Undercover passion on the run: the best of Stevie Wonder

Alfred has presented his top 35 Stevie Wonder songs, including songs he wrote but didn’t perform. I’m sticking with Stevie’s own records, and singles only to boot (with one exception).

For years I swore that the only Stevie I needed was 1982’s perfect Original Musiquarium I and II, which starts in ’72 and runs through ’82. But goddamn, what a catalog; I was wrong. You need more, a lot more. His fourth singles (from albums) were often better than other artists’ first singles.

My favorite album of his front-to-back is likely 1980’s Hotter Than July, which runs from the gorgeous balladry of “All I Do” and “Lately” (superbly covered by Jodeci on Uptown MTV Unplugged — this may sound blasphemous, but I actually prefer their version) to the the hard reggae-funk of “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” and the country-funk of “I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It,” one of the most unexpected gems in his back catalog. I like Songs in the Key of Life fine, especially its late singles “As” and “Another Star” (which would probably have been the next two songs, had I extended this list), but find it the teensiest bit overrated as a whole. And apart from what Chris Molanphy calls his “Cosby years” of the mid-’80s (roughly “Ebony and Ivory” + The Woman in Red + maybe half of the undervalued In Square Circle), Wonder funked harder than you may recall in the ’80s: check some of the nasty on ’87’s Characters, especially “Skeletons” and the best anti-apartheid song ever written, “Dark ‘n’ Lovely.”

  1. “That Girl” (Original Musiquarium I and II, 1982)
  2. “Skeletons” (Characters, 1987)
  3. “Go Home” (In Square Circle, 1985)
  4. “All I Do” (Hotter Than July, 1980)
  5. “Send One Your Love” (Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through “The Secret Life of Plants,” 1979)
  6. “Do I Do” (Original Musiquarium I and II, 1982)
  7. “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” (Music of My Mind, 1972)
  8. “Love Light in Flight” (12″ version) (original version on The Woman in Red soundtrack, 1984)
  9. “Dark ‘n’ Lovely” (Characters, 1987) (inexplicably never a single)
  10. “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” (Fulfillingness’ First Finale, 1974)
  11. “Part Time Lover” (12″ version featuring Luther Vandross) (original version on In Square Circle, 1985)
  12. “Overjoyed” (In Square Circle, 1985)
  13. “Living for the City” (Innervisions, 1973)
  14. “Fun Day” (Jungle Fever: Music from the Movie, 1991)
  15. “Ribbon in the Sky” (Original Musiquarium I and II, 1982)
  16. “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It” (Hotter Than July, 1980)
  17. “Boogie on Reggae Woman” (Fulfillingness’ First Finale, 1974)
  18. “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” (Talking Book, 1972)
  19. “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” (Hotter Than July, 1980)
  20. “You Will Know” (Characters, 1987)

About thomasinskeep

I write about music.
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