Stevie Wonder - Fulfillingness First Finale
Label: Tamla Motown
Country: US issue
Format: Vinyl, LP
Vinyl: VG+, a few light scuff marks
Cover is near mint (see photo)
1. Smile Please
2. Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away
3. Too Shy to Say
4. Boogie On Reggae Woman
6. You Haven't Done Nothin'
7. It Ain't No Use
8. They Won't Go When I Go
9. Bird of Beauty
10. Please Don't Go
This album manages to sound slightly different from it's predecessor and yet still remain great... the music is great on the entire album.. the music is awesome.... "Ain't No Use" is the best Wonder you're going to hear.. it's got a classic beat and a great build up and a great climax... you know it's Stevie Wonder... and "Please Don't Go" is in my mind, a better conclusion then "He's Mister Know-It-All"..
All in all, this is outstanding material!!!
In the period of time from 1971-1976, Stevie Wonder could do no wrong. His output during this stretch is truly unassailable, and it isn't likely that any artist of any genre will ever have such a prolific period again. That is probably the reason that Fulfillingness' First Finale, released in the middle of this time frame, doesn't consistently receive the praise that is routinely heaped upon Stevie's other albums from this era. Nevertheless, Wonder's "forgotten child" is a masterful achievement that ranks right up there with the other three classics he recorded at that time.
On FFF, Wonder compiles an eclectic group of songs touching on various topics, but manages to tie them together with a commonality that isn't matched on his previous effort, Innervisions, or his next, Songs in the Key of Life. The most recognizable track to most listeners is the funk/reggae hybrid "Boogie On Reggae Woman" which Stevie whips into a soulful stew with great interplay between the piano, synthesizers and harmonica (all played by Wonder, of course). Then there's the scathing social commentary, "You Haven't Done Nothin'". The best way to describe this track is ludicrously funky. The ambiguously trippy anti-drug song, "Bird of Beauty", is one of the most bizarre tracks in the Stevie Wonder canon, and it is juxtaposed next to one of his most straightforward and plaintive soul numbers, "Please Don't Go".
So, how does he make these seemingly disparate tracks fit together as a cohesive album? It's hard to say, exactly, but it works. Musically, many of the tracks have an ethereal, dreamy quality. Wonder makes use of more backing vocals than usual, adding another texture to several songs, and the harmonica playing is some of his best ever. The most evident thread throughout the album, though, is Stevie's honesty. This may be his most candid album. Obviously, he's candid on all of his recordings, but he has never worn his heart so plainly on his sleeve. The pair of spiritual songs are vastly different in sound, but equally bold and truthful in subject. "Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away" attacks (or rather, counter-attacks) critics of Christianity with the same verve that "You Haven't Done Nothin'" calls out the government. "They Won't Go When I Go" is a sad, brutally honest, piano-driven track about the fate of non-believers who are close to him. It's a real issue any faithful person deals with, even though no one likes to talk about it. The frank break-up song "It Ain't No Use" is a fantastic kiss-off, and "Too Shy to Say" is the most gut-wrenching unrequited love song since Van Morrison's "Cyprus Avenue". The album is rounded out with the lush opener "Smile Please" and the delirious "Creepin'". Somehow it all comes together to form a forceful artistic statement that has rarely been matched.
Fullfillingness' First Finale is easily the least accessible of Stevie's classic records. Even the title is unwieldy. It is a mature album, and Wonder's stark delivery doesn't really invite the listener in, nor does the lack of pop hooks. Once you do give it a listen (and a few more), however, the layers begin to peel away and you start to uncover a beautiful work of art. If FFF had been released by another artist, we would laud it as a supreme, career-defining statement. It seems for Stevie Wonder, in the 70s, that was simply par for the course.