One of the pure joys of going through Stevie Wonder’s incredible 6 album run was rediscovering the perfect rainy-day funk of “Tuesday Breakup.”
I was in a store and heard the song, but wait! it’s Macy Gray. It turns out she recorded her own version of the entire Talking Book album on its 40th anniversary in 2012. While listening to it again, YouTube Music Premium Red Gold Google Play also volunteered Michael McDonald’s version off his second volume of Motown covers, Motown Two.
Both Macy and Michael have stronger bass than Stevie’s Moog bass on the original; both more present in the mix and doing more inventive things. (I can’t figure out who’s the bassist for Macy Gray, sadly there are no details on Wikipedia and Discogs, her web site is taken over, and I can’t get from any archived version of the front page of her web site on the Wayback Machine to any details of the album; Michael McDonald has a ridiculous set of players on his album according to Wikipedia, the bassist could be Nathan East or Abraham Laboriel.) But:
- Stevie Wonder’s drumming is incredible. In the chorus it’s pre-proto-disco hi-hat, but it’s an organic whole with his snare. Macy’s drummer (again, no idea who’s the drummer) can’t unlearn disco hi-hat. Michael’s drummer (could be the great Vinnie Colaiuta, or Abe Laboriel Jr., or Nicky Shaw) is just tight; mostly closed hi-hat, tight fills.
- Stevie Wonder has phenomenally expressive keyboards. Macy doesn’t even try and pushes her keyboards down in the mix; Michael goes for more keyboard colors (he has all kinds of guest stars on keyboards), but none of them have the intense variations of volume and wah-wah that Stevie has.
- Stevie Wonder’s got David Sanborn’s oddly hollow sax (I think this might be Sanborn’s first big break) giving a unique feel, from the unexpected tentative bass sax notes in the intro to the muted wailing in chorus after chorus.
It’s really hard to do a better homage than the original.
And of course, Talking Book has Jeff Beck (24 June 1944 – 10 January 2023)’s lovely, lovely guitar break on “Lookin’ for Another Pure Love” 😭.