Tribute to Stevie Wonder
In bringing together musicians from three continents for the common cause of paying tribute to soulful music maestro Stevie Wonder, US Jazz guitarist and producer Vernon Neilly has certainly gone farther, both geographically and stylistically in the compilation of this album, than most. Featuring Vernon’s own sweet guitar licks and understated verve, fret-wizard Kiko Loureiro and Greg Howe (whose six-string services have in the past been utilized by Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake, among others) and a cast of other eminent artists, it would be near impossible to criticize this album for lacking ambition or variety... And as many other projects have found, this approach often brings both great dividends and niggling inconsistencies.
With a track-listing that features many of Stevie Wonder’s best loved tracks, ‘Superstition’, ‘Sir Duke’, ‘For Once in my life’ and so on, the ensemble certainly set themselves a high standard to match, for the most part hitting the mark. I’m far from a die-hard Stevie Wonder Fanatic, but to a relative layman, these renditions bring all the chilled out vibes, funky slap-bass and bright guitar work that one could hope for from a project of this kind, and many tracks put a fresh spin on well worn classics. Bill Hudson and Carlos Zema’s sweeping power metal adaption of ‘Superstition’ will bring a gleeful grin to the faces of many and a grimace to others, but as in all compilations, certain songs may appeal and other may not, and elsewhere Vernon Neilly’s ‘Boogie on Reggae Woman instrumental’ featuring Greg Howe, is a display of passionate guitar work at its most groovy.
Somewhat of an acquired taste, but likely to give open minded listeners a lesson in the less than subtle arts of foot-tapping and air-bass, ‘A Tribute To Stevie Wonder’ is simply a whole lot of fun to listen to... And in my view, that is always a good thing.
Rating out of 10