Posts Tagged ‘Ray Charles’

You’re an artist. It’s noon and you’ve been awake for at least 15 minutes. You’ve gargled your first gallon of coffee. It’s time to get your game on. How do you welcome your Muse? Yoga? Affirmations? Mixed martial arts?

Michelangelo opened himself to inspiration with his paint-by-numbers kit. John Steinbeck typed up everything that had happened to him on his way to his office. Bruce Springsteen drives down a dusty beach road and counts the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets. When Stormin’ Gorman Thomas played for the Seattle Mariners, he rapped himself in the back of his head with his bat. I’m not making this up about Steinbeck and Stormin’ Gorman.

For years, before I wrote a new post for this blog, I began by standing for the “Star-Spangled Banner.” But from now on, I’ll take a knee.

Summer 2017 in review: Part 1

Estate sales: books, music, stickers, colored pencils, tools I don’t need, kitchen gadgets from another century, the insides of old weird houses. Scavenging in the debris field of other people’s lives – what’s not to like?

For a quarter or maybe 50 cents, I can pick up a CD I know nothing about or don’t remember. Sometimes this works. Here are some albums I tried this summer that didn’t. I’ll never see that dollar again.

It’s raining men

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were four of the manliest men you’d ever want to man up with. This Anglo-Saxon army is responsible for three classics of the Classic Rock rockin’ Caucasians classic era: the studio albums Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969) and Déjà Vu (1970) and their live set, 4 Way Street (1971). But after 1971, nothing happened. And still more nothing. What’s a record company to do?

I’ll tell you what Atlantic Records did. They took a chunk of the first record and a chunk of the second record and added “Ohio” and gave us So Far in 1974. Is So Far a greatest-hits album or an intelligence test? If it was the second, CSNY’s fans flunked, because So Far went right to the top of Billboard’s Hot 200 Albums chart.

In 1974, before disco suctioned out their bone marrow, CSNY was so big that you could carve “CSNY” into a slice of Wonder Bread and CSNY fans would fight to use it for their next Holy Communion.

Just buy the first three albums, OK?

A useful way of understanding this band is measuring them in Units of Monkees. David Crosby was Michael Nesmith, Stephen Stills was Michael Nesmith, Graham Nash was stuck being Davey Jones because he’s English even though he’s really Michael Nesmith, and Neil Young was Michael Nesmith. If I had been in CSNY, I would’ve been Peter Tork.

Nerdz 2 men

R.E.M. always acted as if they had no sense of humor, probably because they didn’t. The closest they came to a good laugh (on us) was Dead Letter Office (1987), a collection of songs the band forgot, songs the band was too drunk to remember, songs the band didn’t like, and songs the band took apart and rebuilt later but without much enthusiasm. And I’m quoting from their own liner notes!

What a bunch of fun-loving hooligans. Imagine their surprise when their fans fell for it. Dead Letter Office peaked at 52 on the Hot 200. Mazal tov, R.E.M. fans! I’d sell you a bridge, but the CSNY fans already bought it.

While I admit there are a couple of good songs on this disc (particularly “Windout,” which rocks), it’s mostly made up of songs I wish I was too drunk to remember. This includes their cover of Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.” Let me tell you something, my fine motherfuckers: The words are “I’m a man of means,” not “I’m a man of men”!

Crash Davis after confiscating Nuke LaLoosh’s guitar in Bull Durham: “It ain’t ‘woolly,’ it’s ‘weary,’ and nobody’s got stress, they’re wearing a dress. Dammit, I hate it when people get the words wrong!”

Hot mess

The readers of Rolling Stone voted The Killers’ 2004 debut, Hot Fuss, as the 33rd best debut album in history. The Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill was first. After listening to Hot Fuss, I’m illin’. The Killers are actually just a hair band that escaped from the 1980s – a marriage of synth-pop Spandau Ballet and pretty-boy power-rockers Night Ranger. What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.

Four of the 11 tracks on Hot Fuss were hits. Why? Sun spots? “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” the leadoff batter, opens with an R&B guitar hook that gave me hope for the rest of the album. They abandon it after the first minute. The guitar break based on the hook is taken instead by the keyboards and has nothing to do with the beginning of the song. Their music wanders, and they are lost.

