Stevie Wonder, 1972
So I'm dipping into the more popular vein today. Listened to all of this excellent album today, and I discover new things to enjoy about it all the time. When I listened to it as a kid, I really didn't have time for anything but "Superstition," and of course that song is still the jam, but there's just so much else going on here.
One thing that makes a good singer-songwriter album stand out for me is just simple variety. I don't want a lot of the songs to sound the same, and Stevie definitely delivers on that here, expending a lot of energy and studio time to make every song a unique expression. Maybe the lyrics aren't exactly the most subtle or anything, but the musical ideas are in confluence with them to a great degree.
Some highlights: the near-hypnotic stutter-step funky drone of "Maybe Your Baby," the breezy bright almost-tropicalia arrangement on "Tuesday Heartbreak," the vocal counterpoint and meticulously-crafted melodic contours on "Blame It on the Sun," and can we talk about "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)" for a second?
Because that song. Damn. My skin tingles a bit just thinking about it. And here's something that I rarely say about any music at all: I really think a big part of what makes this song great is the tempo. I try to imagine it even just a hair faster or slower, and it seems wrong. In fact, it used to bother me when I listened to it on a walkman (did I mention that I'm kinda old?) and the batteries were a bit old or something. The song is still really great, but there's something about the groove of it that speaks to my biorhythms or something. So nice to have it on CD and mp3, and really hear it in that in-the-pocket tempo every time.
Gorgeous album, definitely something you should own if you're any kind of fan of American popular songwriting.