Stevie Wonder - Innervisions (Vinyl)

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Innervisions is the sixteenth studio album by American singer, songwriter, and musician Stevie Wonder, released on August 3, 1973, by Tamla, a subsidiary of Motown Records. A landmark recording of Wonder's "classic period", the album has been regarded as his transition from the "Little Stevie Wonder" known for romantic ballads into a more musically mature, conscious, and grown-up artist. On the album, Wonder continued to experiment with the ARP synthesizer and the revolutionary T.O.N.T.O. (The Original New Timbral Orchestra) synth developed by Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff, and Innervisions became hugely influential on the future sound of commercial soul and black music.

As with many of Wonder's albums, the lyrics, composition, and production of Innervisions are almost entirely his own work, and he also played all, or virtually all, of instruments on many of the album's tracks. He made prominent use of the ARP synthesizer throughout the album, which was popular among musicians of the time because of its ability to construct a complete sound environment.

The nine tracks of Innervisions encompass a wide range of themes and issues: from drug abuse in "Too High", through inequality and systemic racism in "Living for the City", to love in the ballads "All in Love Is Fair" and "Golden Lady". The album's closer, "He's Misstra Know-It-All", is a scathing attack on then-US President Richard Nixon, similar to Wonder's song "You Haven't Done Nothin'" from the following year. "Living for the City" was one of the first soul music songs to deal explicitly with systemic racism and to incorporate everyday sounds of the street, such as traffic, voices, and sirens, in with music recorded in the studio.



I've got to admit that at first, Innervisions confused me a little. Not because it's a confusing album itself - not many musicians have a clarity of sound and vision like Stevie does, and this is no different - but because of its reputation. When you've heard a record as blatantly incredible as Songs in the Key of Life, and you then find out that another album by the same person is meant to be even better, how can you not be disappointed when it turns out to not even be in the same league?

But with time, Innervisions just kept growing. I still don't think it's anywhere near Songs, but this is an album with some pretty incredible moments all the same. Two of the highest peaks come in the same places they did on Talking Book, with "Higher Ground" filling the same role that "Superstition" without stealing the show as spectacularly - don't think of that as a weakness, just think of it as "Higher Ground" being more of a team player - and "He's Misstra Know-it-all" ending the record on a more resigned, worldly note than "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)", which is fitting for what comes before it.

But neither of those tracks really define the record, and this period of Stevie's career, quite like "Living for the City". I can't believe I didn't like this song at first - it took a Dirtbombs cover to make me realize how excellent it really is. Snide in delivery, with eyes cast simultaneously on the uselessness of crime and the inevitability of it happening, it manages to sympathize with the protagonist while voicing angry, but futile dissent both toward them, and to the system that made them what they are. Stevie never really got involved in the whole blaxploitation thing, but he didn't need to; this one song says more than some artists did in entire soundtracks. And not just obscure and forgotten artists, either - the list of people Stevie outdoes here includes legends like Marvin Gaye.

Maybe that, ultimately, is why Innervisions simply can't stack up to Songs in the Key of Life. Innverisions has one song that good, maybe two if you stretch to "Higher Ground" as well, while the triple-vinyled masterpiece he'd unleash three years later has at least nine. No matter though - this is a brilliant album in its own right.

By; Lai.

Side one

"Too High" – 4:37
"Visions" – 5:25
"Living for the City" – 7:23
"Golden Lady" – 4:49

Side two

"Higher Ground" – 3:40
"Jesus Children of America" – 4:10
"All in Love Is Fair" – 3:39
"Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing" – 4:43
"He's Misstra Know-It-All" – 5:26

Coordinator [Recording Coordinators] – Ira Tucker, Jr., John Harris (11)
Engineer, Producer [Associate], Programmed By [Arp, Moog] – Malcolm Cecil, Robert Margouleff
Illustration – Efram Wolff
Mastered By – George Marino
Producer, Arranged By, Instruments [All], Synthesizer [Arp, Moog], Written-By – Stevie Wonder
Recorded By – Austin Godsey, Dan Barbiero
Tape Op – Gary Olazabal
Version without "" in runouts can be found here: Stevie Wonder - Innervisions

℗ 1973 Motown Record Corporation © 1973 Motown Record Corporation, A Universal Music Company.
Made in the EU.

Recorded at Record Plant, Los Angeles and Media Sound, Inc., New York

180 Gram Vinyl. Includes download code.