Innervisions (1992 Reissue)
Motown’s most successful artists (Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder) fought for their artistic freedom in the 1970s and rewrote the rules of soul music until it encompassed whatever social or musical ambitions its creators had in mind. Wonder’s 1973 Grammy-winning LP Innervisions shared the growing social concern of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 masterpiece What’s Going On with the rising urban conflicts playing out in “Too High” and the album’s Grammy-winning hit “Living For the City,” while the increasingly scandalized President Nixon is skewered in “He’s Misstra Know-It-All.” It also shared many musical ambitions as well, incorporating a flowing sound and groove that made the album as much a long stylistically similar suite as a collection of individual tracks. It’s the mark of a great artist when their innovations sound perfectly natural and practically ordinary many years later as the mainstream accepts and reuses the innovations. The lush melodic “Golden Lady” and the strutting funk of “Higher Ground” and “Jesus Children of America” stand up as contemporary sounds still much emulated several decades later.