But I did like “Midnight Show,” which springs from Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” and from Billy Idol’s “White Wedding,” which I guess proves that I’ve escaped from the ’80s, too.

The Killers enjoy playing with words, which sometimes gets you this:

Well somebody told me
You had a boyfriend
Who looked like a girlfriend
That I had in February of last year

But it also gets you “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier” and their immortal “Hey shut up, hey shut up, yeah.”

I agree. Shut up.

Hit the road, Raymond

Ray Charles’ The Ultimate Hits Collection Discs 1 and 2 includes every novelty number the man ever recorded plus every song in which he shouted “Wait a minute!” His cover of “Yesterday” sounds like he’s trying to finish before his train arrives, plus he shouts “Wait a minute!” Charles was a genius, but buy one of his non-greatest-hits albums instead.

Next time, you get the Snuggles the Fabric Softener Bear edition of Run-DMSteve: Albums I liked!


I edited a couple of trade magazines in the 1990s. When you edit any kind of specialty magazine, you find that boredom seeps in like water in an old rowboat. There are only so many ways you can present the same subject, to keep it readable, informative, and interesting to read.

It’s a struggle, but you won’t hear any complaints from me. There are enormous rewards that come with the editor’s blue pencil: wealth, celebrity, power, eager-to-please interns, the respect of your fellow editors, the adoration of your writers, and a bitchin’ sound system in your office.

Notice to our readers
There are several errors in our current post. “wealth” should read “health insurance.” “celebrity” probably refers to Run-DMSteve’s appearance on the front page of the Idaho Statesman in 2003. The reference to “power” is puzzling, but it might have something to do with shaking Al Gore’s hand in 1999 without being pummeled by the Secret Service.

In addition, Run-DMSteve has never been granted access to an intern, editors are too busy drinking to speak to each other, writers adore you only when you’re approving their invoices, and Run-DMSteve had to buy the sound system with his own money. We regret these errors.

My first magazine was published by Sierra On-Line, which made computer games. Sierra was chaotic and dangerous, a knife fight without any rules, but I never had trouble making those pages interesting.

My second magazine was published by Visio, which made drawing and diagramming software. The company was well-run but their products put me to sleep. I figured our readers must’ve had the same challenge. This is why I searched for unusual Visioids to profile. For example, there was a gentleman who used Visio to position the cameras for the Oscars broadcast, and a writer who visualized her complicated love life thanks to our software. I hope the latter story gave engineers around the world something different to think about.

Sadly, I never got to run our story about the Midwest cemetery administrator who used Visio software to keep track of his “residents.” That would’ve been my Halloween issue.

Not all who play chess are lost
In September 2002, the editors of Chess Life published an interview with Ray Charles and splashed his photo on the cover. Jackpot! Bingo! Touchdown! This issue must’ve been extremely popular because I can never find one on eBay. Everyone’s hiding their copy in their sock drawer. Here’s the only image I can find.

Ray Charles learned to play chess in 1965 while he was in a hospital kicking his heroin addiction. He basically traded addictions. Unlike most blind players, who play by calling out the moves in chess notation (if you’ve ever played Battleship, you’re halfway to learning chess notation), Charles played by feeling the pieces. I suppose this is similar to how he played the piano. He used a special board with raised dark squares and lowered light squares. The black pieces had sharper edges than the white pieces. Each piece had a peg in the bottom and each square had a hole.

“I’m nowhere near what you call a master. I’m just a person who plays chess,” he said in the story. “I don’t care if I lose. I try not to, but I just love to play.”

Charles was interviewed by Grandmaster Larry Evans, a former U.S. chess champion and a long-time columnist for Chess Life. Naturally, they played a game while they talked. Evans didn’t play full-out (he admitted as much later), which I’ve learned is always a mistake when playing children. They learn more when they play the real you, plus your sub-par moves sometimes return to bite you in the ass. Sure enough, Charles, who was a better player than he let on, came close to a draw.

At one point in the game, Evans warned Charles that if Charles moved a certain piece, Evans would be free to make a devastating counter-move. Charles said, “You’ve got your rights, brother.”

