Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Songs in the Key of Wonder

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Songs in the Key of Wonder

    Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_0210.jpg Views:	1 Size:	162.5 KB ID:	38199



    In spite of his considerable talents, a vast body of commercially successful recordings spanning the decades and enduring recognition from the time he first appeared on Motown’s Tamla roster as “Little Stevie Wonder” at the age of 11, I still think Stevie Wonder is vastly underrated as a composer and performer. His maturation as a gifted writer and musician not only helped redefine the sound of “soul” and popular music in the ’60s, but led to a period of deeper, more introspective music in the ’70s that resulted in a trilogy of genre-defying albums–records that remain a benchmark for modern music today. Among those, Songs in the Key of Life is not only the most ambitious, but unfolds as a rich, complex tapestry of ideas and themes that are timeless.

    I had the honor of writing an essay about “Songs” for the National Recording Registry, which was inducted in 2005. The essay was just published by the Registry and can be found at: https://www.loc.gov/programs/static/...ey-of-Life.pdf

    The essay is also republished here on The Vinyl Press.

    Listening to the album today is a revelatory experience. Even if you think you know the album well (and it was played heavily at the time of release, along with a number of radio hit singles), there is so much here that is worth re-exploring. Perhaps I have matured as a listener as well. The contrasts between the funk and minor key melodies lend a grace to the album that keeps it moving. Far from being an exercise in self-indulgent excess, the two LP plus bonus EP set takes you on a voyage of melody, rhythm and instrumental prowess that seems too short when it ends. The production, discussed in more detail in the essay, is deft, with the right balance between spare and lush instrumentation. On the issue of pressings, I’ve usually found the Kendun masterings of Wonder’s records to sound the best on vinyl but “Songs,” as far as I know, was never mastered by Kendun. The copy I listened to while writing the essay is an early pressing and a good sounding one.
    “Songs in the Key of Life”—Stevie Wonder (1976) Added to the National Recording Registry: 2005 Essay by Bill Hart (guest post)* How does one judge the importance of a work of recorded music? Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” enjoyed enormous popularity and sales; had a profound influence on other musicians and garnered …

  • #2
    Stevie sure took the then fledgling synthesizer to a whole new level. Simply unprecedented.

    Underappreciated? Yes I agree with you. What an enormous talent.

    Innervisions remains my favorite, if for nothing else Stevie playing almost all the instruments on the album.
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

    -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
    -Goldmund Telos 300 stereo amp
    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
    -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

    Comment


    • #3
      Stevie Wonder is a house favorite here. He one of the few artists we all agree on. Though I don't think his albums sound as good as I would like, the music is fantastic. Very nice insight Bill.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Gusf View Post
        Stevie Wonder is a house favorite here. He one of the few artists we all agree on. Though I don't think his albums sound as good as I would like, the music is fantastic. Very nice insight Bill.
        Gusf- thanks for the nice words. For Innervisions and Fulfillingness, try to find pressings with Kendun in the deadwax. These masterings sound better than the other Tamla copies I have heard, which often sound muffled or closed in. Unfortunately, Kendun did not master "Songs" as far as I can tell, but the early pressing I used for the piece--which I bought recently, since I could not find my old copy--sounded pretty good! (I gather Wonder has the true masters, which raises a whole other set of issues). The Musiquarium is pretty fantastic sounding- probably a really good source. Don't know if you have it. I have a promo copy-think it is a white label- and it is way better sounding than the standard issue Tamla copies of the original releases.

        Comment


        • Gusf
          Gusf commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks Bill. I will check them out.

      • #5
        Another excellent piece of writing and analysis (opinion) Bill! I'm a huge fan of Stevie's work. The man should be a national treasure!

        SITKOF gets a regular workout on my system, along with Talking Book and Original Musiquarium Volume One, which IMHO may be the best compilation album ever put out.
        Dynavector DV20x2L MC cartridge - Genesis G7.1f speakers - Marantz Reference PM-KI-Pearl Int. Amp. - Oracle Audio Paris MkV turntable - Various Morrow & Valab/King cables

        Comment


        • #6
          Originally posted by Johnny Vinyl View Post
          Another excellent piece of writing and analysis (opinion) Bill! I'm a huge fan of Stevie's work. The man should be a national treasure!

          SITKOF gets a regular workout on my system, along with Talking Book and Original Musiquarium Volume One, which IMHO may be the best compilation album ever put out.
          John- when I get resettled, I'm going to buy a bunch of copies of Talking Book and listen to them. I had an old copy that wasn't great, the MoFi was an improvement, but I'm gonna try and find a better sounding copy if it is out there.... I Believe is a favorite on that record.

          Comment


          • #7
            Originally posted by Bill Hart View Post

            John- when I get resettled, I'm going to buy a bunch of copies of Talking Book and listen to them. I had an old copy that wasn't great, the MoFi was an improvement, but I'm gonna try and find a better sounding copy if it is out there.... I Believe is a favorite on that record.
            Good luck with that! I say that only because in Canada there are 4 different label variants (2 from AMPEX and 2 from MOTOWN). My copy is a solid light blue Motown. The MOFI is a nice enough copy for sure, but I gotta believe better copies are out there. I also have a sealed copy of a 180g reissue that has a hype sticker, but no data on who released this. My search indicated this was likely a Scorpio pressing. This means that it was probably sourced from a CD. I don't think I'll bother with opening it.

