Anyone who knows the legacy of one of the most influential musicians of our time, the one and only Stevie Wonder, knows that the simple idea of recreating his irreplaceable work is considered blasphemy of the highest degree. But once the name “Madlib” is attached many will breath a little easier, but not much. The innovative, yet quirky, sounds of Madlib have raided the ears of many over the past decade. The combination of his knack for old school funk with his natural allure of keyboards and synthesizers has made him a force to be reckoned with. He has already tackled the Blue Note catalog with critical acclaim (Shades of Blue) and has also had some success with his own concoction, Yesterday’s New Quintet (the same guise this album is recorded under). So at this point in his career why not create an album of instrumental covers of some of Stevie’s greatest works? Why not? Because it’s Stevie Wonder, dammit! But Madlib’s reinterpretation actually does more good than harm to the beaded one’s work with Yesterday’s New Quintet’s offering Stevie.
One can attest that instrumentals may suck the soul out of songs like “Rocket Love” or “That Girl”. One can also attest that Madlib…ahem…Joe Mcduphrey key playing just doesn’t cut the mustard. But after multiple listens, the concept of what Madlib is attempting to accomplish begins to take form. The rawness of “Superstition” somehow manages to capture the essence of Stevie Wonder’s past work of art. It’s not to be taken as a recreation of his work, but more as a payment of homage courtesy of hip-hop’s prince of production. Songs such as “You’ve Got It Bad Girl” may not send purists into a state of shock, but the listener has got to admit that inhaling the essence may be the next best thing. Tapping into the elusive aura of an artist is not an easy feat but YNQ does create an atmosphere in which even the die-hard purist has to nod his head in approval for the attempt. “Send One Your Love” is so raw at first glance it doesn’t seem to do Stevie justice. As the sounds travel back and forth between your speakers, it becomes a quite reflective work. This becomes the case for the whole thirty-eight minutes of this experiment. At first it just doesn’t sound quite right, but just as that thought crosses your mind, it dawns on you, this does work.
Say what you want about Madlib’s ability to play the Honhner Clavinet (the percussion keyboard on
“Superstition”), but at the end of the day nobody could have even thought of pulling this off. Stevie may
not be a flawless piece of work but it does maintain the spirit of a genius. Yeah…it’s not Stevie Wonder, but is it supposed to be? Could you possibly imagine Stevie climbing into your speakers to give you exactly what you want from him? At this time it would be impossible for even Stevie to give you those masterpieces in its paramount. So the next best thing is Madlib, and at this point who else could do it better? So kick up those heavy feet, relax, and soak up all that Yesterday’s New Quintet has to offer.?
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