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Talking Book - Stevie Wonder

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Genre: R&B & Soul - Pop R&B / Artist: Stevie Wonder / Original recording remastered / Audio CD released 2000-05-01 at Universal / Island

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    • More +
      22.03.2010 00:27
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      Classic album

      **Introduction**

      A Music Star from the age of 11 Stevie Wonder had already had a string of albums coming into the 70s but it would turn out that the 70s would be the decade that defined him as an artist. In a run of six years he released Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness' First Finale, and Songs in the Key of Life. Anyone who knows their Music History will know the importance of these albums in Music History. "Music of My Mind" was released seven months before the release of "Talking Book".

      **Talking Book**

      This was the 15th album from Stevie Wonder and was released on 28th October 1972. It is one of his most critically acclaimed and successful albums and is widely regarded as one of the 100 greatest albums of all time by countless music critics. It features the classic singles "Superstition" and "You Are the Sunshine of My Life". It also features collaborations with such talents as Jeff Beck, David Sanborn, Minnie Riperton and Ray Parker Jr. The album won several album of the year awards. Stevie Wonder co produced the album with Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil who also won awards for their production on the album.

      1 You're The Sunshine Of My Life
      2 Maybe Your Baby
      3 You And I
      4 Tuesday Heartbreak
      5 You've Got It Bad Girl
      6 Superstition
      7 Big Brother
      8 Blame It On The Sun
      9 Lookin' For Another Pure Love
      10 I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)

      **My View**

      1.) You're The Sunshine Of My Life

      This track features some nice instrumentation from Wonder's Fender Rhodes and then the vocals come in from James Gilstrap and Lani Groves. Stevie then takes over the lead vocals and his voice is fine and is backed by wonderfully smooth backing vocal harmonies. This track is about how love with someone makes you feel. A great start to the album.

      2.) Maybe Your Baby

      This is a fabulous funk fest which features Wonder's Jackson like hehe screams. This is a fine track which just shows his fabulous ability to make rhythms and melodies sound so good. This is the longest song on the album and features some fine guitar work from guitarist Ray Parker Jr who really adds to this fine track.

      3.) You And I

      This is a fabulous ballad which has a lovely stripped down feel thanks to the gentle piano and Stevie's gentle emotive voice which is in fine form. This is a really beautiful track and in my opinion is Talking Book's "Lately". A fine love song about the love for your partner and what you two can do with the love.

      4.) Tuesday Heartbreak

      This is a funky mid tempo track which has a really nice flow and the use of Curtis Mayfield like guitar adds a great touch to the overall feel. This is not one of the most well known tracks from the album but it's still a very fine track that builds very well and has some great trumpet and saxophone work which sounds excellent as the background.

      5.) You've got it bad girl

      This is another track which heavily features the funky Rhodes Piano and Moog synthesizer. This is more gentle than some of the tracks on the album but is not quite as laid back as "You And I". This track is about being in a relationship that is not working but the woman doesn't realise that it's just not going well and should end.

      6.) Superstition

      This is one of the funkiest tracks of all time and is a fine toe tapper of a track. We hear the fine work on the Moog synthesizer again and also the
      Hohner clavinet model C which adds a very catchy part to the table. This is a fine funky track which still sounds as good 38 years on as it would have done in 1972. Fantastic and timeless track.

      7.) Big Brother

      This track features some great Clavinet and harmonica embellishments which work superbly with the other instruments and of course his voice. This is a very flowing track which is a fine example of his talent for melody and soul. This is another very good track indeed. Some great musicianship and fine emotive vocals.

      8.) Blame It On The Sun

      This is a lovely piano led ballad which has somewhat of a Beatles feel. Stevie's vocals are much better though and this is a really lovely ballad about the end of a relationship and the feelings you have afterwards. This is an outstanding track which shows the vocal, musical and lyrical talent of Stevie Wonder to great effect.

      9.) Lookin' For Another Pure Love

      This is another lovely ballad which features a gentle beat and some great subtle keys with the mellow guitar strum in the background. Jeff Beck really tops this track off with a fine solo which is beautifully emotive and keeps to the feeling of this track. This is a superb track with two great musicians doing their thing.

      10.) I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)

      This is a fabulous track to end the album on, It opens with some lovely gentle piano work and Stevie's voice is tender and emotive. This track was written with Yvonne Wright. I love the way that this track builds and then the muted distorted guitars and drums come in to add a nice touch to what is a fantastic track.

      **Overall**

      This is without a doubt a legendary album and certainly deserves it's place in the many "greatest albums of all time" lists which it features in. It marked an incredible musical run for Stevie with some classic albums which are as highly regarded as this album is. "Talking Book" is a fabulous album which is a must for any Stevie Wonder fan and is a great listen from start to finish.

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      • More +
        15.11.2008 03:12
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        One of my all-time favourite albums, for some rather dark reasons

        Though I've always thought of him as more than OK, I've never been a huge fan of Stevie Wonder...he has just not always been able to hit my musical spot...except for one album, which to me is a masterpiece. Talking Book was released in 1972, though I personally didn't get to hear it until the following year. At that point in my life, I was still very young and rather prejudiced against certain types of music....if it wasn't Led Zeppelin or similar, I just didn't want to know. I had the narrow view that unless it appealed to the hippie/hairy generation en masse, then it didn't deserve my appreciation.

