Stevie Wonder – Every Studio Album Ranked! | Stevie Wonder


25. With a song in my heart (1963)

Who wants to hear a 12 year old sing the standards of the Great American Songbook? Apparently Berry Gordy, whose big – and puzzling – idea seemed to be that Wonder should step into the cabaret, as evidenced by those syrupy orchestral selections. Wonder is doing her best, but they are way beyond her ability.

24. Eivets Rednow (1968)

Curio: an album of harmonica instrumentals, released on the back of a lesser-successful version of Bacharach and David’s Alfie, with Wonder’s name spelled under a pseudonym backwards. It was released on Motown’s Mo Jazz subsidiary, but its content is closer to easy listening.

23. Stevie on the Beach (1964)

Wonder was then mortified by this stage of his early career, when he agreed to deeply obscene ideas. He was especially upset with a perky novelty track here called Hey Mr Harmonica Man, which is indeed quite atrocious: the rest isn’t that bad, although its appeal is definitely kitsch.

22. One Day at Christmas (1967)

There’s a generous helping of schmaltz here – most notably his version of Silver Bells, which feels like pre-WWII pop – but there’s also the troubled title song, which seems to have as much to do with the war. from Vietnam than Christmas, and the closest, What Christmas Means to Me, which offers seasonal good humor without the accompanying sugar overdose.

21. Characters (1987)

The harmonica years… Stevie Wonder in the early 1960s. Photograph: CSU Archv / Everett / Rex Features

The characters were cut from the same fabric adapted for local radio as its predecessor, In Square Circle, a million in sales of 1985: die-hard fans with free time could probably browse it and make a case for the funky Dark ‘n ‘Lovely and Skeletons, but it’s hard to see why you’d play the latter when you could play Superstition instead.

20. I was made to love her (1967)

The stunning title track was Wonder’s biggest hit of the ’60s, but the following album was hastily prepared to build on it. You can tell – there are a lot of hastily cut blankets – although Holland-Dozier-Holland’s version of Baby Don’t You Do It of Wonder is fantastic.

19. The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie (1962)

On the one hand, Stevie Wonder’s debut album is extraordinary. He was 11 years old when he engraved these dancefloor jazz instrumentals, audibly designed to show off his prowess on keyboards, harmonica and percussion: moreover, he co-wrote one of his best pieces, Wondering. On the flip side, it doesn’t have a ton of character: the Fingertips opening is best heard in the unrelated and extended live version recorded a year later.

18. In the square circle (1985)

The success of I Just Called to Say I Love You seemed to turn Wonder’s head, which is how an artist who spent the ’70s on the cutting edge of technology comfortably settled in the middle of the road. Flashes of the old greatness can be heard on Spiritual Walkers and Overjoyed, but In Square Circle had pretty slim choices, and the antiseptic production of the mid-80s does it no favors.

17. The Woman in Red (1984)

The moment when the going gets tough. The nerdy, jingle-like I Just Called to Say I Love You (which in its album version lasts about three weeks) won an Oscar and became Wonder’s biggest single, which tends to eclipse the admittedly highlights. scattered pieces of The Woman in Red, most notably the polished but powerful 80s boogie of Love Light in Flight.

16. My Darling Love (1969)

At this point, Wonder still wasn’t writing his own singles, but the quality of his albums was increasingly defined by how many times his name appeared in the writing credits. Granted, the best non-simple tracks here – Somebody Knows, Somebody Cares, and Angie Girl – bear his signature.

15. Music from the movie Jungle Fever (1992)

A commission to mark the Spike Lee movie seemed to shake Wonder out of its’ 80s slump, at least partially: Lighting Up the Candles and These Three Words suggested that his ballads now come with syrup as standard, but Each Other’s Throats was more punchy funk than he had recorded in a decade, and came with the distinct indication that he had listened to Prince.

14. Down to Earth (1966)

A relative flop, Wonder’s second album from 1966 still shows him maturing at surprising speed. Be Cool, Be Calm (And Keep Yourself Together) is a bit too close to Uptight for comfort, but Sylvia is a great, breathtaking ballad, her version of Mr Tambourine Man is awesome and her voice was getting louder and louder. rich and hard every time. album.

Wonder playing live, early 1970s.
Wonder playing live, early 1970s. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

13. Conversation Peace (1995)

As strange as it may be to hear someone who was once a programmer playing catch-up, the slot for contemporaneity of Conversation Peace – hip-hop-inspired beats, a hint of dancehall on Tomorrow Robins Will Sing – quite works. good. The songs are mostly louder than his 80s work; Sensuous Whisper’s jazzy R&B is awesome.

