Stevie Wonder - vocals, piano, keyboards; Shirley Brewer - backing vocals; Scott Edwards - bass; Jim Gilstrap - backing vocals; Lani Groves - backing vocals; Loris Harvin - backing vocals; Terry Hendricks - backing vocals; Trevor Laurence - saxophone; Ollie Brown - drums, vocals; Steve Madaio - trumpet; Ray Parker, Jr. - guitar; Greg Phillinganes - keyboards; Denny Morouse - saxophone
In the music industry history books, Stevie Wonder is something of an anomaly. How many other performers consistently achieved chart-topping success at the pinnacle of their creativity by packing records full of complex and original compositions that obliterated racial boundaries in a musical era increasingly segregated along such lines by radio and marketing - all while maintaining a reputation as a genuinely nice guy? Wonder tackled bittersweet heartache and made shocking social reproaches, but managed to do so without wallowing in the misery of either. His is music meant to soothe and exalt burdened souls, not to kick 'em when they're down.
After a 1972 tour with The Rolling Stones helped him to reach a wider audience, Wonder seized the opportunity afforded by his broadened fame to create some of his most ambitious and challenging material to date. This Berkeley Community Theatre appearance captures the man and his touring band, Wonderlove (Stevie played most of the instruments in the studio himself), in between the releases of two groundbreaking records - 1972's Talking Book and 73's Innervisions. Slightly more subdued than the previous night at the Winterland but no less funky, the congregation's playing is loose as a goose and dazzling with the joy of making music. Fuzzy bass lines and stabbing horns punctuate "For Once In My Life," and a smoothed-over bossa nova beat moves "Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)." Stevie couldn't hit a sour note if he tried - he's even in key when clearing his throat in the middle of "Me And Mrs. Jones." Some minor damage to the source tape is evident during the super-hit "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life," but the fluttering effect certainly doesn't render the track unlistenable.
Following the great triumphs of his career in the early seventies, Stevie would experience some critical and commercial difficulties in the '80s and after. So strong was the public's opinion of him based on his classic recordings, however, that he has continued to release albums and influence new generations of rock, funk, soul and R&B singers and musicians. So, forgive him for inspiring Jamiroquai, and forget all about "I Just Called To Say I Love You." Glory be to Stevie Wonder!
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