This was Stevie's biggest selling album - peaking at number two in the album chart back in 1981, and opens with a great track that is lively, and melts beautifully into the lovely hypnotic disco/ballad: 'All I Do'.
Four massive hits on this; four top twenty singles - including no less than three top 3's! One of these having the very 'unoriginal' title of several hits out at about that time for some reason: 'Happy Birthday'. There's also a beautifully haunting song on this called 'Rocket Love', but this album will be remembered best for producing more chart hits for Stevie than any other in his career.
Stevie Wonder frustratingly would do very few 12" singles, but his style of music would often have been well marketed in this direction. The disco smash 'I Ain't Gonna Stand For It' would have been a great opportunity to utilise this aim in the market with an extended version, instead, he would record the full length version on the 7" release, which sound quality would have been much improved if an 'edited' version had been done and the extended left to the 12". This was of constant irritation to me - an overlong single where a 12" would have been more appropriate and interesting.
The classic 'Lately' is one of the finest songs on this album, and to have ever been released by Stevie Wonder, ironically though, a song that in my mother's opinion was a difficult song for him to sing - he appearing to have problems reaching those top notes - notes where he would seem to 'strain' somewhat. This would contrast, with 'I Ain't Gonna Stand For It', where the same, but in reverse would be apparent; where we he would appear to have difficulty in reaching the low keys which were done in a an extremely low pitch that would have been equally difficult for anyone to sing.
His least popular songs for me would tend to reach as high as position two in the charts, when his more appealing and 'catchier' songs would peak somewhat lower down the chart for some reason.
I never understood the silly kids voices included in the song 'Do like You' on this - a fabulous track that is spoilt somewhat by this pointless intro. and finale.
The strongest and weakest points on this album ironically are slap-bag next to each other; 'Lately' is by far the definite 'peak' here, that goes straight into 'Cash In Your Face' which has to be the 'weakest' track - if indeed it can be called that, since it is still a good song on what is a very wholly strong album.
on 14 December 2001
This is Stevie at his uplifting best. The mood throughout this album is one of hot summer nights, there is a distinctive groove which carries you through the album all too quickly. 'All I Do', 'I Ain't Gonna Stand For It' and 'As If You Read My Mind' are particulary strong and will have you singing along in no time and as a bonus this album also contains the timeless 'Lately'. The upbeat mood is maintained even while dealing with the issue of race discrimination in 'Cash In Your Face' - I cannot fault this album. I have had it in my collection for several years and it is still one of my favourite Stevie albums.