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Thursday, 5 July 2018
Stevie Wonder - At The Close Of The Century Box Set
This refers to the coffee table “ear book” format of this excellent box set from one of the most important and influential artists of all time, with a career now more than fifty years and counting. There are four CDs, covering Stevie Wonder’s career from the early sixties to when it bottomed out considerably in the early nineties. The book contains some excellent pictures and information.
All the material is spectacularly remastered, but it is particularly beneficial on the sixties material on disc one, and it really brings home just what a precociously talented artist “little” Stevie was.
You get the semi-instrumental “Fingertips” in its full seven minute entirety , although, to be honest, it is a few minutes too long. “Uptight” sounds as good as it has ever sounded and, as we come to the end of the sixties/early seventies we get the often-forgotten Beatles cover of “We Can Work It Out”, which is possibly even better the the original and another underrated classic in the moving “Heaven Help Us All”. The whole this first disc is just packed with hit after hit and finally ends with material from the early seventies experimental album, “Music Of My Mind”, where Stevie started playing all instruments on recordings. Disc two is just superb, taking in songs from the great “Talking Book”; every song but one from “Innervisions” (“Jesus Children Of America” is the unlucky one not to make the cut); and the beautiful “Fulfillingness’ First Finale”. The funky, upbeat glory of “Boogie On Reggae Woman” sounds simply marvellous in its remastering here.
Disc three includes nine tracks from the mega-million selling “Songs In The Key Of Life” and several from the less spectacular, but enjoyable “Hotter Than July” album. The final disc is in some respects the most interesting, containing stuff from later years, much of which I did not previously own. “Part Time Lover” is a tuneful, toe-tapping number, while the beautiful “Ribbon In The Sky”, the laid-back, romantic “For You Love” and the disco rhythms of “Do I Do” and “Love Light In Flight” are highlights.
Overall, this is a peerless collection from an artist who has made one hell of a contribution to music over a very productive four-decade period.