Category: Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder – Where I’m Coming From

ARTIST: Stevie Wonder 220px-StevieWonderWhereImComingFrom

TITLE: Where I’m Coming From

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION: #62, #7 R&B

SINGLES: If You Really Love Me (#8 US, #4 R&B, #20 UK), Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer (#78 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Stevie Wonder, James Jamerson, Syretta Wright, other Motown people

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The first album where Stevie Wonder broke free of the Motown machine is tentative, but does have some tracks where his future direction is shown.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thanks to a brilliant contract negotiation, Stevie Wonder was able to break free of Motown’s artistic control, and allowed Wonder to produce himself, and record an album that he wanted to, without any interference.

(This is why this is the first non-compilation by Wonder I’m reviewing – standard Motown hit+filler infected the previous ones.)

This album doesn’t sound like a typical Motown album of the time, even if the Funk Brothers played on it. The arrangements are varied, and the songs take more chances at times. Sometimes, it works (“Do Yourself a Favor forshadows his funk excursions) and “If You Really Love Me” has an intriguing arrangement for a ballad. Sometimes, like “I Wanna Talk to You”, don’t work but at least it was an attempt to be socially conscious. Other ballads just seem perfunctory, but they were his, at least.

This is a teaser for the great Wonder albums of the 70’s.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: His then-wife, Syreeta Wright, co-wrote each song with Wonder. This is also the first album where Wonder wrote everything.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B: A great effort at independence, though sometimes he still sounds shackled a bit. “Do Yourself a Favor” is fantastic though.

Stevie Wonder – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Stevie Wonder

ARTIST: Stevie Wonder

TITLE:  20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Stevie Wonder

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation MI0001672266

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Every song on here was a Top 10

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: All of them

LINEUP: Stevie Wonder and Motown’s session musicians

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The best collection of Stevie Wonder’s early Motown hits, without a lot of goop and gunk in the way. It’s still spotty.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The reality is this: until Stevie Wonder got control of his career and wrote most of his own songs, a lot of what he released wasn’t that great. His early singles are pretty forgettable, and it wasn’t until “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” that he had a song that really showed his talent.

Still, his albums were spotty like most Motown fare, and on just a few singles he cooked with gas. Most of them are featured here.

This collection ends around 1971, which was when Wonder really started to write and produce in earnest. I’ll be covering those albums in full, later. As for this, it’s probably the best early Wonder collection if you don’t want to get too deep in the weeds.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: His actual first album for Motown is an instrumental record released in 1962.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: I can’t give it any higher because some of the earliest singles aren’t so hot, but the later ones are of quality and distinction.