R&B that goes On&On – Fran’s Review

For the past fortnight we have been listening to Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. There are plenty of nice things  about this album, but the main impression I am left with after listening to it for two weeks is: this album is loooooong!

On Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder’s laid back vocals cover pretty much everything (sound familiar?), to mixed success. There is some interesting commentary on social and personal issues, but the lyrics are at times very repetitive (Sir Duke) or rather insipid and sentimental (Isn’t She Lovely).

The instrumentation on this record is brilliant, with the song introductions in particular being consistently fabulous (an unusual comment, I know). There is a great range of styles on this mega-album, and they are utilised effectively. For example, the strings on Village Ghetto Land complement the measured vocals very well, without distracting from the social message at the heart of the lyrics.

A highlight is I Wish; I think it paints a naively nostalgic picture of childhood, but it’s bass and brass create a real funky groove. I also really enjoyed Summer Soft, although I’m not entirely sure what it’s about, and I was interested to realise that Gangster’s Paradise was a reworking of a Stevie Wonder track.

You may notice that I have mainly discussed the beginning of the album. This would be because my attention span is not long enough to cope with an hour and a half’s worth of tracks. Seriously Stevie, that’s too much R&B at once. If this had been released as two albums (or even three!) I would probably give them four stars, but this is an anthology, not an album, and as such:

★★★☆☆

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