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Essential Records: Stevie Wonder's 'Songs In The Key of Life'

Posted by Amoebite, December 1, 2014 02:22pm | Post a Comment

Essential Records

Songs In The Key Of Life is hailed by many as one of the greatest albums ever recorded. Music industry icons like Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, Elton John and Mariah Carey all sing its praises. By the time Stevie Wonder gifted the world his magnum opus - at just 25 years old - he had already released 21 albums under the famed Motown label. Amazing!  

Stevie Wonder Where I'm Coming FromOne month before his 21st birthday in 1971, Stevie Wonder released Where I'm Coming From, a definitive production that gave way to a new aesthetic, style, and sound not aligned with the polished, clean, stand up image Motown championed for its artists. In essence, Wonder was shedding his "Little Stevie Wonder" persona and declaring his musical independence. Armed with a new recording contract giving him artistic control, Wonder co-wrote the album with then girlfriend and former Motown secretary, Syreeta Wright. Together the two penned songs that showcased a new, funkier style Wonder was developing outside the confines of Motown. Digging deeper to perfect his new sound, Stevie followed with Music Of My Mind in 1972, the precursor to what became his unrivaled golden era of output. Music Of My Mind was entirely written, produced, and performed by Wonder (with the exception of a single part in two songs) masterfully utilizing Arp synthesizers, Moog keyboards, and live instrumentation. This was Wonder's first truly cohesive effort realized all on his own. The transformation from "Little Stevie Wonder" to bonafide one man production powerhouse was complete.

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Music History Monday: October 13

Posted by Jeff Harris, October 13, 2014 10:33am | Post a Comment

To read more Behind The Grooves, go to http://behindthegrooves.tumblr.com.

On this day in music history: October 13, 1965 - "My Generation", the third single by The Who, is recorded. Written by Pete Townshend, he will take inspration from singer Mose Allison's song "Young Man Blues." The song's crowning touch will be provided by singer Roger Daltrey stuttering like a one of the band's mod fans on speed. Produced by Shel Talmy, the band will record the song at IBC Studios in London. Recorded on three track tape, the final mono master will feature a second guitar part overdubbed by Townshend (direct to tape while being mixed) that features the song's trademark feedback. Released in the UK on November 5, 1965 (US release date is November 20, 1965), the song is an instant smash in their home country peaking at #2. Though it will only peak at #74 in the US, it will go on to be one to be one of most influential rock singles of all time. "My Generation" is now part of the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999. In 2002, "My Generation" will be mixed into true stereo for the first time from the original multi-track tape (though it is missing the additional guitar overdub from the mono mix), which has been in the possession of Shel Talmy, and appears on the Deluxe Edition of My Generation.
 

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Music History Monday: September 29

Posted by Jeff Harris, September 29, 2014 11:10am | Post a Comment

To read more Behind The Grooves, go to http://behindthegrooves.tumblr.com.

On this day in music history: September 29, 1958 - "It's In The Game" by Tommy Edwards hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks, also topping the Rhythm & Blues chart for three weeks (non-consecutive) on the same date.  Written by Charles Dawes and Carl Sigman, it is the biggest hit for the pop vocalist from Richmond, VA. "It's All In The Game" is originally written in 1911 as an instrumental titled "Melody in A Major" by Charles Dawes who would later serve as Vice President of the United States under President Calvin Coolidge. Songwriter Carl Sigman will write lyrics for the song in 1951 when Tommy Edwards first records it. Edwards original version will peak at #18 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart in the Fall of 1951. By 1958, Edwards has been without a major hits for nearly four years and his label MGM Records is on the verge of dropping him, but he has one final session to go on his contract. Edwards will re-record "It's All In The Game" with a new arrangement and in stereo, making it one of the first stereo 45's released by MGM Records. The new version is released in early August of 1958 and is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #40 on August 25, 1958, it will race to the top of the chart five weeks later. "It's All In The Game" is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
 


