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A Time To Love - Press Release

The Daily Telegraph

Songs to Make a Cynic Sway

Stevie Wonder at Abbey Road Studio
David Cheal
Friday 11 Nov. 2005

Before Stevie Wonder was led on to the stage in Abbey Road's Studio 1, presenter Paul Gambaccini introduced the 55-year-old star in the most flattering and loquacious terms. Words such as "legend" were used, more than once. At the time, it seemed a bit over the top. But then the man himself sat down at his keyboard and spent the next two and a half hours reminding us of his legacy as one of the giants of popular music.

Blast of pure emotion: Stevie Wonder, a man who makes love, peace, harmony and justice seem possible

Stevie Wonder - Daily Telegraph - A Time To LoveLet's just look at the first five songs in this show, in front of an invited audience, but recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 2 next month: Love's in Need of Love Today, Master Blaster (Jammin'), Higher Ground, Living for the City, Golden Lady. Who else but Stevie Wonder could reel off such a superlative sequence of songs at the beginning of a concert, and carry on in a similar vein almost without let-up for an entire evening?

As well as being a celebration of Wonder's songwriting genius, the show was a cynicism-stripping experience, a blast of pure emotion from a man who sings about love, peace, harmony and justice, and, in his presence, you begin to believe that these things are possible. Hardened journalists could be seen swaying and singing along to I Just Called to Say I Love You; he's irresistible, because he really means it. And when he wiped away a tear while talking about the death from cancer of his ex-wife Syreeta Wright, there was no question but that it was genuine.

If I were the complaining type, I might mention the fact that his band, though packed with brilliant musicians, were too heavy on the percussion, especially during You Are the Sunshine of My Life. Also, and this is surprising given the venue, the sound was a bit clattery and unfocused. And when the Radio 2 people come to edit the show, they would be advised to excise the sycophantic witterings of Motown president Sylvia Rhone, invited up on stage to pay tribute to Wonder.

They might also be tempted to cut out a new song he performed called Positivity (from his recent album A Time to Love), featuring his daughter Aisha Morris on vocals (she's the giggling child at the beginning of 1976's Isn't She Lovely). Morris's mic was giving horrendous feedback and Wonder fluffed his lines, but the BBC should keep the song, because it epitomises his relentlessly upbeat approach.

The show finished with an epic version of As, one of the greatest, most unconditional love songs ever written. Inexhaustible, Wonder was still pushing his band on and on. Gambaccini was right: the man is a legend.