Thursday, April 29, 2010
Forgotten Music Thursday: Stevie Wonder - Where I'm Coming From (1971)
The nine song album is as diverse as anything Wonder ever recorded even if doesn't quite reach the heights of Innervisions, Talking Book, and one of the greatest albums in the history of pop music, his gigantic, twenty-one song work, Songs In The Key Of Life.
Where I'm Coming From's dark opening track, "Look Around," instantly shows that Wonder no longer intends to be part of the Detroit hit factory. He proves this with lines like "Look around and you'll see ruins of the human history. Look around and you'll see time is only floating in your mind." Obviously, this wasn't your big brother's Motown.
Complete with clavinet "Do Yourself A Favor" is one of Wonder's typical funky tracks that carry a social message. It's not quite as effective as some of the similar and high powered classics he would record later, but it's a good beginning. "Something Out Of The Blue" and "Think Of Me As Your Soldier" are typical Wonder ballads that prove he has always been one of the best writers of love songs of any era and any genre. "If You Really Love Me" went into the top ten on the singles charts.
Side two opens with "I Wanna Talk To You, a conversation between an old white man and a young black man who he sees walking down the street. Never one to be depressed despite his justified social concerns, Wonder tells us to "Take Up A Course In Happiness" with an upbeat arrangement that fits the message. Next is one of Wonder's stunners, the emotional breakup song "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer" later covered by Joan Baez and Three Dog Night. The album closes with a look into the future where the keyboard player envisions a better life for America's children. He sings that he can't wait to see the "Sunshine In Their Eyes."
All of the songs were composed with Syreeta Wright, Wonder's wife at the time.
The young genius had almost a decade of recording under his belt when he released this album and, while a decent greatest hits package is all that is needed prior to this record, it's the first of his essential works.
The album cover featured a mobile you could make out of Wonder's last name. All you had to do was punch out the letters and hang them on a string, something I never did, so my LP is still in pristine condition.
The CD of Where I'm Coming From has long been out of print. New copies are only available at collector's prices through stores such as Amazon where you can also easily purchase a less expensive, used copy. You can also buy it as a download.
Wonder played "Never Dreamed In Summer" at Michael Jackson's memorial last summer. You can listen to the original version here.