Charles also knew how to cut to the game’s essence. “You don’t just move pieces,” he said. “You have to have a reason. So you say to yourself, if I do this and he does that, then what will I do?” I’ve been trying to teach this simple concept for YEARS! But instead of slowing down and thinking, my chess kids invariably plunge ahead as if they were about to miss the ice cream truck.

Chess and music live on the same street
Ray Charles was not the only musician who loved chess. Here’s a partial list: Sonny Bono, David Bowie, Ludacris, Jay Z, LL Cool J, Kurt Cobain, John and Yoko, Wu-Tang Clan (the entire group), Phish (ditto), and some one-worders: Madonna, Cher, Moby, Nelly, Bono, and Sting. In fact the best thing I’ve ever read about Sting is that he has an estate somewhere with a giant chessboard built into the landscaping.

I haven’t even gotten to all the jazz and classical musicians who play or played chess. But the only country western musician that I know of who qualifies was…Ray Charles (Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, vols. 1-2, 1961).

All of this is the leadup to a sad truth: There’s little to say about Charles’ career in the 1970s, my current topic. I don’t believe he was capable of recording a bad album, but like all gods he was capable of recording unnecessary albums, and the ’70s were a long line of them.

Note: There are many necessary Ray Charles records. Here are just two: Ray Charles At Newport (1958) and The Genius of Ray Charles (1959).

I said when I began this series about black music of the ’70s that everyone on my list owed a debt to James Brown. I’m thinking now that we all owe an even bigger debt to Ray Charles.

“I beat Willie Nelson yesterday,” Charles said in Chess Life. “He tells me that I turned the lights out on him.”

Hit the board, Jack.



In 2014 I heroically listened to every album Prince ever made. Well, I heroically came close. I listened to the first 14. I will eventually listen to the remaining 987. This was an exciting, enlightening quest for which I received 100% zero thanks. I didn’t get a link from Wikipedia. I didn’t get a lousy T-shirt from Prince. And, as always, WordPress refused to give me any money.

I remain undeterred. Why? Because it says BLOGGER on my uniform! So today I jump on my new project, the project I should’ve jumped on before I jumped on Prince: the black music of the 1970s. But first: The Rules!

Rule 1: Provincialism is good. I’m disqualifying 98% of planet Earth. Once you dive into my unscientific survey you’ll discover that almost all of these performers are from the USA. That’s because I’m from the USA. USA! USA!

Rule 2: One-hit wonders are blunders. The 1970s were a magnet for the truly awful (that was somehow spectacularly popular). For every passable tune such as Jean Knight and “Mr. Big Stuff” you get a dumpster full of this:

Billy Paul, “Me and Mrs. Jones”
Peaches & Herb, “Reunited”
Labelle, “Lady Marmalade”*
Anita Ward, “Ring My Bell”
A Taste of Honey, “Boogie Oogie Oogie”**
Hues Corporation, “Rock the Boat”
Carl Douglas, “Kung Fu Fighting”***

* This is the “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, c’est soir” song.
** I hate to put them on this list, because they were an early girl-power band with two female guitarists. Also, they looked most excellent in backless swimsuits. But their song sucks.
*** According to legend, “Kung Fu Fighting” was recorded in 10 minutes. Of course it was.

Rule 3: I make the tough calls! Reggae was obviously a vital part of the ’70s – it was a huge influence on British punk – but I don’t care for reggae so you won’t find it here. I like the blues but there’s no blues on my list because after half an hour it’s not the blues, it’s whining. There’s no rap because, while I like some rap, I don’t understand it.

Even within the genres I like – rock, psychedelia, disco, soul, R&B – I’ll have to leave out some fun people to make sure I can get through this project before 2250 A.D. Here are two:

  • Eddie Kendricks, who sang lead on The Temptations’ “Just My Imagination” and had a solo hit with “Keep on Truckin’.”
  • Johnny “Guitar” Watson, who played blues, jazz, and funk but is probably best remembered for that sentimental lament, “A Real Mother for Ya.”

Rule 4: I’m sure to forget somebody. I only remembered The Spinners about 5 minutes ago.

This list I’m about to unleash is not exhaustive, though it’s exhausting me. I might not make it past 1974. But here goes.

The ’70s begin!

