The Definitive Collection [Universal]

by: Stevie Wonder

Few musicians who rose to the top of the pop charts as children matured musically and personally with the grace and accomplishment of Stevie Wonder, and fewer still managed to enjoy a degree of popular and critical success that matched Wonder's in the '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. Narrowing Wonder's massive catalog down to 39 songs is no easy task, but The Definitive Collection does as good as a job as one could hope for; this two-disc set includes practically all of Wonder's biggest hits and signature songs, from 1963's "Fingertips" to 1995's "For Your Love," as well as featuring a number of fan favorites and deep cuts. While the set hasn't been sequenced chronologically, this actually works in its favor, pointing to the stylistic diversity of Wonder's body of work as well as the consistent strength of his songwriting and his restless, imaginative style as a producer and arranger. Between the sheer bulk of Wonder's catalog and his status as one of the most honored pop musicians of his time (essentially everything he recorded in the 1970s is essential, as is most of his catalog from the 1980s), you can hardly call a two-disc set a "definitive collection," but as a (relatively) brief overview of his best-known work and a way into his catalog, The Definitive Collection does an excellent job of reminding us why Stevie Wonder meant so much to so many people, and continues to matter more than half a century after his first hit. ~ Mark Deming

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