When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to:
A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time.
B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety.
C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers.
D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard.
As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go. To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).
Well, that post title was a mouthful worthy of Ron (porn). Exciting times, people! This will be the first Stevie Wonder album I have ever listened to from start to finish. When I was young I knew Stevie Wonder as ‘that guy Michael Jackson sometimes hung around with’ and as I grew older I began hearing a few singles by him. The few songs I heard, I mostly liked, but never enough for me to go buy one of his albums. Time passed, and here I am, about to embark upon what will presumably be a funky journey.
What Do I Know About Stevie Wonder: Blind musical prodigy, Wonder has been around for roughly three hundred years and influenced basically everyone who is in the music ‘business’ today.
What Do I Know About Fulfillingness’ First Finale: Nothing. Never heard of it. Difficult title to say aloud.
Smile Please: Feels like Santana for about six seconds. Low, almost drawled vocals. Reminds me a little of Chinese Restaurant music. Bum diddy bum. Summery stuff. Not especially buoyant or exalting.
Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away: Nice blend of keys and guitars and weird rhythms. This is better. There’s the bass. There’s the drums. Vocals still fairly deep. Good lyrics, questioning, still relevant. Growling backing vocals. The hand claps kind of work, and you know how much I hate hand claps. I can safely say I like this one, even if some of the percussive sounds aren’t the best and even if some of the backing vocals aren’t necessary.
Too Shy To Say: Soothing piano. Dreamy, wavey, Hawaii. All very lovely. Feels like a Bond song. Builds to a not-chorus. Simple love lyrics, yearning. I like the change in notes in the ‘I really love you’ line. Very nice.
Boogie On Reggae Woman: Fart beats. Drums. Funny noises. Sweetly funky. All very catchy and it pleads you to dance along. Harmonica. The keyboard noises are excellent – funny and interesting and funky. More harmonica.
Creepin‘: Slows things down, entrancing synth. Pause. Verse and vocals. I like the melodies and music, otherworldly. I like the structure – the pauses and shifts and changes, the addition of female vocals and other instruments etc. I can’t really add more to this, hypnotic night driving.
You Haven’t Done Nothin‘: Twinkles. Very superstitious. Good vocals and nice thumping in the background. Melodies good. Political. Angry. Dense. Brass. Doo do wop.
It Ain’t No Use: Starts as a ballad. Female backing vocals? More soothing melodies and sounds. These tracks are all good and I’d happily listen to any of them again, but none have really leaped out and grabbed and shaken me yet. This one drifts along nicely too even though the words appear to be about love irretrievable. Too many voices interweaving at the end.
They Won’t Go When I Go: Slow piano. Sounds like a sad one. Great piano melodies. Again the sound is hypnotic – a lot of sounds and ideas so it isn’t practical to type my virgin thoughts while listening at the same time. Good emotional outburst after the third minute. Is it about religion? I’m only paying attention to 20% of the lyrics.
Bird Of Beauty: Drums and weird laughing instruments. Backing vocals sound like mocking. Aside from the interesting, this one feels a little tame and samey. Sounds an awful lot like a song about drugs. Language change. Percussion too chaotic.
Please Don’t Go: Nice piano again. More farting synths. So many of the vocal melodies sound similar to one another. Still good though. Harmonica again. More vocals, growing, gospel, pleading.
What Did I Learn: I always knew i would like Stevie, but i was skeptical over how big a fan I could truly be. On the basis of this album it’s clear he has made a lot of great stuff which I didn’t know existed. None of the songs really grabbed me as instantly and as long-lasting as something like Superstitious, but there are a few I would like to listen to again to see how they sink in, while most of the others were pleasant and/or funky enough that I wouldn’t mind hearing again. There’s a wide array of sounds and imagination, I can’t see there were too many truly emotional moments, and I do feel that some of the songs, melodies, and vocals overlapped too much between songs. Above all, it’s made me keen to hear more.
Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I don’t know how this compare’s to Stevie Wonder’s other albums or how influential this one was, how many copies it sold or singles it spawned. It’s the first album of its type that I’ve heard in my rundown of the Top 1000 albums and while it is consistent, and while it is good, it lacks those few songs which interact with me on a personal level. It’s only a few moments since I’ve stopped listening, but I can’t recall one truly great song that I want to instantly play again. My personal thoughts then would be a solid maybe, tending towards a yes – it should be included. There’s no way I could give it a definite no, but based on my own flawed personal tastes, I know I have heard better, and hope I hear better as my journey continues. Feel free to comment if this is one of your favourite albums, and let me know of any other Stevie Wonder records you would recommend.