On the starting line we have:

  • Marvin Gaye and worthy but lesser satellites: Al Green, Bill Withers, Donny Hathaway
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Diana Ross, but not The Supremes
  • Quincy Jones
  • Ray Charles
  • James Brown
  • George Clinton
  • Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, and Barry White
  • The Jackson 5, The Isley Brothers, and other notable families
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Sly & The Family Stone
  • Ike & Tina Turner
  • Gladys Knight & The Pips
  • Earth, Wind & Fire and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  • Rufus (featuring Chaka Khan)
  • The Four Tops
  • The Spinners
  • The Temptations

Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder were at their height in the ’70s, and their height is somewhere north of the Matterhorn. I could write about them and never get to anyone else.

Diana Ross released 17 albums in the ’70s. (First on this list is James Brown’s brain-busting 28.) She played Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues. She recorded duets with Marvin Gaye. Like a true diva, Diana Ross can’t be ignored. But I can ignore her former co-workers. This was not their decade.

I am mostly going to ignore Quincy Jones. Sure, Jones can compose, arrange, produce, conduct, and play. He brought out the best in the senior-citizen Frank Sinatra and the young-adult Michael Jackson. “Killer Joe” is one of my favorite jazz standards. But almost everything I like about him comes before 1970 or after 1979. I’m only going to mention Jones once, for an album I’m not recommending, and I hope the Lords of Kobol will forgive me.

Did Ray Charles do more in the ’70s than make those dopey commercials for Scotch Brand recording tape? Run-DMSteve investigates!

Everyone on this list owes something to James Brown. Everyone who isn’t on this list owes something to James Brown, even if they were born in a galaxy far, far away. Soul Brother #1 began the decade with the 11-minute “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” a song that added substantially to my knowledge of how to deal with women (building on what I’d learned from Capt. Kirk and a stolen copy of South Pacific).

Brown ran out of fissionable uranium by mid-decade. His disco resurgence in 1979 doesn’t count.

George Clinton’s bands were Funkadelic and Parliament. After reacquainting myself with the few songs I knew and listening to the many I didn’t, I see him now as the secret weapon of the ’70s. Clinton has suffered the most from the way white radio playlists, particularly the Oldies and Classic Rock formats, exclude black artists.

We’ll get to Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, Barry White, and Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Quincy Jones again when we dive into the deep end of the Shaft/Super Fly machismo pool.

The Jackson 5 were the best family act of any color of any era. Their only contenders are Don and Phil Everly, and I think that’s a very close race. (The Isley Brothers are right behind them. Two more challengers popped up in the ’70s: The Pointer Sisters and The Staple Singers.) The J5 were superior to Sister Sledge, The Osmonds, The Carpenters, The Cowsills, The Partridge Family (OK, that’s cheating), the von Trapps, and everyone who has ever appeared on Lawrence Welk.

Jimi Hendrix existed in the ’70s for about nine months. His early death is the second-greatest tragedy in the history of pop music. (Mozart’s early death is first.)

With Aretha Franklin, it’s always 1967, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You is on the turntable, and you’re about to drop the needle on the first track, “Respect.” I can’t imagine the pressure this woman faced at the age of 25 with “Respect” heading her résumé. Bruce Springsteen faced the same pressure when he was 25 and had just recorded “Born to Run.”

Sylvester Stewart, aka Sly Stone, is mostly known for the music he gave us in the ’60s. By the time he got to the ’70s, his revolutionary zeal had congealed. Sadly, so had his optimism. Sly & The Family Stone’s last great album, There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971), is as confused, cynical, and hard to listen to as The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street (1972). The main difference between the two is that Stone was apathetic. The Stones were sleazy.

Sly Stone fun fact: You could transfer “Just Like a Baby” from There’s a Riot Goin’ On to Exile on Main Street and nobody would know the difference.

Most of Ike and Tina Turner’s music evaporates while you listen to it. For every “Proud Mary” or “River Deep – Mountain High” they have 20 songs that are guaranteed not to stick to your ribs. But we needed The Ike & Tina Turner Revue because they created the image of Tina Turner as a force majeure. Ms. Turner gave us one good record on her own (Private Dancer), but that’s off in the ’80s.

