It’s been 10 years since Stevie Wonder dropped Conversation Peace, his last studio album. This new disc is therefore a very welcome release indeed (the album is available as a download...on Rhapsody, iTunes, etc.... now with the CD due out in stores on October 18th.)
A Time to Love is, as a matter of course, very upbeat and very tuneful…that is to say classic Stevie. Wonder does things his way…no songs featuring rappers, no samples…and we would expect no less from him.
The album leads off with “If Your Love Cannot Be Moved”, a soulful strut of a duet with gospel singer Kim Burrell, and as the title implies the rest of the 15 tracks all have to do with love (Stevie’s favorite subject.)
The first 10 tracks all deal with romantic love…including the lovely ballads “Moon Blue” (with a lovely piano solo harkening back to “Ribbon in the Sky”) and “Passionate Raindrops”, “From the Bottom of my Heart” (another sweet love ballad featuring some fine harmonica work by Wonder and a rousing chorus), the funky “Please Don’t Hurt My Baby” (a song about a remorseful cheating lover who’s trying to protect his loved one from finding out the true which features witty banter between two groups of background singers…one male and one female), and the slow burning groove of “Tell Your Heart I Love You”.
There’s a slight shift in tone with the inspirational “Shelter from the Rain”, a track that’s been dedicated to the Hurricane victims (with fees from its download going to charity.)
The thickest slab of funk comes here from “So What the Fuss?” featuring background vocal by En Vogue and some guitar work by Prince.
The album finishes with three classic Wonder appeals for peace love: the lilting “Can’t Imagine Love Without You”, followed by “Positivity”, the sprightly paean to looking at the glass as being half full, and closing with the stately title song, a duet with India Arie featuring Paul McCartney on guitars.
Is this a classic album? Probably not. But who cares? It’s soothing, satisfying, joyful musical journey by an artist who’s been delivering the goods for decades…old school soul that defiantly refuses not to sound like just some sad exercise in nostalgia. That’s good enough for me.