12. For once in my life (1968)

Wonder’s albums in the late ’60s were still clearly an afterthought, stuffed with filler covers. But there’s less here than before, and some of Wonder’s co-authored album tracks are as good as her singles: Do I Love Her is coldly sophisticated; I don’t know why so excitingly built; and You Met Your Match is a tough funk strut, its keyboard playing a signpost to superstition.

11. Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants (1979)

Baffled on release, the weather has been balmy for the soundtrack of Wonder’s oft-hated film, where exploratory synth instrumentals met songs full of lyrical / mumbo-jumbo mysticism. It’s not all great, but when it’s – A Seed’s a Star / Tree Medley, Race Babbling’s pre-disco / proto-techno – it’s really great.

10. Up-Tight (1966)

Motown clearly not knowing what to do with him, Wonder slowly began to take charge of his own career, showing a self-confidence that his label didn’t always appreciate. But it gave immediate results: he started producing himself, co-wrote the brilliant title track, and made a daring attempt to cover Bob Dylan’s Blowin ‘In the Wind in a gospel-soul style.

9. Signed, sealed and delivered (1970)

At this point, Wonder was clearly striving to the limits of Motown’s standard album. Heaven Help Us All was troubled and influenced by the gospel; You can’t judge a book by its cover that could have fit into any of its later albums; and her twisted version of We Can Work It Out turns it from a love song to something more socially concerned.

8. A Time to Love (2005)

A late return to form, or something close: the more organic sound suits it well and there is a real fire on So What the Fuss and If Your Love Cannot Be Moved. Please Don’t Hurt My Baby, meanwhile, reworks What’s That You’re Doing ?, a fantastic 1982 collaboration with Paul McCartney disconcertingly overshadowed by the gruesome Ebony and Ivory.

7. Where I’m From (1971)

Not as cohesive as what would follow and hampered by a weed production, Where I’m Coming From was still Wonder’s best album at the time: cheerful pop alongside a dense, paranoid funk synth, and in I Never Thought You’d Leave in summer and the seven minutes of Sunshine in Their Eyes, an emotional climax.

6. Hotter than July (1980)

It says a lot about Wonder’s work in the ’70s that an album as good as Hotter Than July was greeted as a slight disappointment. Happy Birthday has seen him indulge in some fine, rounded synthpop, but his highs – I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It, All I Do, Lately – are still pretty dizzying.

5. Music of My Mind (1972)

Aged 21, moved to New York and with a renegotiated Motown contract in hand, on Music of My Mind, Wonder was not on a leash. He wrote all the songs, played virtually every instrument, experimented wildly – especially with electronics – and for the first time made an album, rather than a collection of tracks: one of the greatest hot strings ever. of pop history begins here.

4. First final of Fulfillingness (1974)

Between 1972 and 1976, Wonder only released unequivocal masterpieces: ranking them in a Top 4 isn’t really about quality, just personal preference. Fullness is more about romance than its predecessors, but You Haven’t Done Nothin’s farewell to Nixon could be his fiercest outburst of political anger.

3. Talking book (1972)

An album that took the freedom, daring experimentation, and one-man approach of Music of My Mind and added a focus on laser songwriting, the songs on Talking Book alternately detailed the collapse. of his marriage to his collaborator Syreeta Wright – who contributed two lyrics – and, on Big Brother and unparalleled superstition, sketched a growing social conscience.

2. Interior Visions (1973)

Its centerpiece is Living for the City’s raw examination of systemic racism, but Innervisions has everything from luscious love songs (Golden Lady) to disarmingly sweet excoriations of the US President (He’s Misstra Know It All). , to Higher Ground, the funkiest song ever written about reincarnation. It’s a great album.

1. Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

From Curtis Mayfield to George Clinton, no genre is more burdened with geniuses without more questions than 70s soul music, but even in this climate, Wonder stood out. Songs in the Key of Life shows why. That’s not a better album than Innervisions in itself, but it takes first place thanks to its breadth and coherence: a rare double album where the quality never lags. Its pure ambition puts you aside – Village Ghetto Land put on a nightmarish social report to a simulated-baroque synthesizer – but what’s truly surprising is that its ambitions are completely fulfilled: every song hits home. And, in Sir Duke, it contains one of the happiest and most memorable pieces of music ever recorded.

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