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Uruk-Hai

****The Official Stevie Wonder Thread****

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I reckon this thread won't get a ton of attention for our younger folk, but at least I'll have a sandbox to play in. 

I don't really have a format for the thread as a whole, though I'm piddling around with a countdown and some record reviews and some cultural stuff and some contrarian takes and  - hopefully - thoughts from people here more eloquent than I.

So, to start:

Stevie Wonder had his first #1 hit when he was 13 years old. I wasn't yet 2. For the next 25 years, there wasn't a time when radio wasn't playing a current Stevie hit. He's part of my musical DNA and is probably the greatest pop artist of my musical generation in terms of critical and mass popularity.

Couple of stats: over 100,000,000 records sold. 25(!) Grammys. He released three albums in a row that won Album of the Year. 

 

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I'd love to hear from people more steeped than I in appreciation. I was just going to draft one of his songs today and didn't quite have the knowledge of his catalogue to pick a truly wonderful deeper cut. Perhaps this thread will get me there. 

:blackdot:

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17 minutes ago, rockaction said:

I'd love to hear from people more steeped than I in appreciation. I was just going to draft one of his songs today and didn't quite have the knowledge of his catalogue to pick a truly wonderful deeper cut. Perhaps this thread will get me there. 

:blackdot:

You know how you recently got off on Marvin Gaye? It's like that, but on steroids. The "problem" with Wonder is that he had SO many hits that it takes some work to go beyond. 

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, Uruk-Hai said:

You know how you recently got off on Marvin Gaye? It's like that, but on steroids. The "problem" with Wonder is that he had SO many hits that it takes some work to go beyond. 

Yeah, I'm finding that my musical tastes have radically changed over the past decade. I did always like Stevie Wonder -- and he was wildly successful and acclaimed as you mention -- so it'll be cool to follow along in the thread. 

If you had to start or give a listen to one record to get hooked, what's probably the record that skirts the fine line between commercialism and raw art the best, in your opinion? 

Edited by rockaction
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Posted (edited)

Stevie Wonder saved my life.

January 2009, i had quit my job as a poker boss the previous spring because i pictured myself as kind of an OG in the biz (trained by one of Bill Harrah's boys, the first post-mob gen of gaming) and found myself working more for HR than my customers or employees. That summer i went to NH to check out the charity-poker biz, cuz i could make my own way and be close to my aging peeps. Opened Manchester's 2nd poker room and promptly had my 2nd heart attack during the first week. They put a stint in and told me if i shorted out again i would need a bypass. Back to NM.

I barely got home when the '08 financial crisis hit and, long story short, my father (who ran my portfolio) used my acct to save his acct and i found myself under six figs in net worth for the 1st time in 35 years. Now the writing i was doing would have to take a more commercial tack (altho i ended up finding out the TV biz didn't want me back after 20+ yrs away) so that's how i went.

Pro-style work is more problem-solving than creativity and i would start a pro day by reading the previous day's work then taking a long walk to chart out where i wanted to be by the end of that day. Circling back home, i felt that familiar grab in my chest and went down. 11am, everybody in the hood at work, i mostly crawled the quarter-mile back home. i got to bed and, soon as i could catch my breath, i reached for the phone and froze.

i wasn't going to be able to work again for a while in poker (it was indeed 3 yrs before suit jobs started opening up after the first recession that had actually effected the gaming biz); because i'd been hemorrhaging money, i hadn't re-upped any insurance when my COBRA health coverage had run out and, if i called 911, the last of my savings and whatever i was looking to make from TV writing would go up in smoke with the quarter mil an uninsured bypass would cost me.

So i decided to die, just let it take me. This made me start to cry and the sobs made the grabbing & pounding in my chest worse (heart pain forces you to react in a survival manner even if you've given in). I'd always sung to distract myself in times of pain & danger, but i was too muddled to think of what to sing. My alarm clock had a CD player in it, so i pressed the button to sing along.

It was Fulfillingness's First Finale. The gentle strains of "Smile Please" came up and i started to sing along and actually laughed a li'l the first time it called me to sing "there are brighter days ahead" while my heart flipped inside my chest cavity like a spastic pancake. For the next 12-15 hours i did nothing (even peed my draws) but sing to FFF like each note would be my last until my cardiac sitch settled enough for me to try to sleep. And i'm still here, #####. Thank you, Stevie. nufced

Edited by wikkidpissah
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2 minutes ago, rockaction said:

Yeah, I'm finding that my musical tastes have radically changed over the past decade. I did always like Stevie Wonder -- and he was wildly successful and acclaimed as you mention -- so it'll be cool to follow along in the thread. 

If you had to start or give a listen to one record to get hooked, what's probably the record that skirts the fine line between commercialism and raw art the best, in your opinion? 

That's a tough one. I need to think on that a bit. His discography isn't like anyone else's

 

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Have you ever seen his house?

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Just now, Uruk-Hai said:

That's a tough one. I need to think on that a bit. His discography isn't like anyone else's

That's cool. The discussion of why you have to think on that one would be interesting also. What is it about his discography? 

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1 minute ago, McJose said:

Have you ever seen his house?

