If you were around in 1971 and had been used to Stevie's 60's sound, this album would have blown you away! After a decade of having to deal with papa Berry's rules of album recording (3 pop hits and the rest filler), Stevie turns 21, goes off to record this classic, and goes back to Berry to say, "I want full control over my music or else!!" Of course papa Berry gave him that freedom and the rest is American music history. On the album, he plays every instrament. As always, I'll take the album song by song.
I Say It 'Cause I Love Having You Around: A classic. A precursor to George Clinton's sound in the 70's, this song is actually a jump for joy. Sprinkled with joyous shouts and yelps, it's a very funky, synth driven romp. Stevie sings in his regular voice and his Louis Armstrong growl in this one. It's a fun song that shouldn't be taken seriously at all. Just enjoy the music and the fun and have some fun. One of the best album openers of his illustrious career. Superwoman: Another classic. This is a look into the future for Stevie. It was also a look more in depth into his relationship with his then wife Syreeta. Syreeta was a singer too and sometimes her career interfered with his. Or, more to the point, she wasn't around when he needed her. Stevie has been known to be somewhat of a male chauvinist in the past. And the title of this song kind of brings this out. He's basically saying that Syreeta should be home for him, "And all the things she wants to do she needs to leave behind". He ends each phrase by saying, "But, very well. I believe I know you very well. Wish that you knew me too very well. I and think I can deal with everything going through your head. The first part of the song is in mid-tempo then there is a musical interlude done on the synth to slow things down. The second part of the song is in a slower tempo and stripped down to just synth, drums and voice. There's a guitar solo by Jeff Beck in the mid section of the second part of the song that lifts it to another level. Overall it's a beautiful song that should not be missed. I Love Every Little Thing About You: An upbeat song basically singing about what the title suggest. I've always felt that this was his nod to the earlier work he'd done at Motown, only with a more 70's sound to it. Sweet Little Girl: Another fun song with Stevie doing a lot of things musically to make it interesting. He does his best mack daddy voice in this one, uses major and minor keys throughout, and does things on the harmonica that you've never heard before. It's probably the most erotic song he's ever done. All in good taste though, no hardcore stuff for Stevie. Happier Than The Morning Sun: Another major change musically for Stevie. This is all clavinet and voice. A beautiful, quiet and yet great song. Girl Blue: The best song on the album. This is Stevie's first collabaration with lyricist Yvonne Wright (not his ex wife Syreeta as many believe when seeing Wonder/Wright as song writers) and happily it wasn't his last. This is one of my 4 how-to-learn-about-music songs I've spoken about in the past. Ironicly, Yvonne wrote the lyrics for another one of my "how-to" songs from Stevie, They Won't Go When I Go". Much is abound in this one. Oriental percussion, poly-rhythms, distorted vocals, a great harmonica solo and great lyrics. "Little girl be fair, show yourself you care. Let others care for you. Before it's too late 'cause time won't wait 'til your hearts no longer blue". A great song and a great moment for pure music. Seems So Long: A heartwrenching song about finding someone, finally, to love. "It's been so long, since I've touched a wanting hand". It includes a great vocal by Stevie and some very moody synth work too. A must hear. Keep On Runnin': My least favorite song on the album. Ok, to be honest, I skip it all the time. It's too repetitive. He does play a mean clavinet on it though. Evil: My second favorite song on this one. Musically, he's using key changes to, I feel, relay a message. The song starts off in a minor, very dangerous sounding key and after each line, it goes up a key. It talks about evil and the power it seemingly has over many people. The final key the song ends on is very high as it ends with Stevie singing, "Leaving sweet love all alone, an outcast of the world", with the last note on the word world. The song is very cinematic, also operatic in style and leaves me with the feeling of hope. It is Stevie after all you know.
All in all, this was the beginning. The beginning of an unprecedented run of success, both commercially and critically for the one man band. It is an album that should not be missed.