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Stevie Wonder|Songs In The Key Of Life

Songs In The Key Of Life

Stevie Wonder

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Songs in the Key of Life was Stevie Wonder's longest, most ambitious collection of songs, a two-LP (plus accompanying EP) set that -- just as the title promised -- touched on nearly every issue under the sun, and did it all with ambitious (even for him), wide-ranging arrangements and some of the best performances of Wonder's career. The opening "Love's in Need of Love Today" and "Have a Talk with God" are curiously subdued, but Stevie soon kicks into gear with "Village Ghetto Land," a fierce exposé of ghetto neglect set to a satirical Baroque synthesizer. Hot on its heels comes the torrid fusion jam "Contusion," a big, brassy hit tribute to the recently departed Duke Ellington in "Sir Duke," and (another hit, this one a Grammy winner as well) the bumping poem to his childhood, "I Wish." Though they didn't necessarily appear in order, Songs in the Key of Life contains nearly a full album on love and relationships, along with another full album on issues social and spiritual. Fans of the love album Talking Book can marvel that he sets the bar even higher here, with brilliant material like the tenderly cathartic and gloriously redemptive "Joy Inside My Tears," the two-part, smooth-and-rough "Ordinary Pain," the bitterly ironic "All Day Sucker," or another classic heartbreaker, "Summer Soft." Those inclined toward Stevie Wonder the social-issues artist had quite a few songs to focus on as well: "Black Man" was a Bicentennial school lesson on remembering the vastly different people who helped build America; "Pastime Paradise" examined the plight of those who live in the past and have little hope for the future; "Village Ghetto Land" brought listeners to a nightmare of urban wasteland; and "Saturn" found Stevie questioning his kinship with the rest of humanity and amusingly imagining paradise as a residency on a distant planet. If all this sounds overwhelming, it is; Stevie Wonder had talent to spare during the mid-'70s, and instead of letting the reserve trickle out during the rest of the decade, he let it all go with one massive burst. (His only subsequent record of the '70s was the similarly gargantuan but largely instrumental soundtrack Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.)

© John Bush /TiVo

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Songs In The Key Of Life

Stevie Wonder

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1
Love's In Need Of Love Today
00:07:05

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

2
Have A Talk With God (Album Version)
00:02:42

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Calvin Hardaway, ComposerLyricist - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

3
Village Ghetto Land (Album Version)
00:03:25

Gary Byrd, ComposerLyricist - Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

4
Contusion (Album Version)
00:03:46

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

5
Sir Duke
00:03:53

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

6
I Wish
00:04:12

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

7
Knocks Me Off My Feet
00:03:36

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

8
Pastime Paradise
00:03:27

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

9
Summer Soft (Album Version)
00:04:14

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

10
Ordinary Pain (Album Version)
00:06:22

MINNIE RIPERTON, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Denice Williams, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

DISCO 2

1
Isn't She Lovely
00:06:34

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

2
Joy Inside My Tears (Album Version)
00:06:29

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

3
Black Man
00:08:31

Gary Byrd, ComposerLyricist - Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

4
Ngiculela-Es Una Historia-I Am Singing (Album Version)
00:03:48

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

5
If It's Magic
00:03:12

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

6
As
00:07:08

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - HERBIE HANCOCK, Keyboards, AssociatedPerformer - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

7
Another Star (Album Version)
00:08:24

George Benson, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Bobbi Humphrey, Flute, AssociatedPerformer - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

8
Saturn
00:04:53

MICHAEL SEMBELLO, ComposerLyricist - Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

9
Ebony Eyes (Album Version)
00:04:10

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

10
All Day Sucker (Album Version)
00:05:05

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

11
Easy Goin' Evening (My Mama's Call)
00:04:02

Stevie Wonder, Producer, Recording Arranger, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - John Fischbach, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Gary Olazabal, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 1976 UMG Recordings, Inc.

Approfondimenti

Songs in the Key of Life was Stevie Wonder's longest, most ambitious collection of songs, a two-LP (plus accompanying EP) set that -- just as the title promised -- touched on nearly every issue under the sun, and did it all with ambitious (even for him), wide-ranging arrangements and some of the best performances of Wonder's career. The opening "Love's in Need of Love Today" and "Have a Talk with God" are curiously subdued, but Stevie soon kicks into gear with "Village Ghetto Land," a fierce exposé of ghetto neglect set to a satirical Baroque synthesizer. Hot on its heels comes the torrid fusion jam "Contusion," a big, brassy hit tribute to the recently departed Duke Ellington in "Sir Duke," and (another hit, this one a Grammy winner as well) the bumping poem to his childhood, "I Wish." Though they didn't necessarily appear in order, Songs in the Key of Life contains nearly a full album on love and relationships, along with another full album on issues social and spiritual. Fans of the love album Talking Book can marvel that he sets the bar even higher here, with brilliant material like the tenderly cathartic and gloriously redemptive "Joy Inside My Tears," the two-part, smooth-and-rough "Ordinary Pain," the bitterly ironic "All Day Sucker," or another classic heartbreaker, "Summer Soft." Those inclined toward Stevie Wonder the social-issues artist had quite a few songs to focus on as well: "Black Man" was a Bicentennial school lesson on remembering the vastly different people who helped build America; "Pastime Paradise" examined the plight of those who live in the past and have little hope for the future; "Village Ghetto Land" brought listeners to a nightmare of urban wasteland; and "Saturn" found Stevie questioning his kinship with the rest of humanity and amusingly imagining paradise as a residency on a distant planet. If all this sounds overwhelming, it is; Stevie Wonder had talent to spare during the mid-'70s, and instead of letting the reserve trickle out during the rest of the decade, he let it all go with one massive burst. (His only subsequent record of the '70s was the similarly gargantuan but largely instrumental soundtrack Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.)

© John Bush /TiVo

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