In the first half of the 1970s Stevie Wonder released four landmark albums that changed the course of pop music. A combination of funk and synthesisers, this incredible collection of music includes many of Stevie's classic songs such as Superstition, Living for the City and You Are the Sunshine of My Life. These albums have been influencing songwriters, musicians and producers ever since their release.
Although no one's disputing Stevie Wonder's unquestionable genius, it was Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil's production talents and electronic ingenuity that gave him the tools to develop his finest work, now regarded as his 'classic period'. These two sonic architects developed the world's largest synthesiser - The Original New Timbral Orchestra - which features heavily on all of those records. They invented a unique recording environment that captured Stevie at his most creative, encouraging him to play all the instruments himself. It was a world away from the stifling environment of the Motown hit factory and it allowed Stevie to fully realise the songs he had in his head for the first time.
Cecil and Margouleff also released an album of ground breaking electronic music under the name of Tonto's Expanding Head Band. They also went on to work with big name acts such as The Isley Brothers, George Harrison, Gil Scott-Heron and Devo. Malcolm - now in his 70s - still has TONTO set up in a barn at the bottom of his garden. It's a fantastic-looking thing, incredibly complex and the size of a living room. It's in full working order and he was kind enough to show Radio 4 around his other-wordly creation.
James Hale is producer of Stevie's Wonder Men
- Listen to the programme on 30 November at 1330.
- The Stevie Wonder albums to which TONTO contributed are Music of my Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness' First Finale and Jungle Fever. Stevie's official site is here.
- James made the video on his visit to TONTO's home in Up-State New York.
- A bundle of links to pages about Stevie Wonder and TONTO.