Friday, July 12, 2013

90. Talking Book (1972) Stevie Wonder



Tracks

1. You Are the Sunshine of My Life
2. Maybe Your Baby
3. You and I (We Can Conquer the World)
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)

You are the Sunshine of my life is just wet isn't it? I don't mind a love song and I'm not a bitter individual who doesn't appreciate romance but Sunshine is really, really soppy. It's a syrupy bowl of sloosh which has become a bit of a cliche of the overblown love song that would cause most people to cringe if someone got down on one knee and sang it with a handful of flowers and an earnest face. It's not really a good start to an album and doesn't inspire you with much confidence if you approach Wonder as a talented and exciting performer.

The rest of Talking Book's first side sort of plods along without doing much that's dynamic and concludes with a song that will make you yearn nostalgically for the opening track. While Sunshine might be syrup at least it's sweet smelling syrup. You've got it Bad Girl has the same viscosity but a very unpleasant taste. You've got it bad girl seems to go on for several years with an incredibly repetitive and annoying line which gets stuck in your head and makes you beg for the end.

The first five tracks are not a good introduction to Wonder and don't give you much reason to turn over and experience side two. Which is a shame because any listener who threw Talking Book away in disgust without flipping over would miss Superstition.

Side Two opens with a funk explosion which is far and away Wonder's best ever track. Superstition shakes your booty and moves your soul even if you don't have a soul or any recognizable buttocks to shake. The opening organ riff will make you sit up and boogie and has such a sense of urgency and kick it's not possible to ignore. It's thankfully enough to wipe the memory of You've got it bad girl from your mind and will definitely be the track you find yourself humming hours later. It's a great song when Wonder does it on his own but my favourite version is the barnstorming live rendition Stevie Ray Vaughan used to give it which is like this and then some.

I'd love to say Superstition sets up side two to be better than the first but sadly the standard quickly drops away until the nadir of Looking for Another Pure Love which is as repetitive and tedious as You've got it Bad Girl at it's worst.

Talking Book has one incredibly high point which struggles to balance out the raft of lows surrounding it. Wonder has a great voice and can play an organ but for me to enjoy it he needed to take Superstition as his blueprint and build an album around it rather than throw it in as a funky anomaly in amongst a collection of tedious gloop.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I just don't see how someone can write and perform a tune as perfect as I Believe (When I Fall In Love With You It Will Be Forever), and on the same album include such dreck as You And I, and You've Got It Bad Girl."

-I don't use the word dreck very often but maybe I should.

So is the a talking book you couldn't put down or did you struggle to get to the ending? Let me know below.

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