Album: Music of My Mind
. . .
If there is any kind of thing as the “great lost Stevie Wonder album,” it would probably be Music of My Mind, the first of his two 1972 albums. Music of My Mind was also the first album where Stevie Wonder played nearly all of the instruments, as well as the first album where he focused on using synthesizers, having been turned onto them by the Tonto’s Expanding Head Band album, Zero Time.
And so, because he was Stevie Wonder, he invited the two guys from that band, Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff, to come into the studio with him and help produce his next album, and bring their synth, TONTO — which stood for “The Original New Timbral Orchestra” — because he had some music in his mind that he thought TONTO would help bring out.
Which it did: it’s instantly apparent in the opening track of Music of My Mind, “Love Having You Around,” in which Stevie Wonder the super-funky drummer and Stevie Wonder bassist are backing Stevie Wonder, electronic music pioneer, and Stevie Wonder, vocalists extraordinaire, making the whole thing a gorgeous gurggling stew of symphonic sound, over which Stevie sang some surrealistic sentiments.
Every day I want to fly my kite
Every day I want to fly my kite
And every day I want to get on my camel and ride, ooh yeah
Every day I want to shake your hand (Yeah, yeah, yeah)
For in the world making me a better man
And every day I want to get on my camel and ride
(On my camel, ride on my camel) Ooh baby
There’s a shitton of instruments flying through “Love Having You Around,” but my favorite part just might be the talkbox, which Stevie got to before either Joe Walsh or Peter Frampton, but Stevie is just using it to do counterpoint vocals, not be the focus of the entire song. Its never not totally and utterly playful, and given that Stevie has approximately 6,455 vocal overdubs on the chorus, why shouldn’t one of them be Talkbox Stevie Wonder?
And when the day is through
Nothin’ to do, I sit around groovin’ with you
And I say it ’cause I love having you around
And I say it ’cause I love having you around, Yeah
What I love most about “Love Having You Around” is the strange playfulness of it: the way the vocals dart in and out; the way the arrangement breaks down here and there, the fact that there’s a trombone solo at the end — one of two parts on the entire album Stevie didn’t play himself — and the fact that it’s nearly all too much without ever crossing over into the line of being all too much. Unless it is.
That said, one of the reasons I think Music of My Mind is kind of a lost album is that it had no hit singles to speak of. There were two singles released, “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” and Keep on Running,” and both were bombs, with the former making only to #33 on the pop charts and the latter dying at #90.
How much of an anomaly was this? Starting with Up-Tight in 1965 and ending with In Square Circle in 1986, Music of My Mind was the only Stevie Wonder album not to produce a top ten single. (I guess you could count the all-instrumental Eivets Rednow, but I don’t.). That’s 16 albums in twenty years. All but Music of My Mind featuring a massive single.
That said, while there weren’t any singles on the album, the experimentation did find some kind of an audience, as Music of My Mind was his highest-charting album in a decade, making it to #21 on the Billboard 200. And while his next four albums get even more experimental, he never failed to include at least one surefire hit single, kind of paralleling Van Morrison, whom after Astral Weeks failed to chart, made sure his next four albums — even the gloriously languid St. Dominic’s Preview — had at least one radio-ready banger.
“Loving Having You Around”
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