Stevie Wonder Cuts It Close

Stevie Wonder | Musings

Stevie: Wonder If He'll Make Grammy Deadline?

Stevie Wonder's much anticipated, often postponed new album, called "A Time 2 Love," may actually be released in time to make the Grammy Awards deadline. That's Oct. 1, if you're interested.

Last night, I ran into Motown Records president Sylvia Rhone at Stevie's historic, memorable concert at the Apollo Theater. She confirmed it, sort of.

"9/27," she said of the album release date. "You heard Stevie say it."

Actually, from the stage of the Apollo, Stevie directly addressed Rhone and her boss, Doug Morris, head of Universal Music Group. (Motown fell into Universal's clutches years ago.)

Stevie told the audience, "I know! I know! But it's really coming out. They say they want it out for September 20th, I say the 27th."

I'm sure either date would be fine for Morris and Rhone, since "A Time 2 Love" was scheduled for released on June 17, 2004.

That's right. Stevie did an outdoor concert for "Good Morning America" and did an hour on "Oprah" to promote it. Then: no album.

Since then, two singles have been released to radio, including one featuring Prince. But the actual release date of the album, Stevie's first since the 1995 classic "Conversation Peace," has been elusive.

When I saw him backstage after the show last night, America's supreme music talent was wearing sunglasses with the "A Time 2 Love" logo in gold on the temples.

"A friend had a couple of pairs made up for me," Wonder said as he received accolades from friends after the show. "I think the album is coming out."

Rhone claims that "A Time 2 Love" has gone to "mastering," which means it's being readied for manufacture and release. We can only hope.

Meantime, Chris Rock and Paul Shaffer were among the celebrities who packed the Apollo for Stevie's second and last show at the famous Harlem theater in a week.

The occasion for both shows was to raise awareness for voters' rights and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6, 1965.

By coincidence, Stevie can count Aug. 6 as an important date in his life too.

On Aug. 6, 1973, he was in a terrible car crash. It left him in a coma for two weeks. Subsequently, he wrote the album "Innervisions," which featured a song about his experience called "Higher Ground." Both the album and song were enormous hits critically and financially.

Last night's show was dedicated to both events, but here's something interesting: At the start of the show, Stevie played clips from Paola DiFlorio's important documentary, "Home of the Brave," about the Voter Rights March from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., in March 1965.

Apparently, the film was shown on Court TV on Aug. 1. If only someone from that channel had told us, we would have told you. "Home of the Brave" is an important and mostly unseen film.

But back to Stevie. He showcased Chuck Jackson, the veteran R&B performer whose voice has never been richer or stronger. Jackson — his hits included "Any Day Now" and "I Keep Forgettin'" — was also a producer of both shows. Wonder also showed off a couple of other singers who spelled him during the three-hour show.

The evening, though, was Stevie's. Dressed in a black suit and orange t-shirt, he proved to be a witty and intelligent host of his own evening. He spoke off-the-cuff and never lost his way.

If you've ever seen him before, you know that Stevie is an excellent mimic and story-teller. He outdid himself last night. But when he settled down to perform his music, the evening took on a life of its own.

He ran through a panoply of his hits including "My Cherie Amour," "Uptight Alright," "I Wish," "Sir Duke," "Rocket Love," "Did I Hear You Say You Love Me?" "Master Blaster Jammin'," "As," "Too Shy to Say," "Superstition," "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," "Where Were You When I Needed You," "Send One Your Love," "Love's in Need of Love Today," "Do I Do," "Higher Ground," and his 1971 hit "If You Really Love Me."

The latter was so good that it pretty much catapulted the show into another orbit. It was transcendent.

Wonder also performed "Isn't She Lovely," singing it with the audience to his now-29-year-old daughter, Aisha, about whom the song was written.

Grown now and the mother of a 5-year-old, Aisha — a beautiful, poised young woman with a sensational voice — joined Stevie singing a duet from "A Time 2 Love" called "How Will I Know."

If they can get the album out before Oct. 1, the song could wind up being a Best Song/Record nominee. It's that good.

Stevie also performed "So What the Fuss" from the new album. He sang a little of "If You Break My Heart," and joked, "It's my new single — please buy it so we can get Christmas gifts for the kids this year."

The audience danced, crowded the stage and hung from the rafters. It was one of those amazing nights no one there will ever forget. And — as opposed to the hideously expensive concert tickets for the Rolling Stones ($450) and Paul McCartney ($270), it was a relative bargain (top price $124).

As Stevie said at the end, "This was great. Let's do it again, soon."

We can't wait.

Corrections, Reflections of The Week

First of all, we must correct a few weird glitches from the last week or so.

Ryan Adams records for Lost Highway, not Lost Horizon Records. ...The hot restaurant in the Hamptons this summer is Madame Tong's at Jean-Luc, not Madame Wong's. ...

And, most importantly, Marshall Lytle is the double bass player from The Comets who so impressed us last weekend. He's the original bass player from the group, I'm told, and was succeeded by Al Rappa. We thought we were seeing Rappa. Alas, it was Lytle, who's back with the group. He's amazing nonetheless. ...

And: "Ray" director Taylor Hackford tells us he is not considering a sequel to his hit movie. I guess there's some hope of a second movie, telling more of Ray Charles' story. But Hackford, despite wishful thinking, is passing on the project. ...

One more thing: Guess who's back doing press for Michael Jackson?

None other than Raymone Bain, the Washington, D.C.-based press agent who got unceremoniously fired by Jackson's brother Randy a few nights before the verdict came in on Jackson's child molestation trial.

Now that Randy's influence has been countered, Bain and Michael, I'm told, are chatting away by phone. Bain issued a statement this week about the passing of Ebony publisher John H. Johnson on behalf of Michael. ...