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A Time To Love

Stevie Wonder

A Time To Love
  1. If Your Love Cannot Be Moved
  2. Sweetest Somebody I Know
  3. Moon Blue
  4. From The Bottom Of My Heart
  5. Please Don't Hurt My Baby
  6. How Will I Know
  7. My Love Is On Fire
  8. Passionate Raindrops
  9. Tell Your Heart I Love You
  10. True Love
  11. Shelter In The Rain
  12. So What The Fuss
  13. Can't Imagine Love Without You
  14. Positivity
  15. A Time To Love

A Time to Love is Stevie Wonder's first studio album since 1995's Conversation Peace, though for much of this year it seemed as if the wait might be even longer.

Planned release dates came and went, and still Wonder tweaked and fiddled with the final product, leading some to believe the album would never actually come out. Always a perfectionist, Wonder told Billboard the delays were "just a matter of getting it right."

And, for the most part, A Time to Love, currently available on Apple's iTunes and slated to be released in stores Oct. 18, gets it right. At 55, Wonder's distinctive voice is in fine shape, and it's great to hear him after having to endure such wan imitators as Justin Timberlake and Usher.

If nothing else, Wonder gets props for resisting the now-typical tack of veteran artists these days — namely, loading up their albums with younger, radio-friendly artists. Certainly, that was a winning formula on Carlos Santana's Supernatural and Luther Vandross's final studio album Dance With My Father. Still, whatever those albums' achievements, one could never escape the fact that such demographic-driven duets diluted the final product in yet another cynical triumph of marketing over music.

Of the 15 tracks here, there are only three duets — gospel singer Kim Burrell on the opening track, If Your Love Cannot Be Moved, India.Arie on the nine-minute title song, and Aisha Morris,Wonder's daughter (and the inspiration for his classic Isn't She Lovely) on the ballad How Will I Know.

If Your Love Cannot Be Moved is one of Wonder's best songs in the past two decades. Opening with a human beat box that blends into traditional percussion, it's a vital, dramatic tune with an urgent string accompaniment threading between Wonder and Burrell's well-matched vocals.

The mood quickly shifts with the midtempo Sweetest Somebody I Know, which sounds like a more lanquid version of Bird of Beauty from 1974's Fulfillingness' First Finale. Still, even at 4 1/2 minutes, the song feels long. For several songs, Wonder settles into an adult-contemporary lull with Moon Blue and From the Bottom of My Heart, but picks up the pace with the funky Please Don't Hurt My Baby, and it's a welcome change. The album bounces easily between delicate ballads like How Will I Know (not a cover of the Whitney Houston song) and the predictably upbeat Positivity, which manages to be sunny without becoming cheesy.

Comparable to 1985's In Square Circle, A Time for Love is an enjoyable album that should be judged on its own merits. No, it doesn't compare with Wonder's 1970s masterpieces such as Innervisions, Talking Book and Songs in the Key of Life. Then again, little else produced by anyone in the last three decades does.

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