Stevie Wonder is one of those artists you think you know something about because he is so famous and so iconic and  everybody knows that he was a child star and everybody has heard his music on the radio and everybody knows that he is blind, but then you realize that that is all you really know.  At least that’s how it was for me.  Immediately when I hear the name Stevie Wonder I can conjure up the image of him in his sunglasses and long braids sitting behind a synthesizer, and I can hear the groove to “Superstition” in my head, but that’s about it.  Well, I did love his ballad with Paulie, “Ebony and Ivory”, when I was a kid, and “Sir Duke” was one of the first songs I ever learned when I joined show choir my junior year of high school, but that’s about the extent of my Stevie Wonder knowledge.

So this was really my first full Stevie Wonder experience.  And it was fun.  I picked this up on Amazon for $8.87, and right away the funky groove of the first track, “Too High”, captured my attention and got me hooked.  However, this album is not just funk.  “Visions” is an ethereal, meandering ballad, which creates a somewhat odd lead-in to the R&B flavored “Living for the City”.  “Golden Lady” is a mid-tempo ballad, which sets up the return of the funk in “Higher Ground” (which is 1,000 times better than the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ cover).  Something that I thought was interesting about this album is that there is quite a bid of visual imagery.  For example, in “Visions” Stevie references leaves changing from green to brown, and in “Golden Lady”, well, the lady is golden.  I guess these things go along with Stevie’s theme of “Innervisions”, but since Stevie was basically born blind, I just am curious to know what his interpretations of color actually are in his head and how they differ from the way other people perceive color.  Anyhow, it’s a fun album and well worth a listen or three.

Other lists: “Living for the City” is #105 and “Higher Ground” is #265 on Rolling Stone’s list of the Top 500 Songs of All Time.  Stevie Wonder is ranked #9 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers and #15 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.

Ch-ch-changes: This album was also bumped down one slot from #23 on the original 2003 list (again, due to Robert Johnson’s “The Complete Recordings).

My favorite track: “”Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”

Honorable mention: “Higher Ground”

Quote: “Everybody needs a change, a chance to check out the new.  But you’re the only one to see the changes you take yourself through.”

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