Friday, 26 June 2020

Stevie Wonder "Innervisions" (1973)

A name known the world over in music, but one I had never come acquainted with until now. Stevie was a veteran at this point, a Jazz musician from an era where records where pumped out yearly. Innervisions, his sixteenth, is often frequented by critics as a landmark album, making top lists and the like. Its a highly enjoyable record, loaded with melody and thoughtful compositions. Brilliant songwriting has appealing pop sensibilities between a depth of expansive instrumentation. Initially I was drawn to a subtle streak of Progressive Rock, Visions almost acting as an echo of King Crimson. The overlapping influences of Soul, Funk, Jazz and Rock at play created a point of comparison with some Jazz Fusion records I have enjoyed.

Another thread of influence unraveled. Stevie's voice had a remarkable resemblance to Micheal Jackson, the high pitch woos and cries an obvious characteristic of influence on the king of pop, as well as some of his higher ranged singing carrying a similar persona. His presence is subtlety remarkable. Perhaps it is the competition from the artful instrumentation that competes for attention. Golden Lady a fantastic example of powerful singing that isn't over pronounced or dialed up beyond necessity. His music is warm, inviting and the songs often grow in stature as one is drawn in.

As familiarity settled the themes of social struggle and black life in American became all too apparent. Living For The City tells tales of hard life and daily struggles. The seven minute march opens up with a scenic passage, voice actors and city sounds depict an encounter with corrupt cops. It had me pondering. What was the origin of such an concept incorporated into music? I first heard it on Straight Outta Compton and its become a common feature in Hip Hop musics. Maybe it has its roots here?

Stevie has it all on this record. His instrumentation is a vibrant tapestry of instruments in tandem, reveling in melody, chord arrangements arrive with pleasing simplicity yet offer a wealth of creativity as the Funk energy personifies the synths and instruments with a bold liveliness. It has me appreciating it more with each listen but I may be far from done with Innervisions. Some songs towards the back end don't appeal quite as much when approaching the ballad spectrum but there is a wealth of great music here I can't deny and its been a fantastic introduction to the legendary musician.

Favorite Tracks: Living For The City, Golden Lady, Higher Ground
Rating: 8/10