Sunday, October 28, 2012

40 Year Itch : Heart's Blazing Like a 5 Alarm Fire

Here is my music. It is all I have to tell you how I feel. Know that your love keeps my love strong. 

Talking Book begins with one of the most generous gestures in music history. The first two voices you hear on Track One, the future #1 hit "You Are The Sunshine of My Life", belong to back up singers Jim Gilstrap and Gloria Barley.

For the most part, Talking Book is an album of lost love -- a reaction to Wonder's failing marriage to Syretta Wright. There's a song called "Tuesday Heartbreak" but heartbreak can be heard in half the songs ( "Blame It On The Sun", "Maybe Your Baby", "You And I" etc.)

Experimentation with the Moog and other synths isn't as heavy as on Wonder's early 1972 album, Music Of My Mind with the exception of "Maybe Your Baby". The funkiest song on the album, "Maybe Your Baby" could be the blueprint for Prince's entire career. Listen about 4:45 in, when Wonder's piling on the vocals --including some sped up--and you can't fail to hear his Purple Majesty. It has been suggested that Talking Book is a response to Sly and The Family Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On . Probably not. But "Maybe Your Baby" shares the same laid back funky groove as "Poet".

A week before Talking Book came out, Motown released the future #1"Superstition" as a single. There may have been some hurt feelings here as Wonder had originally offered the song to Jeff Beck who plays some sweet guitar lines on "Lookin' For Another Pure Love". ( Beck's version appears on the 1972 album Beck, Bogart and Appice) The song showcases Stevie's clavinet and his drum playing. His vocals earned him a Grammy. And those lyrics offer some insight to Wonder's personal woes as well:

Rid me of the problem, do all that you can,
Keep me in a daydream, keep me goin' strong
You don't wanna save me, sad is my song

As a whole the album's only weakness is that too many songs sounds a bit too middle of the road and mainstream. Stevie Wonder's follow-up, 1973's Innervisions, would offer a whole 'nother kind of ride.

No comments:

Post a Comment