From 12-year-old multi-instrumentalist prodigy to groundbreaking adult songwriter and producer, Stevie Wonder is one of the handful of pop musicians who just about everybody agrees is possessed of genius. His 1960s recordings were great straight-up R&B, but his visionary '70s albums took pop and R&B where they'd never been before, incorporating electronics, reggae, and incredibly sophisticated melodic and harmonic development.
The 2008 reissue of Talking Book which was released shortly after Wonder completed his 1972 tour with the Rolling Stones and peaking at #3 in the US. It is the second release in what is widely regarded as his classic period, a period in which Wonder broke completely with the Motown sound and philosophy. Despite the strong initial disapproval of label execs, Wonder forged ahead and he was rewarded with phenomenal success, forcing Motown to grant him complete artistic freedom over his work and proving to the music industry that R&B artists could find widespread appeal with rock audiences. The CD features his #1 Pop and R&B hit, "Superstition".
The two No. 1 hits from this 1972 album perfectly illustrate the contrasting sides of Wonder's complex personality. "Superstition" is a strong rocker, a paranoid bit of wah-wah guitar funk that's as persistent as the best punk music; the opening track, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," is a pure love song that would sound corny coming from any other voice. A hint of bitterness, perhaps owing to Wonder's then-dissolving marriage, gives Talking Book its edge. But overall it's obsessed with love, and while "Sunshine" is still one of the singer/keyboardist's most beloved songs, the closing "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)" is much deeper and more rewarding. --Steve Knopper
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