Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life

It's a rare double album that doesn't overstay its welcome. It's a rarer double album that sets itself high goals for musicship and message, and actually hits them. There's real sophistication here, real harmonies you can feel, thick layered instrumentation you could get lost in. Songs like "Black Man" point out much we've all given to society, "Saturn" (from the original companion EP and now a well-deserved part of current CD issues) gives us the wisdom of learning from our mistakes and "Love's In Need Of Love Today" reminds us that conquering prejudice isn't a single point in time. (And don't we all, atheists and preachers alike, need to "Have A Talk With God"?) Combined with zippy songs like "Sir Duke" and "I Wish" (and the best title on the album, "All Day Sucker"), and sweet ones like "As" and "Isn't She Lovely," it deftly avoids that other curse of double albums, collapsing under the weight of their sheer pretentiousness. A product of its time yet ineffably timeless, this album is Stevie's finest. Current CD releases include everything from the companion EP, which, unlike many such tack-ons, has songs fully coherent with and just as sublime as those on the main album. (Content: mild adult themes in "I Wish.")