On this day in music history: September 29, 1973 - "Higher Ground" by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for one week, also peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 on October 13, 1973. Written and produced by Stevie Wonder, it is the seventh R&B chart topper for the prolific musician and songwriter. Issued as the first single from his landmark Innervisions album, the song is on the charts while Wonder is recovering from a devastating car accident, which will leave him in a coma for four days. While still in a coma, Stevie's road manager Ira Tucker, Jr. will lean down and sing the melody to "Higher Ground" in his ear and Stevie will respond by moving fingers in time with song. Recorded at Mediasound Studios in New York City, "Higher Ground" will be a virtual "one man show" with Wonder playing all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals on the track, with co-producers Bob Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil programming the synthesizers. Red Hot Chili Peppers will score a hit with their cover version of "Higher Ground" when they record it for their 1989 album Mother's Milk, even name checking Stevie Wonder in their version.

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Music History Monday: May 19

Posted by Jeff Harris, May 19, 2014 09:30am | Post a Comment

To read more Behind The Grooves, go to http://behindthegrooves.tumblr.com.

Born on this day: May 19, 1945 - Singer, songwriter and musician Pete Townshend (born Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend in Chiswick, London, UK. Happy 69th Birthday, Pete!
 


Born on this day: May 19, 1948 - Singer, songwriter, model, and actress Grace Jones (born in Spanish Town, Jamaica). Happy 66th Birthday, Grace!
 


Born on this day: May 19, 1951 - Ramones lead vocalist Joey Ramone (born Jeffry Ross Hyman in Forest Hills, NY). Happy Birthday to this punk rock icon on what would have been his 63rd Birthday.
 


On this day in music history: May 19, 1972Honky Chateau, the fifth studio album by Elton John is released. Produced by Gus Dudgeon, it is recorded at the Chateau d'Herouville in Herouville, France in January 1972. It will be the first full album to feature John recording with his road musicians bassist Dee Murray, drummer Nigel Olsson, and guitarist Davey Johnstone, setting the template for his most successful work during the 70's. The album will differ from his previous work as it is the first to not feature a string section since his debut release Empty Sky (though it will feature violin player Jean-Luc Ponty on two tracks). Chateau will also be the last Elton John album to be released on the Uni Records imprint in the US and Canada, as the label will be absorbed into MCA. It will spin off two singles including "Honky Cat" (#8 US Pop, #31 UK), and "Rocket Man" (#6 US Pop, #2 UK). Honky Château will spend five weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, peaking at number two on the UK album chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
 

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Music History Monday: March 3

Posted by Jeff Harris, March 3, 2014 10:00am | Post a Comment

To read more Behind The Grooves, go to http://behindthegrooves.tumblr.com.

On this day in music history: March 3, 1972Music of My Mind, the fourteenth studio album by Stevie Wonder is released. Produced by Stevie Wonder, Bob Margouleff, and Malcolm Cecil, it is recorded Media Sound Studios and Electric Lady Studios in New York City, and Crystal Industries in Los Angeles from mid 1971 - early 1972. After recording for Motown since the age of 12, Stevie Wonder's contract with the label expires when he turns 21 years old on May 13, 1971. In spite of millions in record sales and earnings generated, he will find that there is only $1 million held in trust for him. Instead of renewing his contract with Motown, he'll move to New York and begin working with Bob Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil of Tonto's Expanding Head Band who will assist him in taking his music to the next level. Experimenting with synthesizers, Wonder will block book studio time and record for several months before re-emerging with a new sound and career direction. Having fielded several offers from rival record companies, he will re-sign with Motown Records but strictly on his own terms. He will negotiate a deal that gives him complete artistic control, his own music publishing company, and one of the highest royalty rates in the music business. Released as the first album under his new deal, Music of My Mind will be a major turning point for Stevie Wonder, beginning an era that will produce some of his most critically acclaimed and commercially successful work. Spinning off two singles including "Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)" (#13 R&B, #33 Pop), and "Keep On Running" (#36 R&B, #90 Pop), Music Of My Mind will peak at #6 on the Billboard R&B album chart and #21 on the Top 200.
 

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