Next month will see the latest anniversary of Stevie Wonder’s breakthrough album of the 1970s, Talking Book, which was first issued October 27, 1972, on the Tamla label. During the intervening years, the 10-track LP has appeared in various formats – including 8-track cartridge, cassette and compact disc – but continues to be available today on vinyl, as it was when first released.
Fueled by “Superstition,” the album’s first single, Talking Book rose to the Top 3 of the Billboard album charts early in 1973 – Wonder’s highest chart position since his Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius reached the summit ten years earlier. The second single, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” also made No. 1.
Talking Book was Stevie’s second studio album of 1972, following Music Of My Mind, issued seven months earlier. After turning 21 on May 13, 1971, he signed a new contract with Motown, which gave him unprecedented creative control over his music. Stevie recorded and self-produced both albums (and subsequent ones) away from the company’s Detroit studios where he had made his many hits of the ’60s.
Stevie played most of the instruments on Talking Book, although he recruited a handful of other musicians for some tracks. These included sax players David Sanborn and Trevor Lawrence, and guitarists Ray Parker Jr. (then a mere 18 years old) and Jeff Beck. Backing vocalists included Deniece Williams and Jim Gilstrap.