July 05, 1982 12:00 PM

Stevie Wonder

Fish gotta swim, Stevie’s gotta dazzle. This is something of a sampler of the amazing songs Wonder has made since he issued his seminal Music of My Mind (1972). It is also a declaration of independence from Motown’s style, if not from its star stable. This collection just reinforces that Steveland Judkins Morris aptly chose the title of his first album, The 12-Year-Old Genius. Though now 32, he has kept his preteen sense of fun (just listen to 1974’s Boogie On, Reggae Woman), the willingness to ponder the meaning of life (1973’s Higher Ground) or erupt with anger (1974’s You Haven’t Done Nothin’). A bonus of this retrospective is a group of songs that don’t appear on any other LP. That Girl (already a hit), Do I Do and Ribbon in the Sky are essentially love songs. Front Line captures the anger, frustration and plight of the Viet vets: “But now I stand at the back of the line when it comes to gettin’ ahead…” What this album doesn’t show is that Stevie has transcended mere stardom; people will talk about Stevie in the future the way they do about Sinatra, the Duke, Ella or Gershwin. He gave Paul McCartney a lift on his Tug of War, he co-wrote and produced two songs (including Try Jah Love) for the Jamaican band Third World. What is most impressive about this LP is its demonstration that Stevie’s work soars above both genre and fashion.

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