Friday, 5 October 2018

Stevie Wonder - Fulfillingness' First Finale (1974)


  

Released July 1974

Recorded in Los Angeles and New York City

Another of Stevie Wonder's excellent seventies albums, this was slightly more laid-back and a little darker in places than the smooth, romantic feel of parts of "Talking Book" and some of the social comment of "Innervisions". It is certain not a morose album, though, not in any way, just a relaxing one. Coming between the two titans of "Innervisions and "Songs In The Key Of Life" the album has often been overlooked, which is a shame, as it has hidden depths. An appealing facet of this album is the way the tracks gently flow into each other at times.

TRACK LISTING

1. Smile Please
2. Heaven Is Ten Zillion Light Years Away
3. Too Shy To Say
4. Boogie On Reggae Woman
5. Creepin'
6. You Haven't Done Nothin'
7. It Ain't No Use
8. TheyWon't Go When I Go
9. Bird Of Beauty
10. Please Don't Go

"Smile Please" is a lovely, melodic soul opener and "Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away" is one of those clavinet-dominated, semi-funky tracks Wonder was doing so well at the time. As on all these seventies albums, he played keyboards, bass, drums and the clavinet electronic keyboard. as on "Talking Book", he had developed a funky, throatier voice than the one from his sixties hits, one which perfectly suited the songs. "Too Shy To Say" is a lovely, bassy, deep and slow ballad. Motown bass legend James Jamerson does the business on this one.

A highlight for me has always been the delicious clavinet-driven, upbeat funk of the hit single "Boogie On Reggae Woman", one of Wonder's finest songs. Pure funky brilliance. That trademark harmonica makes an appearance too. "Creepin'" is a truly lovely piece of slow and easy soul with some infectious, tuneful backing vocals. After such a peaceful song, he showed he still had an appetite for a bit of social comment on the biting, funky "You Haven't Done Nothin'", a lambasting of Richard Nixon's US presidency at the time. The Jackson 5 feature on backing vocals, name-checked by Wonder before they sing.

The comparatively indistinct "It Aint No Use" leads into the bleak piano and vocal of "They Won't Go When I Go". The rhythmic, samba-influenced "Bird of Beauty" comes complete with some Portuguese lyrics. "Please Don't Go" is a jazzy, soulful closer to this comparatively underrated album.  Every time I listen to it, it always brings enjoyment.

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