It’s a day late (thanks to a cold and work obligations) but never a dollar short, but Stevie Wonder released his first Motown album under his new contract that granted him complete and total control of his music career on March 3, 1972.
“Music of my mind” wasn’t a completely radical departure from the previous year’s effort (“Where I’m coming from”) as it was a manifestation of a new direction of Stevie’s sound. Much like Marvin Gaye had turned to a jazzier style of music on “What’s going on” and “Trouble Man,” Stevie went for a technological game changer with clear rock and funk influences – the anti-Motown Sound.
“Music” was the first Moog and Arp-dominant album co-produced by Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil, along his first usage of the vocoder a.k.a. the “talk box,” and with the album cracking the top 10 of the R&B charts and just missing the pop top 20, the new direction was clear, funky, vibrant and full of depth.
What follows this is a track-by-track analysis of what made “Music of my mind” such a groundbreaking album for Stevie and other musicians seeking to take control of their careers.
“Love Having You Around” – From the opening synth notes, the thumping drum and Stevie’s quick cry of “Please!” – It was on. A 7 1/2 minute song about a man who loves to have to have his woman around, “even if she’s messin’ around” as Stevie states at the end of the song. A funk-rock romp that set the tone for a classic album.
“Superwoman (Where were you when I needed you)” – The art of a seamless transition in a longer-than-normal song is hard to master. This is one of the best as “Superwoman” is a soft-rock tale of a woman who wants it all and Stevie is wondering if he can “deal with everything going through her head.” 3 1/2 minutes in, the synth solo begins and the tale takes on a sadder tone as Stevie and the woman have gone their separate ways and he’s left to wonder where she is as the seasons change.
“I love every little thing about you” – More of the same theme as Stevie is grateful for a woman who his friends feel may not be the best for him but she clearly has had a positive influence and affect on him especially as he reaches a joyful octave in the middle of the second verse.
“Sweet Little Girl” – Rarely can a silly song fit in to what seems like such a deep and introspective album about love in its many stages, but “Sweet little girl” and it’s comedic elements are right at home. Between Stevie’s slack-jawed monologue and harmonica riffs, you get the sense that he’s clearly having fun even though he can’t get no satisfaction from his woman. He even gets rude at the song’s fade out when he says “Don’t make me, uh, get mad – and act like a nigger!” Oh my.
“Happier than the morning sun” – Stevie doesn’t even use drums on this declaration of love, allowing his voice to shine alongside the Moog and clavinet.
“Girl Blue” – Stevie takes on the tone of an advisor here, trying to convince a brokenhearted woman seemingly ready to give up on love to keep trying, warning her that she’ll never find love if she isn’t happy.
“Seems so long” – In another awesome transition, Stevie begins to consider his own advice in “Girl Blue” even though “lady loved and lady cared…and lady went away, and left me all alone to suffer…” He feels like it’s time to move on from the past hurt and give the current woman longing for his affection a chance.
“Keep on running” – A heart-racing propulsive rock n’ roll jam that barely made the R&B top 40, it stands as one of Classic Era Stevie’s funkier joints, with slick clavinet play to keep everyone interested and dancing.
“Evil” – The album closes with an open letter to evil that could even break the devil down and make him wonder why he’s doing what he’s doing. Overall “Music of my mind” was an album that left folks wanting more of Stevie Wonder in this form…and they’d only have to wait seven months to get more. Which is when I’ll review “Talking Book.”