Gladys Knight & The Pips recorded the first version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” a hymn that could make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window. In the ’70s they recorded “Midnight Train to Georgia.” I still want to kick them.

Earth, Wind & Fire were just getting started and didn’t know what they wanted to be when they grew up. Same with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.

Rufus was funky for sure, but they’re not as good as their contemporaries War. But they’re important for giving Chaka Khan a launching pad. Khan has a voice like Tina Turner’s, with less power but more finesse at close range.

The Four Tops’ many classics are all from the ’60s. In the ’70s they recorded two albums with The Supremes (minus Diana Ross), The Magnificent Seven and The Return of the Magnificent Seven. Not enough of a draw to make me listen. Sorry kids, but as I’ve stated many times in this blog I am paid to be unfair. All right, I’m not paid, but I’m still unfair.

The Spinners have left little behind them besides the image of five guys in yummy-colored pantsuits. But they had a run of hits in the early ’70s, starting with “It’s a Shame,” which I always thought was Al Green until I finally looked it up. Duh. However, I don’t care for the rest of their easy-listening catalog, and they gave us the gift of “The Rubberband Man,” which is clearly related to the crud back in Rule 2, so though they meant well they disappear as soon as this sentence hits the period.

The Temptations recorded “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” in 1972. This was another show-stopper written by Norman Whitfield. The Temptations could’ve stopped right there. But they didn’t, and neither will I. I’ll be back next time with: Blaxploitation!


In 1955, the white man was in big trouble. Sure, we ruled the waves. And the land. And anyone who wasn’t white. And women in general. But what good was that when our music was appalling? As evidence, I present to you the Top 10 songs for the year.

The most popular song of 1955 was by a Cuban, Pérez Prado. That’s the start and finish for diversity on this list. “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” is an instrumental. Prado’s work differs from that of other instrumental groups of that era, for example, The Shadows (“Apache”) and The Tornados (“Telstar”) in that it thoroughly sucks. Pérez Prado was the king of mambo in ’55, but “Cherry Pink” is mambo with the temperature turned to Do Not Resuscitate. The trumpet playing is a bunt down the line compared to Herb Alpert’s double off the wall.

In second place is Bill Haley & His Comets with “Rock Around the Clock.” I suspect you know all about this one, which is considered the first rock song. It doesn’t sock you in the jaw as it probably did in ’55 but it still has enough force to rap you on the sternum.

A quick run through the collected works of Bill Haley turns up nothing much, except for “Thirteen Women and Only One Man in Town,” Haley’s thoughtful speculations on life after an atomic war.

Batting third we have Roger Williams with the immortal “Autumn Leaves.” This is not the Roger Williams who founded Rhode Island in 1636. He was more into death metal. “Autumn Leaves” by this Roger Williams would’ve embarrassed Liberace.

Tennessee Ernie Ford bats cleanup with “Sixteen Tons.” What a voice TEF had, as smooth and dark as Tennessee whisky or Tennessee maple woods, if Tennessee made whisky or grew maple woods.

The lyrics tell two stories. One is about a man who is so tough that he could’ve been the subject of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” The other is about a man who is so beat down that he owes his soul to the company store. Paying attention to the lyrics is confusing.

“Sixteen Tons” bears a passing resemblance to Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher.” Both songs would be considered novelties today.

Number 5 is Bill Hayes with “The Ballad of Davey Crocket.” This is a real marchin’ and fightin’ song. It paved the way a few years later for two more marchin’ and fightin’ songs, Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans” and “Sink the Bismarck.” Horton’s songs don’t give any space to ethnic slurs about Brits and Germans (although in “The Battle of New Orleans” General Jackson’s troops do mistreat an alligator), while Disney piles up the anti-Indian sentiment in “The Ballad of Davey Crocket.”

Crocket is also celebrated in this milestone of the musical arts for abandoning his family and seeking adventures out West because he was fucking bored. And, of course, there’s that episode where Crocket joined the Texicans for their last stand at the Alamo, “where freedom was fightin’ another foe,” even though we stole Texas and freedom’s foe was actually us.

In the 1970s, Bill Hayes (who did not write this hockey puck) found a home as an actor on Days of Our Lives, where he’s been playing the same role for 42 years.