        How wrong we can be when we are young - and so very narrow minded!

        It wasn't until the early 1980s that I began to listen to Stevie Wonder's Talking Book album properly, and with new ears. Certain things were happening in my life which made me look at the world a little more deeply, and I gradually found myself playing this album over and over again, especially during my darker days at that time. The whole mood of the album also fitted my inner place in life during the mid-1990s, and I played it to death during that time too.

        Talking Book comes across to me as a blend of a knife-edge intensity and deep, somewhat dark emotion....a little like a place where some of us can find ourselves in life where we are sharply aware of all that is around us, yet perhaps from a "precipice" position.....those times in life when we are sort of OK-ish, but very aware that everything is soon to break up and crash around our feet. Also, Stevie used this album to introduce his socio-political comment songs, delivered here in the track Big Brother.

        It isn't so much Stevie's words to his songs on Talking Book that dig deep inside me (although they are of course very good) - it's more the general mood of the whole album; a mood which is put across more in the presentation of the music than anything else. It has always surprised me that Stevie only reached no.16 in the UK album charts with Talking Book in February 1972 - I realise that is a fairly high position, but so many truly music-loving people who I have talked to in depth in my life, have placed this album in their all-time top ten, and I thus wonder why it didn't reach a higher chart position. All the same, two tracks taken from the album (Superstition and You Are The Sunshine Of My life) reached no.11 and no.7 in the UK singles charts in February and May 1973 respectively.

        I'll try my best to do a hopefully brief rundown on the tracks individually, as follows:

        1) YOU ARE THE SUNSHINE OF MY LIFE - (Lyrics & music by Stevie Wonder, with backing vocals by Gloria Barley, Lani Groves and Jim Gilstrap)

        Well, this song surely has become a standard. It starts with Stevie's intro on the electric piano, and launches into a medium-tempo love song. He starts off singing gently, then as the song gets underway, his voice goes into the slightly harsher tone that we all know him best for. This is just a very well-written, straightforward love song that, though the words are very romantic, "up" and positive, the tune carries a slight feeling of hesitancy - possibly about giving forth such a declaration in case it's not reciprocated or goes wrong?
        .......9/10

        2) MAYBE YOUR BABY - (Lyrics & music by Stevie Wonder, with Ray Parker Jr. on guitar)

        This is the longest track on the album, and it's my favourite - for me it has the most "bite". This is an instrumentally sleazy-sounding, funky track....and it's agony to listen to. The topic of the song is a man whose girlfriend has found somebody else, and he's expressing his feelings of despair about it, hoping he's wrong and that she'll come back tomorrow. There are a few little twiddly bits on the vocals where Stevie, with a bit of over-dubbing of his voice, where he says "I'm a little boy"...the way he says it makes me realise how vulnerable and childlike we feel when in the situation that this song is about. During the couple of times in my life when I've been truly rock bottom, this song has dug daggers into my psyche and made me feel very gritty and uncomfortable, yet at the same time has given me a grim sort of strength. I think the song really has to be heard to be appreciated fully.
        .......10/10

        3) YOU AND I - (Lyrics & music by Stevie Wonder)

        This is a very gentle, slow and tender love song....yet with an underlying uncertainty as he speaks to the object of his love, a little nervous that everything he is hoping for might not be reciprocated. He does accept that the person may not be around forever, but wants to make the most of the moment....the relationship is all he is living for. I'm surprised that this song hasn't been used at wedding receptions, but then maybe not everybody is familiar with it, due to it being an album track.
        .......9/10

        4) TUESDAY HEARTBREAK - (Lyrics & music by Stevie Wonder, with Shirley Brewer & Deniece Williams on backing vocals)

        This is another lost love song, which in a way I link to No.2 above, Maybe Your Baby. In this song, Stevie confronts the situation of being told that his love has somebody else, and expresses how he wants to be with her forever, how heartbroken he is, and some of the words suggest that if he tells her long and hard enough how much he wants her, then she may come back to him. This is another funky song which has a slightly gritty, slightly depressed feel, even though it is quite uptempo.
        .......9/10

        5) YOU'VE GOT IT BAD GIRL - (Lyrics by Yvonne Wright, music by Stevie Wonder with Lani Groves and Jim Gilstrap on backing vocals)

        This is a mid-tempo, yet quite sad song.....very funky, and with quite an unusual tune. Even though Stevie didn't write them himself, the words to this song are superb, and I'd love to type them out, but won't just in case it infringes anything. We in this song are taken again into the middle of the relationship breakup, where the man is almost giving the girl a good talking to....trying to explain to her that if she feels his love, affection, and all that he has to offer isn't what she wants, then she is more or less doomed. He wants her and badly....she doesn't want him, but he keeps persisting - in a very slightly accusatory way - in reaching out towards something that quite likely is unachievable. His tempting offers aren't working on her, as she's already made her mind up that her affections lie elsewhere.
        .......8/10

