A certain degree of trepidation comes into play when approaching a new album from a legend who has arguably had more than a handful of dodgy musical moments over the years. I’m of the age where my first encounter with Stevie Wonder was the atrocious I Just Called To Say I Love You. It was a good 15 years later when someone kindly set the record straight by forcibly making me listen to the masterpiece that is Innervisions. But the memories of that song still haunt me to this day…
Thankfully, although not a classic, A Time To Love is far from an arduous experience. So far, reaction to this album has been lukewarm but let’s face it – we’re never going to get another Songs In The Key of Life. The 15 songs here are firmly of the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” variety and they do their job well.
The album opens with If your Love Cannot Be Moved, a tribal/gospel affair featuring Kim Burrell. It sets the agenda for the albums themes: the usual Wonder mix of love, life, family, saving the world etc. It’s a good song and sounded completely different from what I was expecting.
There are plenty of love songs on this album but most of them, like Sweetest Somebody I Know, are laid-back, staying the right side of cheesy by recalling Stevie crica Songs In The Key… The third track Moon Blue is a late night piece of jazz soul and showcases just how talented Wonder is.
The first single So What The Fuss is the definite funky highpoint of the album with its guitars courtesy of Prince and its infectious tune. Please Don’t Hurt My Baby is also a good funk tune recalling the artist’s heyday.
At over an hour and a quarter this CD is crammed to bursting but it feels flabby in the middle. How Will I Know and True Love feel like a lifeless lounge act and are not my cup of tea at all. Wonder has not given us a new album in a decade and seems to cram in as much as possible in order to make up for the deficit. By jettisoning some of the weaker tracks the album might have been a more focused affair. Out of the 15 tracks here five could easily vanish without harming the album at all.
The rest of the disc though is a harmless pleasure. Far from embarrassing himself Wonder has delivered an album that ticks most of the boxes, still proving he can give the current R&B mob a run for their money. It is a perfectly adequate listen from an artist who is doing exactly what’s expected of him. Although it teeters on the brink of cheese and clich� this certainly won’t do his reputation any harm. Yet for those of my generation still waiting to be converted, go out and buy Innervisions instead.