Each week “The Cutout Bin” features unjustly overlooked albums. In my opinion, they don’t come more unfairly ignored than Stevie Wonder’s most recent release, A Time to Love. More than a decade in the making, the CD shows that Wonder has much to say and can still create gorgeous music. However, the album received little airplay back in 2006, and during his promotional tour for the album, interviewers simply wanted to discuss the “old days” instead of focusing on his continuing creativity. Therefore the masses were largely deprived of listening to this worthy album.
Wonder’s last release, Conversation Peace, disappointed fans and critics with its heavy-handed hip-hop beats and slight lyrics. Wisely, he took ample time to create an album more in line with his best work, filled with spiritually and romantically uplifting lyrics, land soul. Does A Time to Love equal his 70s masterpieces? No, but the album exemplifies how Wonder follows his own muse and does not need to bow to current trends.
Throughout the album, it is evident that Wonder kept the Iraq war and current politics on the brain. On the first track, “If Your Love Cannot Be Moved,” he duets with gospel superstar Kim Burrell. With lyrics such as “You can’t shout out peace and then vanish in the crowd” and “You can’t ride the storm without some effect/You can’t steal the spoil and not pay the debt,” Wonder warns of acting without considering the consequences, of not standing up for your rights. A thunderous beat with a chorus singing in the background adds to the gravity of the song.
Fans of Songs in the Key of Life will love the second track, “Sweetest Somebody I Know,” which echoes classic tracks like “Ngiculela-Es Una Historia-I Am Singing.” In addition, Wonder treats us to a harmonica solo; he plays the instrument frequently on this album, which is a welcome return to form. “From the Bottom of My Heart,” a light pop song, also features the harmonica prominently.