Talking about Stevie Wonder at this point is no doubt a redundant occurrence to some, but it's still worth mentioning the story of both the man and the pop-culture legend.
Being blind virtually since birth, Stevie came to develop a near unmatched passion for music, and soon enough, made sure that his "little" deficiency did not get in the way of what he loved. Starting off at the age of 12, suitably labeled as "The Little Stevie Wonder" back then, Wonders developed a fairly decent career with equally decent recognition, creating a string of fairly good but still ambitious series of albums, earning a name in the music industry that, surprisingly, didn't simply come from his extremely young age and his child prodigy status (Though this certainly collaborated). By the time he started bordering on adulthood, it became increasingly obvious that there was even more to this little man that he had shown, and if he was already big, he could be bigger.
Throw in his then-most critically acclaimed album, a ubiquitous, legendary pop-funk classic, Grammy awards, and chart success, and you got yourself a deal.
Reading all of this, is easy to dismiss Stevie Wonder as simply another overplayed, dated mainstream star that came up at the right place and at the right time and has long since been left behind as a relic of another era; However, as someone with no experience in neither funk acts (With the exception of Funkadelic's Maggot Brain
) nor other Stevie Wonder records, I don't believe this is fair.
Regardless of what your preferences are, it certainly can't be denied the fact that Wonder has a great ear for catchiness. The album is completely full of funky, memorable beats while Stevie ponders around, always taking control of the situation with his usually soulful but catchy vocals. The songwriting is excellent through out, and the album has a near flawless pacing, never been a second too long (though certainly sometimes feeling short, but that's a good sign). The styles displayed are mainly a mixture between the previously mentioned soul elements, this being usually lead by Stevie's voice and piano, and funk, which is usually led by Stevie being accompanied by a parade of backing vocalists and upbeat, energetic guitar lines, like much of funk.
The album goes back and forth between these two styles, but it's generally a mixture of the two. Immediately we are received by some groovy conga-drumming, before Stevie goes off to show his skill with his passionate vocals (These earning him a Grammy award) while singing about what you'd mostly expect out of this sort of artists. This leads me to one of my complaints with the album: The lyrics. Now maybe this was the new thing back in its time, but now, it just feels like any other bland topic that can be found in a million other pop artists. Good thing though that the performances, specially, of course, by Stevie, are always strong and are more than enough to give these tired love topics a personality, despite everything.
All in all, the beginning of Stevie's "Classic" era is a fine, catchy and well made album, one that also contains what is by a long shot his most popular song ('Superstition'), meaning that, regardless of how overplayed that song might be to some, the album is worth checking out on its own to die hard Stevie fans, if for nothing else carrying what has been his blue print song. Like I already, I have not heard any other Stevie Wonder album, but if this not only just the beginning but also a weaker album than what came after, like many claim, then I'm certainly in for a treat.