            PS: Playing my light blue Motown label copy now.......nice!
            Dynavector DV20x2L MC cartridge - Genesis G7.1f speakers - Marantz Reference PM-KI-Pearl Int. Amp. - Oracle Audio Paris MkV turntable - Various Morrow & Valab/King cables

            Comment


            • #8
              my copy, don't remember the label, I think its a tamla, sounds like crap.
              Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Audio Technica AT-OC9XML Cart (Stereo) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (Stereo) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (Stereo) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (Mono) , Luxman Tonearm (Mono) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (Mpmp) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones, Headroom Max Balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects

              Comment


              • Johnny Vinyl
                Johnny Vinyl commented
                Editing a comment
                SITKOL or Talking Book?

              • JCOConnell
                JCOConnell commented
                Editing a comment
                Sitkol

            • #9
              Originally posted by Bill Hart View Post
              Click image for larger version Name:	IMG_0210.jpg Views:	1 Size:	162.5 KB ID:	38199



              In spite of his considerable talents, a vast body of commercially successful recordings spanning the decades and enduring recognition from the time he first appeared on Motown’s Tamla roster as “Little Stevie Wonder” at the age of 11, I still think Stevie Wonder is vastly underrated as a composer and performer. His maturation as a gifted writer and musician not only helped redefine the sound of “soul” and popular music in the ’60s, but led to a period of deeper, more introspective music in the ’70s that resulted in a trilogy of genre-defying albums–records that remain a benchmark for modern music today. Among those, Songs in the Key of Life is not only the most ambitious, but unfolds as a rich, complex tapestry of ideas and themes that are timeless.

              I had the honor of writing an essay about “Songs” for the National Recording Registry, which was inducted in 2005. The essay was just published by the Registry and can be found at: https://www.loc.gov/programs/static/...ey-of-Life.pdf

              The essay is also republished here on The Vinyl Press.

              Listening to the album today is a revelatory experience. Even if you think you know the album well (and it was played heavily at the time of release, along with a number of radio hit singles), there is so much here that is worth re-exploring. Perhaps I have matured as a listener as well. The contrasts between the funk and minor key melodies lend a grace to the album that keeps it moving. Far from being an exercise in self-indulgent excess, the two LP plus bonus EP set takes you on a voyage of melody, rhythm and instrumental prowess that seems too short when it ends. The production, discussed in more detail in the essay, is deft, with the right balance between spare and lush instrumentation. On the issue of pressings, I’ve usually found the Kendun masterings of Wonder’s records to sound the best on vinyl but “Songs,” as far as I know, was never mastered by Kendun. The copy I listened to while writing the essay is an early pressing and a good sounding one.
              Great album and nice essay. Unfortunately, my 2 pressings sound like dreck. I'm sure one of them is Tamla.

              Front end: Aesthetix Io Eclipse with 2 Power Supplies and Volume controls
              Brinkmann Balance & RonT Tube Power supply with Kuzma 4-point ,FR64S, Brinkmann 12.1 , .Koetsu Jade Platinum,Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum, Lyra Atlas, Lyra Etna SL Goldfinger Statement, KLAUDIO RCM, HRSM3X
              Amps: Wyetech Topaz, Futterman H3 Quad II,Citation II, Marantz 8b, 5 ,2
              Pre-Amps:Marantz 7, Marantz Model 1 Consolette Pair
              Speakers: Quad ESL 57, Beveridge Model 3 DD amps, REL S/2 x 2
              Otari 5050BXII, DeHavilland 222

              Comment


              • #10
                Back in the old day's I tried to buy imports, so I only have one copy of SITKOL, it's a Motown French pressing 2C168-97900/1 (from 1976). Vinyl quality is OK, low surface noise and flat. Bass is good but not great. The highs are a bit closed-in and rolled off. I was wondering if anyone here has a copy and if so have they compared it to any of the other pressings.

                Of all of the pressings out there, what is considered the best? This is an LP worthy of being reissued with absolute quality and performance as the objective.
                Speakers/Amps: Genesis G2.2 Jr with Powered Servo-Sub Bass, Genesis GR1440 Mono Amps, 5,000 watts total power
                Preamp: SMc Audio VRE-1C Preamp (fully balanced inputs and output)
                Phono 1: VPI Signature 21 Belt-Drive Turntable with 10” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti Phono Cartridge driving Lehmann Decade Phono Preamp
                Phono 2: VPI HW-40 Direct-Drive Turntable with 12” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Anna Diamond Phono Cartridge driving Genesis Gold Phono Preamp
                R2R Tape: Studer A810 with Bridge Console
                Digital: Lumin Network Player with Lumin NAS
                Cables: Genesis Advanced Technologies/Absolute Fidelity Interface Interconnects, Speaker, Phono and Power
                Power: Audio-Ultra Power System, IsoTek Super Titan Passive Power Conditioning for Amplifiers
                Accessories: Custom Acrylic Equipment Stands, Klaudio Ultrasonic RCM

                Comment


                • Johnny Vinyl
                  Johnny Vinyl commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Speakers Corner did this and its supposed to be pretty good, but it's long OOP. I've not been able to find any threads anywhere on the best version of this.

              • #11
                Great writeup Bill. I suspect SITHKOL is my most played record...

                Comment

                Working...
                X