[Note: Updated on Feb, 18 2016 with updated notes and references to downloadable songs removed]
As promised, here’s part one of my Stevie Wonder “Best Music You’ve Never Heard” posts…
Stevie Wonder had been at Motown since he was twelve years old. Though he had a number of hits, Wonder didn’t start to show his true potential until the For Once In My Life album. The single “I Don’t Know Why” (co-written and produced by Wonder) gives a glimpse into things to come. Any thoughts of “Little” Stevie Wonder are erased as he pleads to understand why he continues to love a cheating woman.
Up next was My Cherie Amour. While not his strongest pre-classic-period album, Cherie has some bright spots. In addition the title track and “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday”, the album includes some decent covers, namely “Hello Young Lovers” and “Light My Fire”. “Hello Young Lovers” sounds nothing like the mellow lounge version; “Light My Fire” starts with a driving guitar riff before diving into a funky bass line.
Wonder released Signed, Sealed, and Delivered next, before turning to his first self-written and produced album, Where I’m Coming From. While not considered part of the “classic period”, WICF shares many traits with those recordings: namely, the use of the clavinet, a deviation from the traditional “Motown sound”, and complicated melodic arrangements. The biggest hit off this album is “If You Really Love Me” (which is even better live). Other standouts include “Think Of Me As Your Solider”, “Never Dreamed You’ve Leave In Summer”, and “Sunshine In Their Eyes.” “Soldier” is a nice Stevie-ballad (not his best, but pretty good). “Never Dreamed” is basically the demo of the soon-to-come “Where Were You When I Needed You”; his seasonal metaphors of love lost coupled with the strings and piano chords are haunting. Finally, the under-appreciated “Sunshine In Their Eyes” gives us quite a bit in it’s seven minutes – three melody changes, a children’s chorus, and backing vocals by Syreeta Wright (his then-wife and a member of Wonderlove).