Conversation Peace is an album that is often overlooked in the vastness of the Stevie Wonder catalogue. Released March 21, 1995, it was his first new studio album in eight years at the time. It was a moderate commercial and chart success, receiving a Gold Record Award for sales. “For Your Love” was the best known song as it won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance.
It was an album of solid material. The lack of a few outstanding songs prevented the album from reaching the status of his classic releases. The material was also a return to a longer format as 10 of the 13 songs exceeded five minutes and five topped the six minute mark. The punchy and short single type track was replaced by music that returned him to the sprawling and improvisational feel of the past.
The music travels in a number of directions in terms of style and content. There is jazz, rhythm & blues, reggae, funk, and gospel. There are love songs, spiritual pieces, and lyrics that promote social awareness. There are pop ballads, funky rhythms, smooth strings, and some tasty mid-1990s electronic sounds. It may not have added up to a cohesive release, but the individual parts are very good in their own right.
The best track was “I’m New.” Just about every Stevie Wonder album contained at least one song that can be classified as beautiful. Good percussion and guitar lines propel the song along.
Many of the other tracks have something good going for them. “Sensuous Whisper” was nearly six minutes of smooth danceablity. “Cold Chill” is a long exploration of the funk style of music. Wonder had consistently been using outside guitarists for his past several albums and here, Ben Bridges shines with his riffing.
“Take The Time Out” found him preaching that love can heal anything. That may not have happened but it was the presentation of the one consistent theme of the lyrics. “The Edge Of Eternity” was another funky, R&B song that was built with the help of a horn section. “Tomorrow Robins Will Sing” was a fusion of reggae and electronics.
Conversation Peace remains a nice stop in the exploration of the music of Stevie Wonder. It may not be as essential as his classic 1970s releases but there is some cool music to be heard here.