The title of Stevie Wonder's 20th CENTURY MASTERS installation, THE BEST OF STEVIE WONDER, is something of a misnomer in that it only includes work from 1963 to 1971, the years he was still recording under strict Motown supervision. Yet the monumental importance of '70s albums like INNERVISIONS and SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE can tend to overshadow Stevie's accomplishments of the '60s, and THE BEST OF serves to remind listeners that his early music was just as exuberant, well-crafted, and overflowing with talent.
Nearly every track here rocketed to the top of the R&B and pop charts, including the live recording of "Fingertips Pt. 2" and the propulsive "Uptight (Everything's Alright)." All the staples of Wonder's aesthetic are here: minor-key funk ("Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day"), tender love songs ("My Cherie Amour"), and hard-grooving soul ("I Was Made to Love Her"). In the early '70s, Stevie began writing and producing his own singles (like the impeccably crafted "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours"), paving the way for his artistic apotheosis later in the decade. As a historical document then, and--more importantly--as a superb collection of top-drawer '60s/early-'70s soul, THE BEST OF is a winner from start to finish.