The Epic 2017 Project #354: 171220
Stevie Wonder – Songs in the key of life (1976)
Songs in the Key of Life is the eighteenth album from Stevie Wonder, released on September 28, 1976, by Motown Records, through its division Tamla Records. The album was recorded primarily at Crystal Sound studio in Hollywood, with some sessions recorded at the Record Plant in Hollywood, the Record Plant in Sausalito, and The Hit Factory in New York City. Final mixing was performed at Crystal Sound.
An ambitious double LP with a four-song bonus EP, Songs in the Key of Life became the best-selling and most critically acclaimed album of his career. In 2003, it was ranked number 57 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In the same year it was preserved into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress, which called it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
In the summer of 2016 we had the really special privilege of seeing him perform the whole of the album live at London’s Hyde Park. Probably one of the best gigs I have ever been to. Over six hours of pure heaven.
The Epic 2017 Project #353: 171219
Stevie Wonder – Fulfillingness first finale (1974)
Released on July 22, 1974 on the Tamla label, this was Stevie Wonder’s nineteenth album overall, and seventeenth studio album. It was his first studio album to top the Pop Albums chart where it remained for two weeks, while it was his third album to top the R&B/Black Albums chart where it spent nine non-consecutive weeks.
Whilst largely a stripped down, more personal sounding album, Wonder had not completely foregone social commentary on the world around him. The No. 1 hit “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” launched a pointed criticism of the Nixon administration bolstered by funky clavinet, drum machine, and a Jackson 5 cameo.
The album received three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, in 1974.
The Epic 2017 Project #352: 171218
Stevie Wonder – Talking Book (1972)
Sandwiched between the release of Music of My Mind and Innervisions, Talking Book (released in October 1972 and Stevie Wonder’s 15th studio album) saw him enjoying more artistic freedom from Motown. Guest appearances include Jeff Beck, Ray Parker, Jr., David Sanborn, and Buzz Feiten.
The sound of the album is sharply defined by Wonder’s keyboard work, especially with the synthesizers he incorporated, giving a funky edge to tracks like “Maybe Your Baby”. His use of the Hohner clavinet model C on “Superstition” is widely regarded as one of the definitive tracks featuring the instrument. His clavinet embellishments on “Big Brother”, though, evoke a six-string acoustic guitar, and his note-bending harmonica work touches on some folk and blues influences.
The Epic 2017 Project #351: 171217
Stevie Wonder – Inner Visions (1973)
Innervisions was Stevie Wonder’s 16th studio album, released on 3rd August, 1973, on the Tamla label for Motown Records, a landmark recording of his “classic period”. The nine tracks of Innervisions encompass a wide range of themes and issues: from drug abuse in “Too High”, through inequality and systemic racism in “Living for the City”, to love in the ballads “All in Love Is Fair” and “Golden Lady”. The album’s closer, “He’s Misstra Know-It-All”, is a scathing attack on then-US President Richard Nixon, similar to Wonder’s song a year later, “You Haven’t Done Nothin'”.
As with many of Stevie Wonder’s albums, the lyrics, composition and production are almost entirely his own work, with the ARP synthesizer used prominently throughout the album. The instrument was a common motif among musicians of the time because of its ability to construct a complete sound environment. Wonder was the first black artist to experiment with this technology on a mass scale, and Innervisions was hugely influential on the subsequent future of commercial black music. He also played all or virtually all instruments on six of the album’s nine tracks, making most of Innervisions a representative one-man band.
The Epic 2017 Project #124: 170504
Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)
Thriller is the sixth studio album by American singer Michael Jackson, released on November 30, 1982 in the United States by Epic Records and internationally by CBS Records.
The follow-up to Jackson’s successful previous studio album, Off the Wall (1979), Thriller explores genres similar to those of its predecessor, including pop, post-disco, rock and funk. Recording sessions for the album took place from April to November 1982 at Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles, with a production budget of $750,000. Quincy Jones produced the album, while Jackson wrote four of its nine songs.
In just over a year, Thriller became—and currently remains—the world’s best-selling album, with estimated sales of 65 million copies.
Leaping Ahead Project 2016 #315: 161110
[A song from an artiste’s name beginning with W]
We had the pleasure and privilege of seeing Stevie Wonder perform the whole of the ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ album live in London’s Hyde Park back in the summer. It was a subliminal gig in every way. But if there was one moment that completely floated my boat, it was this one. Ordinary Pain live was something else and on absolutely every level.
Leaping Ahead Project 2016 #261: 160917
[No.1 on 17 September 1970]
The legendary songwriting team of Holland–Dozier–Holland used the name Edythe Wayne in partnership with Ron Dunbar, a producer for Invictus Records (owned by HDH) because of a lawsuit they had with Motown. When they first offered the song to Freda Payne, she balked at the idea of recording it, finding the material more appropriate for a teenager or very young woman. Payne reluctantly gave in after much persuasion by Dunbar.Almost immediately following its release, the Payne record became an instant pop smash, reaching number three in the US and number one on the UK singles chart and remaining there for six weeks in September 1970, giving Payne her first gold record.