Critical discourse often labels SITKOL as 'experimental'. And while 21st century ears may struggle to grasp what this collection of funk, soul, fusion and pop has that makes it deserve the tag, once you contextualise it becomes clear. Wonder's work, especially with the electronic pioneers, Tonto's Expanding Head Band (Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil), had been edging towards new forms of expressing black consciousness as well as eroding the boundaries of what 'soul music' could mean. But it was here that Stevie really pushed the envelope. The fecundity of his musical imagination simply beggars belief. While he grapples (and wins!) with just about every genre under the sun here it's never at the expense of the song and never gives the impression for a second that he's showing off. To this end, rather than doing it all himself, SITKOL has a massive supporting cast of stellar names to help him in the joyous task of simply making music; from Herbie Hancock to Minnie Riperton and George Benson, as well as less obvious session legends like pedal steel player, 'Sneaky' Pete Kleinow.
To sum up the breadth of this album (which also came with an extra EP to show how overflowing was the man's muse at this point) would take an essay. In short it contains the Weather Report-like fusion of Contusion, the classical spoofery and wry social commentary of Village Ghetto Land, the gospel progeny of As and Love's In Need Of love Today, the pure pop of Summer Soft...etc. etc. And as if to effortlessly demonstrate that he could still straddle the artistic/commercial divide, the album gave us a slew of hit singles including the boisterous Sir Duke , I Wish and possibly the only cloying moment on the whole album, Isn't She Lovely.
It's Elton John's and George Michael's favourite album. Without it there'd be no Prince. It's continually listed as one of the best things in popular music. EVER. How much more do you need? If you don't own it, buy it tomorrow. Life, literally, isn't complete without it. --Chris Jones
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For an album of such stature and brilliance, there are surprisingly few 'famous' tracks. Of these, 'Sir Duke', 'I Wish' and 'Isn't She Lovely' are the most well-known, but merely represent the songs that were released as singles and hence into the mainstream. In reality, this album is far wider in scope than these three songs only hint at.
Stevie Wonder explores his creative and musical limits here, and executes his ideas with considerable aplomb. Quite frankly, there is not a bad song on the entire album, and there are simply too many highlights to single out for distinction. Suffice it to say that there is an example (and a good one at that) of every facet of Stevie's musical ability here.
But it's not just the music and vocal acrobatics that are outstanding, but also the lyrical content of the songs. Stevie Wonder has often been labelled, somewhat unfairly, as being too sentimental. However, this album represents a hugely powerful retort to his critics, with some really meaningful lyrics. Tackling issues such as race relations ('Pastime Paradise' and 'Black Man') to social deprivation ('Village Ghetto Land') and depression/suicide ('Have A Talk With God'), these are not lightweight, throw-away pop tunes by any stretch of the imagination. But the real skill in his songwriting ability lies in the way that you are always left with a feeling of hope from his songs. Maintaining a positive attitude throughout, without pandering to the over-sentimental (most of the time), "Songs In The Key Of Life" is an uplifting and beautiful collection of songs worthy of a special place in any record collection.
I'm tired of forking out hard earned cash for lack luster albums with 3 out of 14 good tracks on them. I'm tired of skipping to my favourites because the rest are mostly annoying. You can't do that with this album! I've yet to hear such a spiritually satisfying mix of music on one album. Every song is a beautiful masterpiece that takes you on a journey.
No life is complete without this album! It's quite simply lifes greatest soundtrack. It's also an education in humanity!
Buy it and feel it's power!
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