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A Time To Love - Press Release

Philadelphia Daily News

Stevie Wonder's latest is 'Time' well spent
Jonathan Takiff
25 October 2005

We've all heard stories about artists obsessing over their work, spending millions of production dollars and years of toil trying to top their greatest accomplishments of the past.

Clearly, Stevie Wonder has gone through that sort of artistic agony in the creation of "A Time For Love," an album that hasn't been so much been released as finally escaped his grasp.

Even Wonder jokes about his obsession for detail - on the track "Sweetest Somebody I Know" having his 4-year-old son yell "Daddy, enough!" after the singer holds a vocal note for an impossibly long time.

But who can blame the dude? While his catalog boasts dozens of soul/pop classics, Wonder hasn't exactly been a contemporary radio star the last decade or two. You know he'd like to be remembered as an artist who transcended the generations, who remained vital through two centuries. And with "A Time to Love," a set well stocked with gems and smartly marketed (with an introductory $9.99 sale price) to jump start sales, I suspect he'll succeed.

In a conscious nod to the youngsters, Wonder kicks off with a pulsing, rhythm-centric production ("If Your Love Cannot Be Move") that borrows from the melodramatic style of contemporary R&B and hip-hop (think Destiny's Child and Jay-Z). Yet what really sticks here are the words, his entreaty to social reformers to give more than lip service, to actually follow through on their promises to make the world a better place.

And it's with the bulk of the songs that follow, trading on his glorious skills as a melodist and wise voice for the ages, that Wonder really makes his case anew. The haunting ballad "Shelter in the Rain" (which Wonder debuted here at Live 8, sans the Kirk Franklin-arranged backup choir) and the dreamy pop noir "Moon Blue" are special faves.

Almost as good are the Hubert Laws' flute-flavored cool jammer "My Love Is on Fire" (perfect for smooth jazz radio!), the lover's promise "From the Bottom of My Heart," and the string-swept, cinematic "Passionate Raindrops."

Even with the furnace turned down low, these nuggets will warm many a home on the cold winter nights to come. And I'd wager pop singers and jazz players by the dozens will be quick to add them to their repertoire.

Yes, Wonder often trades on signature sounds, like the samba-toned "Sweetest Somebody I Know," but he usually brings something new to the party. His bluesy chromatic harmonica wailing has a new playmate - Indian tabla drums - on "Tell Your Heart I Love You."

And while the funky flavor of "Please Don't Hurt My Baby" suggests a rewrite of "Don't Worry About a Thing," the lyric is something else, a moral lesson on the sad repercussions of cheating.

Another familiar Wonder ploy is playing off strong female talents - gospel belter Kim Burrell for set starters, India.Arie on the set-encapsulating "A Time to Love."

In between, Wonder's daughter Aisha Morris debuts on "How Will I Know" and the rallying call for "Positivity." The former's a yawner, the latter bubblicious. And isn't she lovely?