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    The Jazz Soul Of Little Stevie Wonder ( 1962 )
    Fingertips / Square / Soul Bongo / Manhattan At Six / Paulsby / Some Other Time / Wondering / Session Number 112 / Bam

    Motown had a lot of great players and producers and Stevie doesn't sing on this one. It was a very unusual Motown record in that it was entirely instrumental with Stevie and his harmonica playing central stage, right up-front. Sorry, checked and he was 12, bad me. This album was written by singer songwriters Clarence Paul and Henry Cosby with a whole two co-wiriting credits for Wonder and also interestingly one co-writing credit for Marvin Gaye with 'Soul Bongo' and also a credit for Berry Gordy Jr with the album closing number 'Bam'.

    People recorded things properly back in this day, to the point that 'Some Other Time' squeaks and squeals like the harmonica is right in your face! 'Fingertips' jumps and jives and later in a live incarnation became Wonder's first hit US single. Admittedly it is odd having a Stevie Wonder album without one of his great assets, his voice of course. Yet, 'Fingertips' contains stunning playing from Stevie almost single handedly justifying Motown's faith in putting out an instrumental album by an twelve year old. Naturally, this album didn't sell and contained no hits, yet is unique amongst Motown history and jazzy and late night weary beyond the mans years. That seems strange to say when he didn't have many years! Motown's habit of front loading even an instrumental album with no hits continues, the only real negative, and why 29 mininutes long? It does feel longer however and I mean that in a GOOD way! Ultimately, there is not much to say about this record, the playing is superb, harmonica especially, of course - end.

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    Up-Tight 7 ( 1966 )
    Before The Love a Go Go / Hold Me / Blowin' in the Wind / Nothing's Too Good For My Baby / Teach Me Tonight / Uptight (Everything's Alright) / Ain't That Asking for Trouble / I Want My Baby Back / Pretty Little Angel / Music Talk / Contract on Love / With a Child's Heart

    Only two of 'little' Stevie Wonder's singles had made the Top 40 of Billboard and the still only fifteen year old Wonder was in trouble. The title track here 'Up-Tight' changed all that and Wonder at least co-wrote the song and Berry Gordy (Motown honcho) was pleased once more. The attendant album reached number 33 on the album charts and Stevie Wonder was well on his way to becoming the acclaimed album artist we all know him for being today. The attendant sleeve-notes may well have noted Wonder's debt to Ray Charles but this is where he started to move away from that. Well, 'Up-Tight' is still very typical of a mid-sixties motown LP effort. The artist in question gets a few co-writes and the Motown Family attend to the rest. Stevie was a multi-instrumentalist however and also began to take more of an interest in recording techniques. Although this was far from being his debut album, it's where I sense a sensible jumping on point. A few of the Motown legends involved in the creation of this LP then - Benny Benjamin, Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland, James Jamerson, Eddie Kendricks, Clarence Paul, Levi Stubbs, Mike Valvano and producer/Composer Norman Whitfield.

    Add Bob Dylan. Well, Wonder covers 'Blowin' In The Wind' to try and acheive some crossover success and creates a quite lovely soul-take on this folk-classic. The title track itself needs little introduction, although the classic motown rhythm section give it one anyway, of course. Stevie's maturing vocal chords tear through the track and joining 'Up-Tight' in the upbeat, immense vocal chord stakes are 'Nothing Too Good For My Baby', a close cousin of 'Up-Tight' itself along with 'Love A Go Go' of course, although that has a mellower vocal - still a great track, mind you. Vintage Motown, you've got to love it really, haven't you? 'Music Talk' is an angry grind and features brass and Stevie's harmonica. 'Pretty Little Angel' in amongst of all this sounds like it was recorded years earlier, someone can let me know if it was or not. It's fairly typical to expect some filler on a sixties Motown LP, at any rate. Overall, a decent set that's not great for Motown of the era but it's above average and that'll do for Stevie for now - more exciting things were to come, particularly from his own writing efforts.

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    this page last updated 04/07/10


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