Friday, March 20, 2009
The third in a streak of mind bending albums released by Wonder in the seventies, "Innervisions" is an incredibly complex work of art. His inner control freak shines brightly, too, as he writes, produces and plays nearly every note you hear on this disc. All at the tender age of 23.
"Living in the City" sits as the epic centerpiece of the set, telling a tale of a young man who leaves the South, arrives in New York to look for work and is framed for drug possession. Lines like "To find a job is like a haystack needle, cause where he lives, they don't use colored people." show the artist making blunt social commentary on the experiences of African American men and women, living in what is purported to be a free and just society that merely metes out unequal treatment.
Wonder explores many interesting themes that are as varied as the music. Reincarnation with an eye toward reaching the highest plane of existence fuels "Higher Ground", which also has an uplifting groove to match.
Cautionary words about drugs inform "Too High" and "Don't You Worry "Bout a Thing", which has a Latin flavor that wouldn't seem out of place on a Santana record. "He's Mistra Know it All" is notable for taking shots at then President Nixon. Everything comes off as incredibly effortless, but when you really listen, the work that went into these songs is evident in the meticulous playing and the quality of the finished product.
Regardless of labels, this is the work of a genius musician hitting his stride and pound for pound is one of the best records that he ever made. Few reach this high and so consistently hit the mark.