Deep Album Cuts Vol. 100: Stevie Wonder

On this day in 2013, I posted my first 'deep album cuts' playlist. So as I approached the 5th anniversary of that date as well as the 100th installment in the series, I decided to combine the two occasions. At any given time I've had a wishlist of dozens of artists I've wanted to dedicate a post to, and in many ways this series is aimed at celebrating those famous acts whose albums are not often celebrated. But for DAC 100, it seemed like I should go big, and it's hard to think of any albums artist held in higher esteem than Stevie Wonder, certainly outside of the 99 artists I've already covered.

Stevie Wonder deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Soul Bongo
2. Sunset
3. Music Talk
4. Thank You Love
5. Every Time I See You I Go Wild
6. How Can You Believe
7. Do I Love Her
8. Somebody Knows, Somebody Cares
9. I Gotta Have A Song
10. Do Yourself A Favor
11. I Love Every Little Thing About You
12. Blame It On The Sun
13. I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)
14. Too High
15. Golden Lady
16. They Won't Go When I Go
17. Too Shy To Say
18. Summer Soft
19. Knocks Me Off My Feet
20. Same Old Story
21. All I Do

Track 1 from The Jazz Soul Of Little Stevie (1962)
Track 2 from Tribute To Uncle Ray (1962)
Track 3 from Up-Tight (1966)
Track 4 from Down To Earth (1966)
Track 5 from I Was Made To Love Her (1967)
Track 6 from Eivets Rednow (1968)
Track 7 from For Once In My Life (1968)
Track 8 from My Cherie Amour (1969)
Track 9 from Signed, Sealed & Delivered (1970)
Track 10 from Where I'm Coming From (1971)
Track 11 from Music Of My Mind (1972)
Tracks 12 and 13 from Talking Book (1972)
Tracks 14 and 15 from Innervisions (1973)
Tracks 16 and 17 from Fulfillingness' First Finale (1974)
Tracks 18 and 19 from Songs In The Key Of Life (1976)
Track 20 from Journey Through "The Secret Life Of Plants" (1979)
Track 21 from Hotter Than July (1980)

With any artist with over 20 albums, I of course have to narrow things down, and in Stevie's case, it was easy enough to pick the point in the early '80s where his work stopped being urgently essential. But I really wanted to make room for his youthful '60s work, which can sometimes be a bit underestimated in the shadow if his enormously important '70s output. There's something about Stevie's voice in those early records that just embodies joy and love to me, and he maintained a lot of that exuberance even in his more emotionally complex later music. And it felt natural to me for this playlist to mirror my Beatles deep cuts playlist, where you start with the brief and simply recorded pop songs and then proceed into the more ambitious material as they become studio innovators.

I included songs from nearly all of Stevie's early studio albums and tried to trace his maturation as a songwriter (skipping only the two LPs comprised entirely of covers, 1963's With A Song In My Heart and 1964's Stevie At The Beach). So I got to select various milestones as he took more and more control, year after year: "Soul Bongo" is among Stevie's first writing credits on an instrumental, co-written with a rising young singer and drummer named Marvin Gaye. "Sunset" was his first writing credit for a vocal track. "How Can You Believe" is his first instrumental as the sole writer, and"Do I Love Her" is his first vocal track as the sole writer. Stevie was certainly fortunate to have his talent recognized early and to have it nurtured by a label like Motown, but there's still just no precedent for how much Stevie Wonder came into his own over the course of the first decade of his career and became one of the greatest to ever do it.

I remember when I first got a turntable as a teenager and started digging through my parents' vinyl collection and acquainting myself with Stevie's big '70s albums. One of my dad's best stories from college was when he and some friends got high listening to Innervisions, and the skit with sounds of police sirens and an arrest freaked them out so much that they'd flushed their pot down the toilet before they realized that there weren't any police in their building.

As with any artist of this caliber, some songs feel almost too famous to be considered deep cuts. It's crazy to think that songs like "All I Do" and "Knocks Me Off My Feet" and "Blame It On The Sun" weren't among the singles released from their respective albums, within the context of R&B they're practically standards.

Of the classic albums from Stevie's untouchable run, Songs In The Key Of Life is usually singled out as the best, but I always felt that it lags a bit. Like most double albums, it has as many great songs as the artist's other albums, but it also has a lot of other stuff of varying quality. I liked it more revisiting it recently, though. And it was fun to dig into Journey Through "The Secret Life Of Plants," perhaps the single strangest and most experimental album any superstar has made at the height of their success. I really think Fulfillingness' First Finale is something special despite its status as kind of the least revered of his classic run, and I thought I should include the original "They Won't Go When I Go" since I already had George Michael's cover on a previous deep cuts playlist.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep
Vol. 95: Linkin Park
Vol. 96: Shania Twain
Vol. 97: Squeeze
Vol. 98: Taylor Swift
Vol. 99: INXS
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