Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stevie Wonder - Talking Book

I'd been visiting my local library for years.  Never had I been shocked by what I found inside it's walls.  That is, until last week.  After walking through the entrance I dropped the book I had just finished into the return receptacle, said hello to the always friendly librarian Shiela, and proceeded to the rows of shelved books hoping to find something that caught my eye.  The shock occurred once I walked into the shadowed back corner.  All of a sudden I heard a whispered word.
Not seeing any other library patrons in my immediate vicinity I ignored the whisper believing it to be directed at someone else.
"Psst.  Hey you."
Couldn't be talking to me.
"Hey guy.  You, wearing the Motown shirt."
Wait?!  I was wearing a shirt with the Motown emblem emblazoned on it!  "Who said that?"
"Look down."
"Is this some kind of hidden camera prank?  There is no one here."
"Oh yeah, someone is going to set up a hidden camera in the biography section of a library.  Now that will be footage worthy of auction to the highest bidder!  Please!  Stop being paranoid."
At this point I had used my senses to pinpoint where the mysterious speech was coming from.  It was a book!  Specifically a biography of Stevie Wonder.  I picked the book up and held it in front of me.  It didn't look any different from the other books.
"What the...?"
"Congratulations, you found me!"
"You're a talking book!"
"Your powers of observation are truly stunning."
"But how...?"
"Relax man.  There's nothing insidious going on here.  I'm the next evolution of audiobooks."
"Okay, but how can you see me?"
"Look at my front cover.  There's a camera hidden in the middle of the sunglasses Stevie is wearing."
"That's amazing!"
"Last snide comment, I promise.  A book is having a conversation with you and the thing that you find amazing is the fact that there is a tiny camera in the front cover?"
"Well yeah."
"Put me back on the shelf please.  We're done here."

Hello waveriders.  How are you today?  Good?  Fantastic, I'm glad to hear it!  Listen, I just wanted to drop by to rap a little bit about the merits of this album.  What album?  Oh right, I suppose it would help if I mentioned the title.  I'm referring to the album Talking Book, released back in 1972 by some guy named Stevie Wonder.  Hmmm?  Why does that name sound so familiar?  I can't quite put my finger on the reason...ah well, it'll come to me.

Of course I'm joking waveriders.  We all know who Stevie Wonder is and all that he has accomplished musically.  Then again, if you happen not to know the man this album is a great place to start!  Talking Book is a full-fledged, chiseled in stone, classic work.  Although nothing in this world is completely bulletproof I personally can't find any fault, any misstep, any musical wrongdoing in any of the ten songs on offer.  Seriously.  This album repels imperfections better than a kevlar vest.  Let's discuss why, shall we?

First and foremost I would describe this album as kaleidoscopic in nature.  The songs, while maintaining an overall uniform vibe, differ from each other dramatically.  Album opener "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" develops quickly from a pleasant vocal-over-synthesizer melody to a richly textured pop/soul song.  If you expected the second track to follow suit you'd be mistaken.  "Maybe Your Baby" relaxes the tempo and moves the funk slider up to eleven, creating a jam the listener doesn't want to end.  Alright, so that is what to expect from song number three?  Think again.  "You And I" loses the funk and goes right for the heartfelt ballad jugular.  "Tuesday Heartbreak" then brings the energy back in full force with it's horn-enhanced, uptempo nature.  And that is just the first four tracks!  This album is a roller coaster of musical good times!

Something else I particularly like about this album is the honest emotion Stevie Wonder conveys through his vocals.  Whatever he is singing, it is utterly believable.  I believe that when he falls in love it will be forever.  I believe the woman he is singing to has it bad.  I believe he knows all about superstitions.  Take it from Stevie himself.  "Here is my music.  It is all I have to tell you how I feel".  Mission accomplished sir!

Talking Book is a great album.  It is not a good album.  No, it is great with a capital G!  Actually the rest of the letters that make up the word great need to be capitalized too.  Full capitalization is absolutely necessary in this case.  There is no way around it.  GREAT!  Get yourself a copy waveriders, or if you already own it give it a spin.  Your day/life will be the better for it.

- Penfold

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