Talking Book established the adult Stevie Wonder as a star – the upbeat clavinet groove of ‘Superstition’ and the gentle ‘You Are The Sunshine Of My Life’ are two of his signature hits. It broke through to a white audience as well, reaching number three on the mainstream charts, after Wonder had increased his profile by opening for the Rolling Stones late in 1972. The success is understandable – it’s more approachable than Music Of My Mind, and there are more guest musicians to beef up the sound, notably Jeff Beck on the pretty ‘Lookin’ For Another Pure Love’.
My main quibble is with the lyrics; while they were never Wonder’s strength, they’re distracting here, especially the sentimental ‘You Are The Sunshine Of My Life’ and the didactic ‘Big Brother’. But it’s difficult to be too critical when Talking Book contains moments of transcendence like the beautiful ‘I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)’, as well as the unstoppable ‘Superstition’ and the beautiful ‘Blame It On The Sun’.
It’s too inconsistent to be Wonder’s best work, but Talking Book has some of his best individual moments of brilliance.