I invested a little extra time and attention on top of a busy weekend to make sure I gave today’s album its full consideration. I listened to it with my friend Mike as we were driving into DC the other night, but realized it needed at least one more focused listen to fully appreciate this highly acclaimed double-album from Stevie Wonder, “Songs In The Key Of Life”. This album is rated as the #4 album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time, and it is definitely a great record. It is also rated as #3 on digitaldreamdoor.com’s Top 10 Funk Albums of All Time, and while I wouldn’t call a lot of Stevie’s music as pure funk, there are definitely some funky grooves on this album. This album took two years to release following his last album, which allowed for a rare year in the 1970s when Stevie Wonder did NOT win Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. This prompted winner Paul Simon to note, “Most of all, I’d like to thank Stevie Wonder, who didn’t make an album this year.”
This record starts with the beautiful warm vibe of “Love’s In Need of Love Today”, and is followed by the legit funk of “Have A Talk With God”, which is just an outstanding song. Not long after, we have the blockbuster doubleheader of “Sir Duke” and “I Wish”, two of the very best Stevie Wonder songs ever, both of these songs are all-time classics. The horns at the end, and the overall bass-line and melody of “I Wish” is a great extension of what he first captured on “Superstition”, earlier in his run.
Next comes “Knocks Me Off My Feet”, which I actually recognized more readily as a staple of my son’s a capella group. Another unanticipated revelation was “Pastime Paradise”, which clearly was about 95% of the songwriting for the early 90s hip-hop hit “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio. Other great songs include “Isn’t She Lovely”, blended in with Stevie’s recent new daughter Aisha, “Joy Inside My Tears”, which reminds be of a retro Prince ballad, “Black Man” and “Ebony Eyes”.
We have covered a lot of Stevie Wonder and I may have even said this before, but this one now moves to the top of the list. There are just too may high moments, some expected and some unexpected, that in total, make this his very best, and in agreement with Rolling Stone, one of the most comprehensively greatest albums in popular music.