K


It’s hard to believe that in 1973 when Innervision was released that Stevie Wonder had already released fifteen other album, and he was only twenty-three. After wowing the folk at Motown, in 1961 and being dubbed “The Eighth Wonder Of The World” which was, thankfully shortened to Stevie Wonder, Stevland Hardaway Morris released his first two albums, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie and Tribute to Uncle Ray, in 1962, to little success. Undaunted, Barry Gordy featured the young genius on his 1963, Motor Town Revue, a concert tour featuring almost all of Motown’s artists, along with non Motown artists from time to time. A single taken from a live recording became the 13 year old Stevie Wonders first major hit. "Fingertips (Pt. 2)",  The song, featuring Wonder on vocals, bongos, and harmonica, and a young Marvin Gaye on drums, was a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts, making him the youngest artist to top the former in its history and launching him into the public consciousness.

Wonder went on to have a number of other hits during the mid-1960s, including "Uptight (Everything's Alright)", "With a Child's Heart", and "Blowin' in the Wind", a Bob Dylan cover, co-sung by his mentor, producer Clarence Paul. He also began to work in the Motown songwriting department, composing songs both for himself and his label mates, including "Tears of a Clown", a number one hit performed by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. Between 1968 and 1970 such as "I Was Made to Love Her"; "For Once in My Life" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours".

Finger Tips pt 2

For most artists, that would have been a distinguished career, but Wonder was just getting started. Reaching his twenty-first birthday on May 13, 1971, he allowed his Motown contract to expire.In 1970, Wonder co-wrote, and played numerous instruments on the hit "It's a Shame" for fellow Motown act The Spinners. His contribution was meant to be a showcase of his talent and thus a weapon in his ongoing negotiations with Gordy about creative autonomy. Wonder independently recorded two albums, which he used as a bargaining tool while negotiating with Motown, who agreed to his demands for full creative control and the rights to his own songs. His first album back under the umbrella of the studio was ‘72s Music of My Mind. Unlike most previous albums on Motown, and most ‘black albums’ of the time, which usually consisted of a collection of singles, B-sides and covers, Music of My Mind was a full-length artistic statement with songs flowing together thematically. This is the beginning of Wonder's "classic period", and showcases his earliest experiments with the synthesizer. Also on display were his increasing musical ambitions, with him leveraging different genres of music and utilizing longer song forms. Standout tracks include "Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)", "Happier Than The Morning Sun" and "I Love Every Little Thing About You". The album is now ranked number 284 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

1972, marked the release of the album  Talking Book featuring the No. 1 hit "Superstition", which is one of the most distinctive and famous examples of the sound of the Hohner clavinet keyboard. The song features a rocking groove that garnered Wonder an additional audience on rock radio stations Talking Book also featured "You Are the Sunshine of My Life", which also peaked at No. 1. Wonder began touring with the Rolling Stones to alleviate the negative effects from pigeon-holing as a result of being an R&B artist in America. Wonder's touring with the Stones also helped expose him to a white audience who quickly picked up on this amazing talent and push the album to the rock charts. Wonder was rewarded, between them, the two songs won three Grammy Awards.


Innervisions has been considered by many fans, critics, and colleagues to be among Stevie Wonder's finest work and one of the great albums in popular music history. The album has been revisited countless times in different lists of the greatest albums of all time. The album debuted on the Billboard Album Charts on August 18, 1973 at number 85. By September 15, it was number 4. And it remained inside the Top 20 until the end of the year and remained inside the whole Top 200 during the whole calendar year of 1975. It also became Stevie Wonder's first album ever to reach the UK Top 10. The nine tracks of Innervisions encompass a wide range of themes and issues: from drug abuse in "Too High," through social anger in "Living for the City," to love in the ballads "All in Love is Fair" and "Golden Lady." But, regardless of the range of themes, the album still maintained an over all feel of a complete work, and not the earlier collection of singles approach. It was rewarded again at the Grammy Awards where Wonder cleaned up for the second year in a row.

Innervisions won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording in 1974, while "Living for the City" won the Grammy for Best R&B Song. perhaps, more than anything the album proved to the white music industry something that Motown had learned more than a decade earlier. Wonder was a force to be reckoned with, and deserving of the title “The Young Genius”. The album still, today, displays a beautiful fusion of the lyric as a didactic. It teaches and has a moral message that applies today, as much as it did almost 40 years ago. It's a view that's basically optimistic, a constant search for the 'Higher Ground', and that we can navigate the mean streets, but that path is full of snares: dope, deceit, and the toxic atmosphere that the city can be. It seems to say that it’s easy to delude yourself but you have to be well, to keep your eye on the prize and see through the lies and drudgery, to pay your dues and  accept the present.

Living For The City
is a timeless classic and I for one am glad that audio fidAUDIO FIDELITY reissued in Gold, Limited Edition format this land mark that fuses social realism with spiritual idealism. Audio Fidelity’s 24K+ compact discs reproduce the ultimate sound of a classic recorded performance without the irregular plated surfaces of standard aluminum discs  bringing the listener classic music in deluxe packaging with see-through slip cases. Click the logo to check out their other offerings.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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