        6) SUPERSTITION - (Lyrics & music by Stevie Wonder)

        This very funky, mid to uptempo song is about exactly what it says....superstition. I'm sure everybody is more than familiar with this song in which Stevie warns that it's not a good idea to allow superstitions to rule our lives. In the song, Stevie lists various popular superstitions, and advises that being superstitious causes a person to suffer even more than not being so. This song, with its funky guitar riff and brass accompaniment, was rife in discos up and down the UK in and around 1973/1974-ish.
        .......9/10

        7) BIG BROTHER - (Lyrics & music by Stevie Wonder)

        This is a socially conscious song, which follows straight from the previous track with no break in between. The funky rawness of the last track, instantly changes to a soft and rather interesting, unusual tune. Stevie uses his gentler singing voice for this, and is backed by a rolling bongo and guitar combination, together with quietly played harmonica, which has a slightly bluesy feel. In this song, Stevie speaks of the appalling conditions in which black ghetto dwellers live in the USA, and how the government does nothing to help them - yet close to election day, candidates will visit all the poverty-stricken areas, promising the earth and asking to be voted for......yet not really caring, just wanting power. The tune of this song is personal, as though the words are entirely political, it takes me back to a couple of areas in my life where things were rather up in the air, and I find this track very atmospheric...but maybe for different reasons to those which Stevie probably intended.
        .......10/10

        8) BLAME IT ON THE SUN - (Lyrics by Syreeta, music by Stevie Wonder, with Lani Groves and Jim Gilstrap on backing vocals)
        Note: At the time, Syreeta and Stevie were husband and wife.
        This is my least favourite track on the album. The tune is rather draggy, and Stevie's voice is accompanied by a rather good piano backing, but the rest of the instruments sound rather mixed up and confused; some of the dubbed backing vocals don't for me make for a good blend. I don't like the tune very much either. This is a lost love song, where the singer has a go at blaming everything in sight for the loss of his relationship, but then turns inward, and ultimately blames it on himself.
        .......6/10

        9) LOOKIN' FOR ANOTHER PURE LOVE - (Lyrics by Syreeta, music by Stevie Wonder, with Loris Harvin, Shirley Brewer and Debra Wilson on backing vocals - plus guest appearance by Jeff Beck on guitar)
        This is quite a nice tune, a little downbeat in mood - as is often the case when someone is recovering from a broken love affair. The song is mostly about what the title says....the singer looking for another love, but from a rather shaky, emotionally delicate springboard. He yearns for his old lover, and still can't get to grips with why it all broke up...therefore, he feels the only thing to do is to find somebody else. At nights though, his thoughts just hark back to the love that he has lost. Stevie's voice and the tune of this song go up and down the scale, and there is gentle voice and guitar backing.
        .......9/10

        10) I BELIEVE (WHEN I FALL IN LOVE IT WILL BE FOREVER) - (Lyrics by Yvonne Wright, music by Stevie Wonder)
        Wow this is a very strong song. The singer begins by describing his despair...and speaks out his intentions and hopes for the next relationship that comes along. The tune is very passionate, slow, and bitingly wistful...bordering on despairing. A little optimism is injected into the song through the anticipation of what the next relationship will be like, but the opening four lines are almost suicidal in their bleakness.... "Shattered dreams, worthless years, here I am encased inside a hollow shell. Life began, then was done, now I stare into a cold and empty well"... The song ends by speeding up, going very funky, and injects a little ray of slightly desperation-tinged positive expectation, as he begs God to answer his prayers and send along the perfect love.....the final few words urging the woman, whoever and wherever she may be, to come on into his life.
        .......10/10

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        Well that's about it. I find it very difficult to write emotively about how things affect me on a deep level, but this album sure hits the spot. I always play it during the darker times of my life....it doesn't make me feel any better, quite the contrary - but I feel during those low points, the album and I become kindred spirits, almost empathising with one another.

        What has always amazed me about Stevie Wonder, is how young he was when he wrote some of his best stuff. To me, the album Talking Book is his crowning glory, yet he was aged only 23 when it was released, yet the whole thing is written and presented with a maturity that would usually only be expected of somebody much older. The whole concept of the album is what appeals to me....not just the words (he didn't write all of them), but the intensely gut-ripping atmosphere that it conjours up.

        I would imagine that Stevie Wonder isn't everybody's cup of tea and he isn't always mine, but Talking Book is a true work of art that for me, stands head and shoulders, far up and above anything else he has ever done. It stands the test of time, too, and doesn't sound at all dated or jaded.

        Thanks for reading!

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      • Product Details

        Disc #1 Tracklisting
        1 You're The Sunshine Of My Life
        2 Maybe Your Baby
        3 You And I
        4 Tuesday Heartbreak
        5 You've Got It Bad Girl
        6 Superstition
        7 Big Brother
        8 Blame It On The Sun
        9 Lookin' For Another Pure Love
        10 I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)