The 1980s weren’t very kind to Stevie Wonder. Commercially, he did great – The Woman In Red soundtrack, Ebony and Ivory, Part Time Lover – but his critical successes were largely left behind in the 1970s. I love his classic period, starting with 1972’s Music Of My Mind, and I’d put this album, Hotter Than July, in there as the final album of that run.
It’s a very happy album, and other than Happy Birthday which sounds very ‘80s, the rest of the album stands up to the best of his work on Talking Book or Songs In The Key Of Life. In terms of songwriting, you could put any of these songs on those albums, and the only thing that gives the album away as coming from a slightly different time is that the synthesiser sounds are starting to sound a bit 1980s. They’re not as ‘jolly’ as the synth sounds from songs like Ebony And Ivory, but you can sort of hear them going in that direction.
Looking at the album credits, Michael Jackson pops up as one of several backing vocalists on All I Do, although you can’t hear it’s him. As usual Stevie plays most instruments on most of the songs – all keyboards, drums, and of course vocals. You get the idea that if Stevie Wonder walked up to your house and rang the doorbell, it would be the funkiest sounding time you’d ever hear it ring.
Hit: Happy Birthday
Hidden Gem: Master Blaster (Jammin’)