I have, but he hasn't

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As good as the previous and later works are, his albums between 72 & 76 are beyond great.

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1 minute ago, Leroy Hoard said:

As good as the previous and later works are, his albums between 72 & 76 are beyond great.

Best run anyone ever had, in any art

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3 minutes ago, rockaction said:

That's cool. The discussion of why you have to think on that one would be interesting also. What is it about his discography? 

His wife's records and what Motown did to his albums when he was young. 

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3 minutes ago, Leroy Hoard said:

As good as the previous and later works are, his albums between 72 & 76 are beyond great.

I'd lay it at his albums from '70 to '85. Nobody's matched that.

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Yes!!!  I’ll post more when I’m not on a boat to Alaska, but probably my second favorite artist after The Beatles.  :heart: 

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14 minutes ago, Uruk-Hai said:

I'd lay it at his albums from '70 to '85. Nobody's matched that.

His early stuff contains a lot of generic Motown product but the greatness of Little Stevie's talent shines through.

Fingertips is an amazing record.  Hard to think of any better songs recorded by a 12 year kid.

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Apropos of nothing, but this makes my ****Official**** La Dispute thread seem really, really unworldly foolish. 

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Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff are two of the unsung heroes of Stevie's career.

They built TONTO (The Original New Timbral Orchestra), the interconnected synthesizers that changed Wonder's career direction when he encountered them in 1971.  Stevie stayed in the studio exploring the capabilities of TONTO for almost a full year before recording Music of My Mind.

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1 hour ago, Eephus said:

Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff are two of the unsung heroes of Stevie's career.

They built TONTO (The Original New Timbral Orchestra), the interconnected synthesizers that changed Wonder's career direction when he encountered them in 1971.  Stevie stayed in the studio exploring the capabilities of TONTO for almost a full year before recording Music of My Mind.

a little expansion on that, from the wonderful PBS series of a coupla yrs ago, Soundbreaking

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1979's Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants is one of the strangest career moves in the history of music.  Wonder was on top the pop world after Songs In the Key so he waited three years before following that up with a  two-disc soundtrack to a documentary about plants.  A lot of it I'd classify as light classical instrumentals although there are some Stevie songs with lyrics scattered in.  

The movie is on YouTube.   I've never watched it but I'd expect the music might make more sense in the context of the visuals.  Wonder composed it based on verbal descriptions from the filmmakers about what was happening on screen.

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6 hours ago, Eephus said:

1979's Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants is one of the strangest career moves in the history of music.  Wonder was on top the pop world after Songs In the Key so he waited three years before following that up with a  two-disc soundtrack to a documentary about plants.  A lot of it I'd classify as light classical instrumentals although there are some Stevie songs with lyrics scattered in.  

The movie is on YouTube.   I've never watched it but I'd expect the music might make more sense in the context of the visuals.  Wonder composed it based on verbal descriptions from the filmmakers about what was happening on screen.

Fleetwood Mac's Tusk always gets brought up as an all-time left turn, but I'm with you - JTTSLOP is an even weirder move. I was gobsmacked when it came out, but I think I understand it better now. He was probably fried - birthing Songs In The Key Of Life wasn't easy and I believe he had some personal #### going on. I also think he took it as a challenge - he's scoring to images he can't see. I haven't listened to it in a long time, but I remember liking it more and more on each listen.

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11 hours ago, Uruk-Hai said:

I reckon this thread won't get a ton of attention for our younger folk, but at least I'll have a sandbox to play in. 

There was a thread here awhile back (maybe got purged) about deep-cuts from famous musicians. I think it was you that mentioned "All Day Sucker" by Stevie Wonder.

I had never heard it before. What a great song.

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35 minutes ago, Encyclopedia Brown said:

There was a thread here awhile back (maybe got purged) about deep-cuts from famous musicians. I think it was you that mentioned "All Day Sucker" by Stevie Wonder.

I had never heard it before. What a great song.

I don't recall that thread, but you're right - that song is a killer. You can tell Stevie was listening to P Funk (especially Bernie Worrell) on this one.

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13 hours ago, rockaction said:

Yeah, I'm finding that my musical tastes have radically changed over the past decade. I did always like Stevie Wonder -- and he was wildly successful and acclaimed as you mention -- so it'll be cool to follow along in the thread. 

If you had to start or give a listen to one record to get hooked, what's probably the record that skirts the fine line between commercialism and raw art the best, in your opinion? 

I'm heading out of town for a day or so and don't have a ton of time right now, but I guess I'd start with Innervisions if you want a definitive-ish album and need a quick dive. 

Eephus touched on it above - Stevie is really interesting to listen to in chronological order. Unlike, say, Diana Ross (who's career was a stylistic mess until Nile Rodgers gave her a tiny bit of relevance) or even Marvin Gaye (who was always in the NOW). 

I wouldn't bother much with Wonder's '60s albums - most are the typical Motown slop' aside from the hits. Get a comprehensive hits collection. With hindsight, you can see it coming even if he didn't get the credit he deserved at the time. Especially on records like "I Was Made To Love Her", "For Once In My Life", "It's A Shame" (by The Spinners) and "Signed Sealed Delivered".