The bottom half of this list doesn’t redeem itself. To appreciate Mitch Miller’s “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” you have to enjoy masses of men singing lustily but without specifics about their favorite gal. To me it sounds like more marchin’ and fightin’. When I was a kid we sometimes watched Sing Along with Mitch, which featured more crud like this. They ran the words past you in a primitive CNN crawl. A little ball bounced from one word to the next (“Just follow the bouncing ball!”) in case you were rhythmically challenged.

I always associate this song with the scene in Giant where Rock Hudson brawls with the racist restaurant owner while “The Yellow Rose of Texas” plays on the jukebox. Probably not what the composer had in mind.

The McGuire Sisters’ “Sincerely,” a cover of The Moonglows’ hit from earlier in the year, could only chart in a deeply segregated musical society. However, the sisters looked great in knee-length leopard-print coats.

Next up are The Four Lads and “Moment to Remember.” Their name alone disqualifies them from any serious consideration of their music. To be fair, their music also disqualifies them.

As we learned from the time I tried to listen to every band with a number in its name, 4 is one of the deadlier numerals. The Four Aces, in their clubbing of “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,” don’t prove me wrong.

At the bottom of the list is Les Baxter and his thoughts on “Unchained Melody.” Baxter is popular among hip aficionados of the ’50s-’60s crazes for Tiki music and exotic outer-space sounds. However, his smothering embrace of “Unchained Melody” does not help his reputation. (Four different artists had Top 10 hits with “Unchained Melody” in 1955. Imagine if Meghan Trainor, Taylor Swift, Usher, and Yo-Yo Ma all had Top 10 hits with “All About That Bass” in 2015.)

I’m fond of Baxter’s mambo version of “Never on Sunday” only because that’s the song my Mom sang when she washed the dishes.

In the separate-but-equal United States of 1955, black pop music was walled off in its own category, called R&B. (In 1925 these songs would’ve been called “race records.”) The R&B Top 10 for ’55 had its own share of musical doorstops (including two versions of “Unchained Melody”), but you could include most of these records on a radio playlist today and not lose all your listeners. You can’t make the same claim for “Autumn Leaves” or “The Ballad of Davey Crocket.”

The R&B list includes Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman,” Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame,” and Bo Diddley’s song about Bo Diddley. Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” is a far better song than “Rock Around the Clock.” It sounds more like rock; Bill Haley’s song has some residual swing to it. But “Rock Around the Clock” was released two months before “Maybellene” and so takes the prize. The list also includes The Moonglows, Etta James, and Little Walter.

I’m not going to write about black music of the 1950s, because I don’t remember much about the ’50s aside from learning how to dress myself, how to hold a crayon, and how to play hide and seek (while hiding, don’t yell “I’m over here!”). I still use all of these skills at work. But I do remember the black music of the ’70s, and that’s where we’re going next time. Get up. Get on up!

Many thanks to Loyal Reader Accused of Lurking for sending me this illuminating list.

Random Pick of the Day 1
Stevie Wonder, Signed, Sealed and Delivered (1970)
The heart of this album are the glorious “We Can Work It Out,” “Signed, Sealed and Delivered,” and “Heaven Help Us All.” The rest of the album is expertly put together but not distinctive.

Random Pan of the Day
Stevie Wonder, Where I’m Coming From (1971)
This album doesn’t go anywhere. But I hate panning anything by Stevie Wonder, so here’s a bonus Pick:

Random Pick of the Day 2
Stevie Wonder, Music of My Mind (1972)
This is where Stevie, who was just 22, explodes into musical adulthood. The synthesizers on this disc are years ahead of their time. The first two songs, “Love Having You Around” and “Superwoman,” are 15 minutes long. I like them both, but is this where Prince picked up the idea that it was OK to go on and on and on and on?

On “I Love Every Little Thing About You,” Wonder gives us a straightforward love song with a real beat. On “Sweet Little Girl” he does Barry White before there was a Barry White to do. On “Happier Than the Morning Sun” he out-McCartneys McCartney. On “Keep on Runnin’ ” he shows he can rock when he feels like it. This is a pop album with a fist inside a velvet glove. And he hasn’t even written “Superstition” yet.