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Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life (Motown, 1976)

Barney Hoskyns, Uncut, 2004

BERRY GORDY’S former boy genius already had a string of single-album masterpieces under his belt when he put his signature on summer ‘76 with this smorgasbord of soulful pop, ghetto funk and luscious black MOR. Sly meets Mozart meets Ellington meets Bacharach as Songs ranges over not just four rollercoaster sides but a bonus EP to boot. From ebullient pop-funk ("I Wish") and chamber-soul lamentation (the Coolio-sampled "Pastime Paradise") to a righteous litany of minority American heroes ("Black Man"): few were the musical forms Wonder didn’t completely master in the ‘70s.

Total word count of piece: 92