VARIOUS ARTISTS / 3 Stevie Covers

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I believe Stevie Wonder is the greatest single composer of popular music in the last half of the 20th century. Maybe once a month or more for the rest of this year I will be featuring Stevie Wonder music. I have no secret formula for picking Stevie songs—there are so many of them, too many to make any kind of rational choices even for the most anal among us who might make a list to keep track of all the lists we have. I guess one might do it by chronologically going through the Wonder catalogue but that is certainly not my inclination.

What we have here for your auditory enjoyment are three off the top: “I Wish,” “Creepin’,” and “All In Love Is Fair.” They are a random selection rather than particular favorites.

Why do Stevie covers for the rest of the year? Well, why not? Consider the depth and breadth of this man’s music. Indeed, can you name any other composers other than Duke Ellington and George Gershwin who have had an equally far-reaching and indelible influence on at least three or four generations of musicians and who also have both so decisively determined the trajectory of popular music and offered up such a bountiful cornucopia of musical compositions? Stevie is in a category unto himself as first a composer, second a producer/arranger, and third an instrumentalist and vocalist, in that order of importance to human musical culture.

We’ve got jazz and pop sliding one into the other, but my favorite cover happens to be Vietnamese jazz-rocker Nguyen Le who adds African and sub-continent Indian rhythmic expressions in an astonishing variation.

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01 Live & Intimate – Tok Tok Tok


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02 Something Unexpected – Peter Martin


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03 For Once In My Life – Trijntje Oosterhuis


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04 Dream – Tuck & Patti


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05 Songs Of Freedom – Nguyen Le


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06 At The Close Of A Century – Stevie Wonder

Luther makes it too easy to love what he does with the song, and I also appreciate Corinne Bailey Rae’s charming innocent-sounding declaration, but I give the nod to Nnenna Freelon’s elegant two-step treatment, plus Ms. Freelon has done one of my absolute favorite Stevie Wonder tribute albums.


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07 Stripped: Raw and Real – Corinne Bailey Rae



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08 At The Close Of A Century – Stevie Wonder


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09 Live At Radio City Music Hall – Luther Vandross


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10 Tales Of Wonder – Nnenna Freelon


Sapphires, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, there’re just a wealth of interpretations here and depending on what mood I’m in, where I’m headed or where I just been, anyone of three or four of these bad boys would be numero uno on my list de jour. I believe I’ll luxuriate in the cozy warmth of Stephane Belmondo’s instumental interpretation with a little of Nnenna and a lot of Carmen McRae on the side, oh, fooey, I can’t decide: I’ll take them all.


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11 Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing – Hank Crawford


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12 Anthology – Nancy Wilson


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13 Sergio Mendes – Sergio Mendes


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14 Heat Wave – CalTjader & Carmen McRae


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15 Wonderland – Stephane Belmondo



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10 Tales Of Wonder – Nnenna Freelon



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17 At The Close Of A Century – Stevie Wonder

—Kalamu ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 at 3:30 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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