Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life [Tamla, 1976]
It's no accident that the rich, hortatory one-man music of "Love's in Need of Love Today" is counterposed against the more intimately devotional one-man music of "Have a Talk With God," or that when the theme turns sociopolitical in "Village Ghetto Land" Stevie's synthesizer turns from African sounds to an ironic (though elegant) string-quartet minuet--the calm detachment of which is rudely interrupted by a jazz-funk tribute from Stevie's Wonderlove band, which then moves into the danceable black-music tribute "Sir Duke." And in themselves the words are much funnier and trickier than the sociospiritual bullshit or Maruice White or Kenny Gamble; as validated by the wit, pace, and variety of the music, they come close to redeeming the whole genre. A