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20. Me For You, You For Me

Stevie WonderIn 1991, Stevie was again distracted from his proposed studio project when he was approached by Spike Lee to compose music for is forthcoming film Jungle Fever. Stevie worked day and night to make the deadline for June release. The album based on the theme of interracial love and substance abuse starred Wesley Snipes and Samuel L Jackson.

It seemed only natural that two great artists like Spike Lee and Stevie Wonder would work someday together. The result is a great album from Stevie. After Characters from four years earlier, this album seemed reinvigorated and the music is top notch. Fun Day lives up to its name as the song has a bouncy, airy, carefree feeling to it and it floats along like a nice summer day. Queen Of Black and Each Other's Throat are funky workouts that have some great keyboard action. These Three Words has become a grass roots classic extolling the virtues of expressing your love for others, instead of keeping it locked up. Gotta Have You the first single is a fiery song with Stevie's vocals in great shape. The most original song of the bunch is probably Make Sure You're Sure, a slow jazzy piece which has Stevie backed up with a small piece jazz combo. The performance is so natural you would think it would have led him to doing a jazz album by now.
Stevie Wonder
The Jungle Fever track explores some world beats thereby achieving with music what he is saying with the lyrics - there can be harmony among peoples of different races. I Go Sailing has a similar theme to Birds of Beauty, exploring the mind, turning within to achieve peace. Chemical Love, Stevie's pronouncements of the ills of drugs while bringing in a hint of spirituality with a pulsating synthesized guitar rhythm. The final track was Lighting Up The Candles, a song performed seven years earlier at Marvin Gaye's funeral finally made an album slot. Jungle Fever showed that Stevie had maintained his relevance over the years.

In his usual generous manner, he worked with Diana Ross on her upcoming album. Writing and producing the song, The Force Behind The Power and producing his 1972 ballad, Blame It On The Sun for her. The new Stevie song was so important to her that she re-titled the album from its original Change Of Heart. TheForce Behind The Power returned Diana back to the number one position.

By the time 1995 came around, Stevie announced the release of Conversation Peace now re-titled from Conversation Piece. It generated enormous anticipation and expectation both from fans and the music industry. The final product was a strong and solid album-by any standard. I'm New is tremendous, Taboo To Love as well, For Your Love should have been a top 10, Rain Your Love Down is Classic Stevie, Take The Time Out is very good, and Cold Chill is high quality. The message in the songs are undeniable and Conversation Peace ranks right up there with some of his best:
Stevie Wonder
All for one, one for all
There's no way we'll reach our greatest heights
Unless we heed the call
Me for you, you for me
There's no chance of world salvation
'Less the conversation's peace

Stevie shows off his best on Sensuous Whisper, a jazzy number featuring Anita Baker and Edge of Eternity a good up-tempo track on par with hi work in the 80's. My Love Is With You is a musical drama, definitely effective at telling it's story about gang wars and gun crime. Sorry is a heartfelt but somewhat weaker track with Robert Margoulef doing the engineering. So all in all, an excellent album from Stevie, incorporating many elements of the then hip hop craze but not falling prey to its excesses.

Hot on the heals of Conversation Peace, Motown released a live album of Stevie performing during his recent Natural Wonder tour. Out in time for Christmas 1995 Natural Wonder was Stevie's first live album since Live and Live at The Talk Of The Town in1970. The concert shows were recorded in Japan and Israel using an orchestra conducted by Dr. Henry Panion III. The quality of the recording is excellent, and shines a new light of Stevie's gems. It aptly shows off his amazing voice, great instrumentation and supreme song writing. The album contains all the big hits including great versions of Living For The City, Superstition, Higher Ground, My Cherie Amour, I Wish, and Master Blaster (Jammin'). He also serves up lesser known songs like Pastime Paradise, Village Ghetto Land, Another Star, Stay Gold (Theme from The Outsiders) and Overjoyed. He does a nice tribute to the late Stevie Ray Vaughan in Stevie Ray Blues and a couple new songs, Dancing to The Rhythm and Ms. & Mr. Little Ones.

Though he was then 45, he belts out the classics with the same gusto and vocal clarity as he demonstrated in the seventies.