Albums

$14.99
$12.99

Soul - Released January 1, 1972 | UNI - MOTOWN

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
$22.49
$18.99

Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | Motown

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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
$20.99
$17.99

Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | Motown

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
After releasing two "head" records during 1970-71, Stevie Wonder expanded his compositional palette with 1972's Talking Book to include societal ills as well as tender love songs, and so recorded the first smash album of his career. What had been hinted at on the intriguing project Music of My Mind was here focused into a laser beam of tight songwriting, warm electronic arrangements, and ebullient performances -- altogether the most realistic vision of musical personality ever put to wax, beginning with a disarmingly simple love song, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" (but of course, it's only the composition that's simple). Stevie's not always singing a tender ballad here -- in fact, he flits from contentment to mistrust to promise to heartbreak within the course of the first four songs -- but he never fails to render each song in the most vivid colors. In stark contrast to his early songs, which were clever but often relied on the Motown template of romantic metaphor, with Talking Book it became clear Stevie Wonder was beginning to speak his mind and use personal history for material (just as Marvin Gaye had with the social protest of 1971's What's Going On). The lyrics became less convoluted, while the emotional power gained in intensity. "You and I" and the glorious closer "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)" subtly illustrate that the conception of love can be stronger than the reality, while "Tuesday Heartbreak" speaks simply but powerfully: "I wanna be with you when the nighttime comes / I wanna be with you till the daytime comes." Ironically, the biggest hit from Talking Book wasn't a love song at all; the funk landmark "Superstition" urges empowerment instead of hopelessness, set to a grooving beat that made it one of the biggest hits of his career. It's followed by "Big Brother," the first of his directly critical songs, excoriating politicians who posture to the underclass in order to gain the only thing they really need: votes. With Talking Book, Stevie also found a proper balance between making an album entirely by himself and benefiting from the talents of others. His wife Syreeta contributed two great lyrics, and Ray Parker, Jr. came by to record a guitar solo that brings together the lengthy jam "Maybe Your Baby." Two more guitar heroes, Jeff Beck and Buzzy Feton, appeared on "Lookin' for Another Pure Love," Beck's solo especially giving voice to the excruciating process of moving on from a broken relationship. Like no other Stevie Wonder LP before it, Talking Book is all of a piece, the first unified statement of his career. It's certainly an exercise in indulgence but, imitating life, it veers breathtakingly from love to heartbreak and back with barely a pause. ~ John Bush
$20.99
$17.99

Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | Motown

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
After brilliantly surveying the social, political, and spiritual landscape with What's Going On, Marvin Gaye turned to more intimate matters with Let's Get It On, a record unparalleled in its sheer sensuality and carnal energy. Always a sexually charged performer, Gaye's passions reach their boiling point on tracks like the magnificent title hit (a number one smash) and "You Sure Love to Ball"; silky and shimmering, the music is seductive in the most literal sense, its fluid grooves so perfectly designed for romance as to border on parody. With each performance laced with innuendo, each lyric a come-on, and each rhythm throbbing with lust, perhaps no other record has ever achieved the kind of sheer erotic force of Let's Get It On, and it remains the blueprint for all of the slow jams to follow decades later -- much copied, but never imitated. ~ Jason Ankeny
$22.49
$18.99

Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | Motown

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Released in 1982, the double-album Original Musiquarium I summarizes Stevie Wonder's classic period of the '70s, concentrating primarily on the hits, but adding a few album tracks to hint at the depth of his albums, as well as four new songs (one for each side, all pleasant, none particularly remarkable). Though there could be some dispute about the album tracks, this does wind up as an excellent overview of Wonder's period of greatest activity, and it's a terrific listen to boot -- any record that sports such hits as "Superstition," "You Haven't Done Nothin'," "Living for the City," "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," "Higher Ground," "Sir Duke," "Boogie on Reggae Woman," and "I Wish" is guaranteed to be a great listen, and it is. Wonder remains a quintessential album artist, but this record is a terrific snapshot of the highlights. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
$20.99
$17.99

Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | UNI - MOTOWN

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
$14.99
$9.99

Soul - Released March 20, 2013 | Magazine Records

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
$16.49
$14.49

Soul - Released November 19, 1996 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
$16.49
$14.49

Soul - Released October 9, 2012 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
$16.49
$14.49

Soul - Released April 26, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
$14.99
$12.99

Soul - Released October 16, 2007 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
$16.49
$14.49

Soul - Released March 31, 1992 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
$16.49
$14.49

Soul - Released June 29, 2010 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
$16.49
$14.49

Soul - Released February 7, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
$16.49
$14.49

Soul - Released February 2, 2006 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
$16.49
$14.49

Soul - Released August 21, 2012 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
$16.49
$14.49

Soul - Released July 3, 2012 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
$16.49
$14.49

Soul - Released July 31, 2012 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Otis Redding's talent began to surge, across songs and their stylesand absorbing them, with the recording of The Soul Album. In contrast to The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads, which was an advance over its predecessor but still a body of 12 songs of varying styles and textures, rising to peaks and never falling before an intense, soulful mid-range, The Soul Album shows him moving from strength to strength in a string of high-energy, sweaty soul performances, interspersing his own songs with work by Sam Cooke ("Chain Gang"), Roy Head ("Treat Her Right"), Eddie Floyd ("Everybody Makes a Mistake"), and Smokey Robinson ("It's Growing") and recasting them in his own style, so that they're not "covers" so much as reinterpretations; indeed, "Chain Gang" is almost a rewrite of the original, though one suspects not one that Cooke would have disapproved of. He still had a little way to go as a songwriter -- the jewel of this undervalued collection is "Cigarettes and Coffee, co-authored by Eddie Thomas and Jerry Butler -- but as an interpreter he was now without peer, and his albums were now showing this remarkable, stunningly high level of consistency. Also significant on this album was the contribution of Steve Cropper, not only on guitar but as co-author of three songs. ~ Bruce Eder
$16.49
$14.49

Soul - Released December 21, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
$16.49
$14.49

Soul - Released December 21, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio

Genre

Soul in the magazine