Stevie Wonder: Innervisions

I’ve known of Stevie Wonder my entire life and a handful of his hits are familiar to me, but I’d never consumed an entire album. The time has come. After some digging to determine which of his albums is considered to be the best, Innervisions came out on top and what a treat it’s been delving in to its rich tracks.
Innervisions, Wonder’s 16th studio album, was released on August 3, 1973 (20 days before I was born!) and is cited for its exploration of popular themes at the time: drug abuse, racism, inequality, and toxic politics. The tracks are not only full of funk but challenge the listener at every turn. Jabs at then US President Richard Nixon appear, as do calls against police for their treatment of black Americans, all while keeping your toes tapping – an impressive feat.
Stevie Wonder The Sonic Collective

220px-Steviewonder_innervisionsWonder completed this album more or less on his own, writing, producing, and playing on most tracks, relying heavily on an ARP synthesizer, which set the tone of black music to come. He played all instruments on six of nine tracks and this work firmly cemented him as one of the world’s preeminent musicians. I encourage the listener to put on headphones for an initial, undisturbed listen, to fully absorb the lyrics, before diving in to future sessions. Enjoy!
 
Other albums enjoyed and considered this month include:

Innervisions on iTunes
Innervisions Wikipedia page

Cheap Trick: Heaven Tonight

Most music fans have heard of, and likely listened to some of Cheap Trick at Budokan. The iconic live recording was released in 1979 and propelled Cheap Trick to stardom back in their home country and around the world. But this was actually their fourth album, originally recorded for Japan release only, for their rabid fans that had followed them closely since their first album in 1977. It was recorded on the heels of the release of the band’s third studio album Heaven Tonight, which is now regarded as their best studio effort.

 

The band formed in 1973 in Illinois, USA, and took a number of years to find the right members and gel, but once they did, they went on to crank out an impressive amount of material in a very short period of time. They released five big albums between the winter of 1977 and summer of 1979, forming the backbone of what still today comprises much of their live set. This output is seriously impressive and their sound was never better than on Heaven Tonight.

 

I really got in to Cheap Trick at Budokan in February 2014 and think it’s one of the best live albums ever. Their sound is so raw and authentic; it completely draws me in. But like most live albums it’s more or less a compilation of greatest hits at that time, and I’d never heard an entire Cheap Trick studio album. I’ve seen Cheap Trick guitarist and main composer Rick Nielsen perform with Foo Fighters a few times over the last couple years and this got me interested in diving a bit deeper in to the world of Cheap Trick. 

 

So here we are – selected is what is widely considered to be the greatest studio album by Cheap Trick, a legendary rock band, referenced in countless pop culture sources over the decades, including the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High (the first time I ever heard their name) and yours for devouring – Heaven Tonight. Enjoy the ride.

Read our review of Cheap Trick: Heaven Tonight here

Something new: During the selection process for this month’s pick, I came to enjoy a number of noteworthy albums I recommend you give a listen to if you have time:

 

 

Pixies: Doolittle

Pixies-band-youngI consider myself pretty well versed and rounded when it comes to music. Especially with material produced between 1975-2000. While I enjoy a broad variety of genres on a regular basis, good old Rock is my go-to favorite. Gritty guitars, captivating rhythms, roughish vocals, and occasionally questionable lyrical content satisfy my soul.
I’ve known of Pixies for a couple decades, was familiar with their song Here Comes Your Man, over the years had read of them being an influence to a host of bands I like a lot, but somehow had never listened to one of their albums. The time has come.
Pixies-GraphicWhile searching ‘Best Pixies Album’ online, it seemed there isn’t definitively one. Most websites that rank such things decry that all five of their full-length LPs are pretty solid, but one stood out just a bit more than the others – Doolittle – my pick for The Sonic Collective. It’s Pixies’ second album, was released in 1989, and has gained considerable clout since its release.
NME along with a host of other music magazines regularly rate this their top Pixies album, and a 2003 poll of NME writers ranked Doolittle as the second-greatest album of all time. Add to that Rolling Stone, ranking it 226 on their “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” and this seems like a solid pick.
While watching Dave Grohl’s brilliant Sound City documentary, he was surprised when asking various musicians what their first band was, to which Pixies co-founder Francis Black answered, “Pixies”. Talk about nailing it on the first try!
So put Doolittle on, then again, wait a bit, have another go, and see how it sits. Enjoy my pick.
Scott Coates
Click here to read our reviews of Doolittle.
LinksPixies-now
Buy it on iTunes
Pixies Wikipedia Page
Doolittle Wikipedia Page
Pixies Website
Black Francis talks with Rolling Stone about Doolittle turning 20
NME Ranks Pixies Albums
Check Out the Sound City Movie