Top 100 Album Review: #23 – Innervisions, Stevie Wonder (1973)

Might Be My Favorite Album of All-Time.

I can’t find anything to debase — everything is perfectly as it should be. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #23/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

If I had to answer the impossible question of “What’s your favorite album of all-time?” this would be labeled Exhibit A in the evidence. Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions does everything well: it’s an eclectic collection of genres; it’s poppy, catchy, and weird all at once; it’s socially conscious and meaningful.

A deeply personal account that pierces your ego, it’s a rare piece of art where performer and listener almost overlap. Certain lyrics and measures cut me to the bone. The last time I remember someone being this open with their feelings on vinyl was Joni Mitchell’s Blue. The best part: it’s from a pop master, with every song sticking with you for days (or in my case, years).

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[OVERVIEW]

Smack dab in Stevie’s classical period (which starts with Music of My Mind and ends with the Songs in the Key of Life)this was another release that was commercially and artistically acclaimed. It would end up having three hit singles and win Album of the Year at 1974 Grammys. Stevie plays the majority of the instruments on the album with 6 out of 9 songs being entirely performed by him — a literal one-man band.

The album release coincided with a scary time: Stevie was hit by a log that was dislodged from a truck while traveling on tour that broke through the window and smashed his face. Friends and family gathered at the hospital wondering if he would ever play again. That backdrop makes the album even more prophetic with its varied content about the dangers of drugs, the crushing injustice of city life, and reaching higher spiritual planes.

[TRACKLISTING]

1. Too High 4:37
2 Visions 5:17
3 Living For The City 7:26
4 Golden Lady 5:00
5 Higher Ground 3:54
6 Jesus Children Of America 4:04
7 All In Love Is Fair 3:45
8 Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing 4:55
9 He’s Misstra Know-It-All 6:06

*All songs written by Stevie Wonder.

[BEST TRACK: Living for the City]

The best songs, the ones that stick with us the longest, are those that tell a story while being musically addicting. Stevie’s lyrics instantaneously paint the picture of each person in each stanza while the pulsating synthesizers pull us in.

His sister’s black but she is sure not pretty
Her skirt is short but, Lord, her legs are sturdy
To walk to school she’s got to get up early
Her clothes are old but never are they dirty
Living just enough, just enough for the city

[BEST HIDDEN GEM: He’s Misstra Know-It-All]

First of all, so smooth. Second, supposedly it’s a scathing rebuke of then president Richard Nixon, but it could really apply to anyone the lyrics remind you of (especially you Carl).

If you tell him he’s livin’ fast
He will say what do you know
If you had my kind of cash
You’d have more than one place to go oh 

[BEST LIFE LESSONS: Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing]

Once again: SO SMOOTH, but this time…with LATIN BEATS! The song is chock full of nuggets of wisdom about figuring out who you are and the pitfalls that come with that.

They say your style of life’s a drag
And that you must go other places
Just don’t you feel too bad
When you get fooled by smiling faces

Come on, everybody needs a change
A chance to check out the new
But you’re the only one to sees
The changes you take yourself through

[MOST PERSONAL: Visions]

A dream like song, it works the prophetic angle from the man who can’t see. But while he may be blind, he can see much we don’t and shares with us his vision of possible reality.

I’m not one who make believes
I know that leaves are green
They only turn to brown when autumn comes around
I know just what I say
Today’s not yesterday
And all things have an ending

[CONCLUSION]

Simply Exquisite.

Other People’s Takes: 

  • An Ocean Roars: The album sounds mostly dated to my untrained ear. Some of the sounds are really 70s, perhaps too 70s for anyone to really listen to it more than once in a sitting. He has definitely had some influence on music, but I am not sure why.”
  • 1000 Times Jeff:Innervisions, meanwhile, is Stevie’s best. Hands down. His masterpiece (of at least three masterpieces if we’re being real.) It’s at once his weirdest (the jazz-fusion progressions of “Too High”), his most direct (“Higher Ground,” which is not a Red Hot Chili Peppers original, folks), and his most political (“Living For the City,” “He’s Misstra Know It All”).
  • Vinyl Lair: “For me, the two songs that really grabbed my attention (then and now) were Living For The City and Higher Ground. These songs were funky, hard hitting, and lyrically mesmerizing pieces of Stevie Wonder’s genius.” 

Author: Casual But Smart

I review the top 100 books, movies, albums, and games of all time.

2 thoughts on “Top 100 Album Review: #23 – Innervisions, Stevie Wonder (1973)”

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