Innervisions

Stevie Wonder

Tamla, 1973

http://www.steviewonder.net

REVIEW BY: George Agnos

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/11/1998

I consider Innervisions to be the perfect follow-up album. To me, follow-up albums should have elements that appeal to those who liked the previous album, but should also show new wrinkles and a sense of artistic growth. Stevie Wonder used this recipe when he followed his fine Talking Book album with this one. Talking Book contains Wonder's two best remembered songs: "Superstition" and "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" so this was indeed a tough act to follow. If Wonder could not quite match those two singles in terms of popularity (both were #1 hits), he compensated by making a greater overall album.

Innervisions satisfies those that like funky, bass-driven numbers. "Jesus Children Of America" has a slow groove that gradually builds to a rousing finish. "Higher Ground" has a synthesizer masquerading as a triple guitar attack like its predecessor "Superstition." "Living For The City" has a pounding beat that must have had George Clinton in awe, and the album opens with the jazzy lilt of "Too High."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And Wonder's trademark ballads are equally..er..Wonder-ful. "All In Love Is Fair" is a poetic, piano-based love song. "Visions" has a dreamy, wistful sound and if "Golden Lady" may seem a bit dated lyrically, it still has a seductive melody that is difficult to forget.

So, people wanting Talking Book II will be satisfied, but here is what Innervisions offers on top of this. The lyrical content of the songs are more diverse. Wonder downplayed the love songs and offered his view on the social situations of the time, many still resonating today.

"Living For The City" is arguably Wonder's most powerful song. It starts out depicting the life of a black family down south and the hardships they endure. The words and the music are tough and uncompromising. The middle of the song, which has the son moving to New York for a better life and instead is framed for a crime and sent to jail, is acted out with spoken word and sound effects. The third part of the song has the son out of prison roaming the streets of New York. Here, Wonder's uses a very gritty vocal as if he is feeling the character's pain. Simply, the song is a masterpiece.

However, Wonder also examines other points of views. "He's Misstra Know It All" examines the life of an irresponsible, dishonest person. "Higher Ground" is about Wonder's personal quest to be a better person. In "Visions" he yearns and has hope for a better world. And if his skeptical examination of the Christian youth movement in "Jesus Children Of America" is no longer topical, the anti-drug message in the song "Too High" is undoubtedly relevant today.

This is a diverse album musically as well: every song has a distinctive sound. He added a Latin tinge to his repetoire in the thoroughly enjoyable "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" and he was not afraid to shift gears from tougher, weighter material to softer, innocuous material in the song sequence. This versatility is even more amazing when you consider he is the only musician on half the tracks, with occasional support on bass, guitar, percussion, and backup vocals on the other tracks. "Golden Lady" is the only cut on the album with a full band.

Innervisions is an album that makes statements, but it is also a fun listen. It stands as the peak of Wonder's long recording career, and is one heck of a follow-up album.

Rating: A

User Rating: A


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© 1998 George Agnos and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Tamla, and is used for informational purposes only.