A Time To Love - Press Release
Stevie Wonder Does It Right
Stevie's 'Time': A Grand Slam Home Run
By Roger Friedman
Friday, September 23, 2005
Stevie Wonder doesn't kid around. Maybe he was nervous about
releasing his first album in a decade, but he shouldn't have been. "A
Time 2 Love" lives up to Wonder's high standards, and then some. I've
had the pleasure of listening to "A Time 2 Love" since yesterday
afternoon. (It's numbered, water-marked, and set to detonate if I try to
load in into my Zen Touch player, so I had to settle for listening to it
on a stereo! Remember those?) I'm pretty sure this is the first review
of it anywhere.
This was an album that was due in June 2004. Stevie even appeared on
"Oprah" and "Good Morning America" to promote it, then pulled back.
Several other release dates have come and gone since then.
If "A Time 2 Love" were a book you couldn't put it down. As it is,
it's hard not to keep dipping into the 15 tracks, going back to find the
various bits that are so tantalizing. This is no Kanye West hip-hop clip
job. Wonder has written 77 minutes of original, memorable work, full of
hits whether they're straight out ballads, love songs, or funk numbers.
A couple of them we've already been exposed to. The high charged "So
What the Fuss," featuring Prince, has been out for some time. So has the
love song, the hook-laden "From the Bottom of My Heart." Wonder
performed the catchy "Can't Imagine Love Without You" at his Apollo
show, and the Burt Bacharach-ish "How Will I Know" with his daughter
Aisha at his wife Kai Milla's fashion show last week. Still it's good to
hear all of them, especially the latter, in context.
But there's so much else here. Most artists would hope to have this
good material over the course of ten years. The album kicks off with an
up-tempo song called "If Your Love Can Not Be Moved," which has all the
earmarks of a hit single. Kim Burell, who's got a deep soul gospel
voice, provides counterpoint. "Sweetest Somebody I Know" is a mid-tempo
love song with lots of hooks. It's crying out for a remix. Stevie should
get Wyclef to invent a rap to go with it. But it's the third track that
cinches the album. "Moon Blue" is kind of a ballad masterpiece on a par
with "Ribbon in the Sky" and "Overjoyed." Clocking in at 6:44, this
lovely, bluesy number features a beautiful extended jazz piano solo.
Much of "A Time 2 Love" is about just that, love. But fear not:
these songs are far more intricate than you might think. It's a pleasure
just to listen to the music of Stevie's mind, to see where he's going or
how he got there. There will be huge fans of "Tell Your Heart I Love
You" (which I wish was the 4th and not the 9th track). "Shelter in the
Rain" is the kind of socko single that could be a Best Song/Best Record
nominee if it's pushed by Motown's Sylvia Rhone right out of the gate.
In fact, with 15 tracks Rhone could easily release simultaneous
"singles" with "Shelter" and "If Your Love." The two tracks with
daughter Aisha –- "How Will I Know" and "Positivity" — are smashes as
well. And the title song, with a fabulous guest solo from India Arie,
closes the album on a note of topicality.
The choices are vast. It will be cool to see what kind of videos
come out of "A Time 2 Love." It might be interesting for some grade A
filmmakers to try and depict Wonder's imagination. In any case, Stevie
has delivered an album on a par with all his classics. It was certainly
worth the wait. Now let's just hope Motown/Universal can get it out to
the fans quickly.