Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Stevie Wonder Music Of My Mind (1972)

stevie_wonder_music_of_my_mindFrom sfloman.com

As previously noted, when Stevie turned 21 his Motown contract ran out, and though he felt loyalty towards Motown, he didn’t re-sign with them until they not only upped the ante monetarily but also gave him full artistic control of his albums, which was quite a concession for the label at that time.

Of course, Stevie would prove to be well worth the investment, though not at first as Music Of My Mind spawned no major hits and was something of a commercial disappointment. It is a very good album, though, and is now seen as being the first of the five successive albums on which his reputation primarily rests, at least the good part of his reputation, anyway. Wonder plays everything on all but two tracks; Art Baran adds a trombone solo to “Love Having You Around” and Buzzy Feiton adds some tasty jazz guitar to “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” otherwise it’s all Stevie, all the time.

As if to announce that things would be different from now on, those same first two tracks, “Love Having You Around” and “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” ambitiously run on for 7:26 and 8:07, respectively. With a big assist from producers Bob Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil, two key contributors to Wonder’s classic period, Music From My Mind was his first album to prominently feature the futuristic sounds of the clavinet synthesizer, which would not only dominate his sound but the ’70s funk and fusion movements in general.

Songs such as “Love Having You Around” and “Keep On Running” are long, repetitive, but quite funky synth-led jams, though these songs and perhaps a couple of others last well past what their expiration dates should’ve been. The album has other problems as well. For example, the vocoder enhanced vocals that occasionally appear may have sounded cutting edge back then, but they sound like a cheesy, dated gimmick now, and lyrically Wonder (now the primary lyricist, though Syreeta co-authors one song and Yvonne Wright assists on two) seems confused.

On one hand, songs such as the blatantly commercial, warmly upbeat sing along “I Love Everything About You,” “Happier Than The Morning Sun,” a rare guitar-led song that exudes a lovely, low-key Sunday morning type of vibe, and “Seems So Long,” another pure pop ballad with wonderful vocals, are breath taking ballads that seem true to what Wonder is all about. Elsewhere, however, songs such as “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” the so-so “Sweet Little Thing,” and “Keep On Running” see Stevie adopting a macho, not especially likeable character (I think it’s a character, unless it is Stevie himself) that’s totally at odds with the Stevie we’ve come to know and the Stevie that appears on the rest of the album.

Hearing Stevie sing “don’t make me get mad and act like a nigger” on “Sweet Little Thing” is shocking, to put it mildly, and not in a good way, though fortunately the lovely melody of “Superwoman” still wins out despite some regrettably sexist lyrics, and “Keep On Running” has quite the nice extended groove, though again it’s hard to look past its stalker lyrics.

On the plus side, in addition to this albums pioneering use of electronics and some stellar songs that demonstrate Stevie’s increasingly diverse musicality, his smooth but soulful, much multi-tracked vocals are more confident and expressive than ever. Ending with a bang, the gospel-tinged “Evil,” the only overtly religious song on the album, has an epic, majestic feel. As if to further demonstrate the conflicted nature of this album, which is mostly excellent musically but which lacks a solid emotional core, the song ends suddenly, purposely, with the following devastating denouement: “sweet love, all alone, an outcast of the world.”

Advertisements

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Stevie Wonder Music Of My Mind | | Leave a comment