Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Top 20 (In No Particular Order)

1) Innervisions/Songs in the Key of Life:
-If someone asks you, "What's your favorite Stevie Wonder album?" don't kill yourself trying to decide. It's a trick question. I had to allow room for both of these albums on my list for many reasons that merit equal adulation to each, but make it very difficult to choose one over the other. Innervisions affected me perhaps like no other album in my life.
The night that I bought it I lied on my top bunk in my freshman dorm room and listened to it, front to back, for hours on end. A story formulated in my mind drawing its narrative directly from the music on the album. SOBER...I swear. I even started what was my first failed novel based directly on characters and scenarios from the album. Then, after a light case of writer's block & hesitation from securing rights to Stevie's intellectual property, I abandoned the novel. The most fascinating thing about Innervisions to me is that whether or not it is seen as a concept album, I'll always view it as one. There's a message in the music...a connection between the songs on it...a clear concept that presented itself to me...& I'll always love it because of that.
Songs in the Key of Life placed a far more different spell upon me. Following Innervisions I began a string of Stevie Wonder discovery. I mean, I knew Stevie before this moment. A few Sesame Street mash-ups & Cosby Show cameos (JAMMIN' ON THE ONE....words to live by), but it was at this time that I began to KNOW the Wonderment of Stevie. My research not only afforded me a far deeper appreciation of Innervisions (LISTEN to "Higher Ground"), but it also introduced me to Songs in the Key of Life. In high school, I learned the lay out of the piano and chord structure in order to figure out songs that were hittin' on the radio so I could arrange them for my marching band to rock the stands during football games, but "As" was the first song that I taught myself to play. The entire album was a journey, and as I get older, it's almost as if I bear witness to everyone living it...including myself. Songs in the Key of Life is to me, as the Neverending Story was to Bastian...if you catch my drift.

2) Kind of Blue:
-Miles Davis...it's all there. I recall learning of how this album marked a seminal shift in tonality, arrangement, and composition in Jazz. Modality as a concept was presented in high definition throughout this work. Looking back, I think this also was another moment where I was perplexed by the difficulty in imagining a time where sounds I've grown up with were foreign ideals. I thought, "Two chords...thirty-two bar form, pretty simple," and then in hearing how folks at that time were like, "Where's the top of the form...I'm getting lost over here ?!?!?!?" helped me to realize that these jazz giants were human beings. Geniuses? Yes, but human nonetheless. Nevermind that. All that is necessary to understand and recognize is Kind of Blue, the entire album, is beautiful...classicaly beautiful...timeless. It doesn't hurt that the entire group is like a dream team of jazz music masters as well. Miles, John, Cannonball, Jimmy, Paul, Bill/Wynton. I need to put that on a t-shirt.

2 down....18 to go???


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