Where I'm Coming From is his first album as himself. In many ways, it's a damned mess. Cluttered and turgid, but he was breaking loose. I think it's a fascinating growth piece. I would not recommend it as a starting point. 

Music Of My Mind is his first classic LP, though it's really only regarded as such in retrospect. Then you get the Holy Four Albums, which are as good as rock/pop/soul has ever gotten. All five of these albums are must-haves for music lovers. Go buy, steal, download them all now.

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Posted (edited)

Cool. I will keep that in mind and check out Music Of My Mind and the four you speak of.

Edited by rockaction

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I am more a rock guy than anything, but I love me some Stevie Wonder when the mood hits me. Innervisions is a great, great record from start to finish, and there are plenty of other songs of his I like a lot as well. And I am sure there are a crap load I have yet to hear that I will someday stumble upon.  Legend. :tebow:

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Wife and I saw him in concert maybe 10 years ago.   I was not looking forward to it, end up having a great time.   Didn't realize how many songs I knew that I didn't know were his

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First album I ever owned:  Songs in the Key of Life

 

Gold

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Leroy Hoard said:

Back then we couldn't afford all the individual albums so always looked for a solid compilation like this.

https://www.allmusic.com/album/original-musiquarium-i-mw0000192407/user-reviews

i tried to file w the LGBTQ people to sexually identify as a musiquarian, told em i was queer for muses and everything, but they wouldn't accept

Edited by wikkidpissah
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17 minutes ago, wikkidpissah said:

i tried to file w the LGBTQ people to sexually identify as a musiquarian, told em i was queer for muses and everything, but they wouldn't accept

I always knew you had a query in you. 

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5 hours ago, Uruk-Hai said:

Music Of My Mind is his first classic LP, though it's really only regarded as such in retrospect. Then you get the Holy Four Albums, which are as good as rock/pop/soul has ever gotten. All five of these albums are must-haves for music lovers. Go buy, steal, download them all now.

I'd add Hotter Than July to the pantheon.  It's a great party album that flows a bit better IMO than his 70s classics.  It only slows down for the sentimental ballad "Lately" which features a wonderful vocal from Stevie.

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1 hour ago, wikkidpissah said:

i tried to file w the LGBTQ people to sexually identify as a musiquarian, told em i was queer for muses and everything, but they wouldn't accept

On another forum a couple decades ago, I was registered as "Musicholic".

I didn't know whether to join AA or Columbia Record Club.

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3 minutes ago, wikkidpissah said:

Hi, Leroy....

I never see you at the meetings. We get 13 for a penny.

Only somebody who went to some sort of meetings knows how to gently intone that someone has been missed at said meetings. Serious business.

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18 hours ago, Eephus said:

I'd add Hotter Than July to the pantheon.  It's a great party album that flows a bit better IMO than his 70s classics.  It only slows down for the sentimental ballad "Lately" which features a wonderful vocal from Stevie.

My personal pantheon goes from Where I'm Coming From to In Square Circle.  That includes the Horticultural double LP.

 

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Nobody has more great Sunday Brunch records than Stevie. This one is trickier than the smooth-jazz opening might appear. The chord changes are odd and the vocal melody - always Wonder's strength, as they go off in all sorts of interesting directions - is one of his best. 

Knocks Me Off My Feet

 

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Here's a little Saturday joy from Stevie Wonder. It's the 9 minute album cut, which may be too much for some folks (there's a radio edit that's easy enough to find). No legend in rock has payed more tribute to his peers than Wonder ("Sir Duke" & "Master Blaster" are his most famous; there are many more). Here, he gives jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie a solo long after Dizzy was relevant before going into his own harp solo. Stevie raps at the fade-out - it's not good even for 1982 but, based on the lyric, he knows that. It's basically Stevie finding a groove he loves and scatting the whole thing. 

@Leroy Hoard & @wikkidpissah were talking about the album it came from above - Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium 1. It was a double LP greatest '70s hits compilation, with one new song each side. "Do I Do" was one of them. All four were huge radio hits, and all were completely different from one another.

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1 hour ago, Uruk-Hai said:

Here's a little Saturday joy from Stevie Wonder.

"Joy" is the word. It almost becomes a chemical element when generated by the myriad inspirations of this great artist. As close to proof of God as there is. :heart:

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15 minutes ago, Encyclopedia Brown said:

Pastime Paradise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0S4SiLxt1s 

That bassline, and the last sixty seconds with the rising chorus and Stevie's soaring vocals....ridiculous. 

And it wasn't even a hit! Made Coolio's career, though.

Best double album ever?

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6 minutes ago, Encyclopedia Brown said:

"I Just Called To Say I Love You" 

Is it wrong to think that is a really great song? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiRj5m63oig

 

 

Hell no. The backing track is thin & too '80s. But Stevie sings the hell out of it, it's really clever lyrically, and I wish more of us followed what he's saying.

He's always worn his heart on his sleeve. That's what you get. And..... I dunno...... I'd rather listen to "sappy" well done than some allegory.

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