Wednesday 10 October 2012

Stevie Wonder - Innervisions

What are the hallmarks of a truly great album?  For me, it would have to have a sense of timelessness.  That an album is of a time and place does not have to mean that it loses its relevance, its message, or its communicative power as the years role by.  Although almost all of them do.

One album that - to these tired ears - still seems to get better every time I hear it is Stevie Wonder's Innervisions.

Stevie Wonder wrote, sang, and played most of the instruments on Innervisions, already his 16th album.  As the title implies, it is an introspective opus that addresses the world that the blind Stevie lives in.  It should not surprise anybody that it is pretty much the same world that we all perceive.  Being blind does not prevent him from seeing, and Stevie's world view is one of the same hopes, fears, ambitions, and frustrations that characterize our own lives.  Avoiding bumping into the piano is not what keeps Stevie up at nights!  So much of what Stevie sings of in 1973 seems as fresh and relevant 40 years later.

Surprisingly, for an album that seems so quintessentially of its time,  Innervisions does not sound at all dated.  Now available as a 24/96 download from HDTracks, taken directly from the original master tapes, we finally get to hear the full glory of the album that won the Grammy Awards for Best Album and for Best Engineered Non-Classical Album.  What we hear is Stevie at the absolute height of his vocal powers, and arguably, at the height of his creative powers.  "Living For The City" (every instrument you hear was played by Stevie) was a track we played regularly at SSI - it never failed to amaze listeners with its power and presence, and with the stark soul of its message.

Shortly after releasing Innervisions, Stevie was in a very serious car accident, and remained in a coma for four days.  The accident had a profound affect on him, and his music became more sentimental and lost much of its biting edge.  Compare Innervisions to Songs In The Key Of Life (another highly successful album) and you'll see what I mean.