Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Higher Ground Control: Stevie Wonder 70

We are back with a super milestone birthday post about someone needing zero introduction and even less explanation.
A superstar since age 13, his list of accomplishments exceeds almost all performers of our lifetimes.
They aren't just musical accomplishments either, although he's got a few of those too.
Like the holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Who masterminded the push to make it a thing?
I'll give you a hint: it wasn't Ronald Reagan.
He is turning 70 today, but he's been around since before we were all born and I honestly thought he was older!
His mid-1970s run of five consecutive arguably-the-best-albums-of-all-time may never be equaled.
He's also written huge hits and iconic songs for other artists that you might not even know were his, like Tell Me Something Good by Rufus.
Whereas most folks who are at the top of their field as teens fall heavy and hard into drug-fueled disappointment and downfall, he's the rare child star to go all the way to total global domination, with nary a negative thing said about him.
Born this day in 1950 and achieving septuagenarian status today, Stevie Wonder was, is and will likely always be a cultural force in the life of our world.
To mark the occasion properly, we have something a long time coming: an optimization of the man's most celebrated unissued live show, reconstructed by yours truly for maximum impact.
This has been around forever, but was always hamstrung by the choppiness between tracks and the missing last two seconds of one of its most dramatic cuts.
I reconstructed that from a TV performance of several days earlier, and I think I got it nice enough to where if you didn't really know, you might not suspect it wasn't played this way.
Then I crossfaded everything together to make it sound like a single concert and not the fragmented version of itself.
Unless these Rainbow tapes ever see a legitimate issue -- unlikely, as the story goes Stevie Wonder was dissatisfied with the sonics and squashed it back in 1974 -- this here may be as good a representation as we get of what this iconic performer was all about at his absolute peak.
Stevie Wonder 
Rainbow Theatre 
London, UK 

01 opening jam
02 Contusion
03 jam #2
04 Higher Ground
05 Superwoman
06 To Know You Is to Love You
07 Signed, Sealed, Delivered
08 Visions
09 Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing
10 Living for the City
11 Living for the City jam
12 You Are the Sunshine of My Life
13 Superstition
14 (You've Been Better to Me Than a Lot of) My Dreams

Total time: 1:28:07
disc break goes after track 08

Stevie Wonder - keyboards, harmonica & vocals
Ollie Brown – drums
Michael Sembello – guitar, percussion & synthesizer
Reggie McBride - bass
Deniece Williams – vocals & percussion
Lani Groves – vocals & percussion
Shirley Brewer – vocals & percussion

2001 bootleg CD "Funkafied Rainbow" on the Big 'Fro label, according to spectral analysis sourced from an indeterminate off-air FM capture;
repaired by zootype in 2016 and further repaired, declipped and retracked -- with correct date verified and the missing final two seconds of Contusion restored & remastered from the German WDR-TV "Musikladen" session recorded in Bremen, Germany on 1.23.1974 -- by EN, May 2020
I'm back on Friday with the promised rejoinder to the Kent State post that began this month, but let's give it up for Stevie Wonder's 70th with this 90 minutes of Innervision Quest, shall we? I'd like to go there.--J.

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