Stevie Wonder, Fulfillingness’ First Finale

Michelangelo Matos

By Michelangelo Matos

Contributor
on 11.16.10 in Reviews

Fullfillingness' First Finale was released in July 1974. The previous August, three days after Innervisions' release, the car Stevie was asleep and riding shotgun in rear-ended a truck, its bed going through the car's windshield, leaving the singer in a coma for four days and impairing his sense of smell. He was lucky to be alive, and while much of the music of the four albums Wonder issued between 1972 and 1974 were prepared during marathon sessions with synth programmers Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff, there was a marked turn inward on FFF from the widescreen social and political agenda of Innervisions.

The sex album

The mood on FFF is largely light, though it has its moments, particularly "They Won't Go When I Go" (which grew a lot more ponderous when George Michael put it on 1990's Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1). Wonder once referred to FFF in an interview as "the sex album." Certainly that's what "Boogie on Reggae Woman," one of the album's two huge highlights and hit singles, is all about — it doesn't concern itself with Jamaican music at all. The lyrics are entirely about what Stevie would like to do with the woman — boogieing on in every way possible: "I'd like to see you in the raw under the stars above" — and the music dances around the beat rather than metronomically (and hypnotically), crushing the downbeat and tickling the up. "You Haven't Done Nothin'," a swipe at Nixon, opens with theme-music synth entrails before the beat swamps in and claims the track. The Jackson 5 sing background, mostly as an excuse for Stevie to drop their names. Cute.

From a much later vantage, it's clear that the track here with the longest-lasting value has been the ballad "Creepin'," which is basically Stevie on all instruments with a backing-vocal assist from Minnie Riperton. The Moogs undulate smoothly; the track was among those that necessitated the formation of what became Quiet Storm radio, and as Stevie's most quietly masterful slow jam it's grown in iconicity thanks to Luther Vandross's version of it on 1985's The Night I Fell in Love. No wonder this is the sex album.