Looking Back (Stevie Wonder album)

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Looking Back
Compilation album by Stevie Wonder
Released November 30, 1977
Recorded 1962–71
Genre Soul,[1] rhythm and blues, MOR[2]
Length 103:57
Label Motown
Producer Clarence Paul, William Stevenson, Henry Cosby, Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder chronology
Songs in the Key of Life
(1976)
Looking Back
(1977)
Journey through the Secret Life of Plants
(1979)

Looking Back, also known as Anthology, is a triple LP anthology by American soul musician Stevie Wonder, released in 1977 on Motown Records.[3] Since its release in 12-inch triple LP format, it has not been reissued and is considered a limited edition.[4] The album chronicles 40 songs from Wonder's first Motown period, which precedes the classic period of his critically acclaimed albums.

Overview[edit]

Between 1963 and the end of 1971, Wonder placed over 25 songs on Billboard Hot 100.[5] Twenty-four of those — including such radio staples as "Fingertips, Pt. 2", "Uptight (Everything's Alright)", "I Was Made to Love Her", "For Once in My Life", "My Cherie Amour", and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" — appear on Looking Back. Wonder's recordings in the '60s stand apart from most Motown acts partially because he was paired with producers and writers who very rarely worked with the Temptations, Supremes, etc. In his early years, Wonder was often produced by Clarence Paul and/or William Stevenson and, during the golden years, by Henry Cosby. Then in 1970, Wonder started producing himself, beginning with Signed, Sealed & Delivered. Most of his singles were written by Wonder himself in tandem with a variety of others, or by Ron Miller. The hits alternated between stomping barn-burners and mid-tempo, understated ballads.

Before the long-awaited Wonder box set, At the Close of a Century, was issued, this triple-album set was the ultimate Wonder collection. It contains every major hit and many other vital singles from 1962–1971, showing his evolution from Ray Charles' disciple to assembly-line hitmaker to individualistic artist. Unlike its other anthologies, which have been carved down from three-volume vinyl LPs to double-disc sets, Motown simply deleted this one altogether, although vigilant collectors may be able to obtain it through used record stores. It wouldn't be until 1999's At the Close of a Century that another Stevie Wonder anthology would be released.

This compilation marks the first release of Stevie Wonder's 1967 original recording of "Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)," which was a 1973 hit for Aretha Franklin.

Critical reception[edit]

In a contemporary review, Russell Gersten of The Village Voice wrote that, although it suffers from some poorly chosen material and omissions, the album is ultimately an "essential record" that "requires a bit more imagination and knowledge to appreciate than most anthologies, but the raw ingredients are there. Wonder worked in an era of excesses, and his fight to find meaning is—in its own modest way—uplifting."[2] The newspaper's Robert Christgau shared a similar sentiment and said that Looking Back is at the same time "flawed, long overdue, and essential."[6] He included it in his 1980 list of singles and albums recommended for "a basic record library".[7]

In a retrospective review for Allmusic, writer Rob Bowman gave Looking Back five stars and said that Wonder's songs from the 1960s were unique from most other Motown artists because he had a hand in writing them and his producers rarely collaborated with acts such as the Temptations or the Supremes.[8] J. D. Considine, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992), gave the album four-and-a-half out of five stars and felt that it is a significantly better compilation than Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1971) because of how it highlights both his studio albums up to that point and several non-LP singles.[9]

Track listing[edit]

Personnel[edit]

  • Stevie Wonder - vocals, piano, harmonica, keyboards

Production[edit]

Producer Side one Side two Side three Side four Side five Side six
Henry Cosby 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 1, 2, 6, 7 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 1, 2, 4, 6
Clarence Paul 1, 4 3, 4, 6 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Stevie Wonder 2 3, 7 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
William Stevenson 1 1, 2
Hal Davis 5, 6
Berry Gordy 3, 7
Ron Miller 1
Holland–Dozier 2
Johnny Bristol 5

Charts[edit]

Title Information
Looking Back
"Castles in the Sand"
"Nothing's Too Good for My Baby"
  • US Pop Singles #20
  • US Black Singles #4

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shuker, Roy (2012). Understanding Popular Music Culture (4th ed.). Routledge. p. 257. ISBN 1136206485. 
  2. ^ a b Gersten, Russell (February 6, 1978). "Looking Back to When Stevie Was Little". The Village Voice (New York). p. 49. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  3. ^ Album page at Wonder's website
  4. ^ Vinyl Records Collector's Guide: Looking Back description
  5. ^ "Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert (December 26, 1977). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  7. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). Rock Albums of the '70s: A Critical Guide (reprint ed.). Da Capo Press. p. 456. ISBN 0306804093. 
  8. ^ Bowman, Rob. "Looking Back - Stevie Wonder". Allmusic. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  9. ^ Considine, J. D. et al. (1992). DeCurtis, Anthony; Henke, James; George-Warren, Holly, eds. The Rolling Stone Album Guide (3rd ed.). Random House. pp. 784–5. ISBN 0679737294. 

External links[edit]