Warm, personal, stripped-down, and mainly playful: Stevie Wonder's Fulfillingness' First Finale primarily finds the legendary vocalist tracing the arcs of relationships on a spirited record that has gone down in history as one of the most cohesive, fully realized soul sets. The fourth in Wonder's five-album series of "classic period" creations, the 1974 landmark won three major Grammy Awards: Album of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal, and Best Male Rhythm and Blues Performance.
Indeed, there's not one note out of place on the extraordinary ten-song set, notable for the way in which Wonder uses sparer arrangements to his advantage. Not that the overall tone is bleak or angry. Coming off of 1973's socially biting Innervisions, Wonder intentionally returns to love-related fare here, investigating a surfeit of emotions involved with romance and passion. As had become his trademark, he handles a bulk of the songwriting, production, and performance duties but gets help from a few choice friends. Appearances by singers Minnie Riperton, Paul Anka, Deniece Williams, and the Jackson 5 lend extra weight and breadth to the harmonies.
Iconic Motown bassist James Jamerson and guitarist Sneaky Pete Kleinow lend instrumental support, but, as expected, Wonder is the center of his own universe here. He nails the feelings of being in love, falling in it, realizing when it's gone awry, and wondering how to properly express it. Fulfillingness' First Finale also benefits from Wonder's continuing forays into social consciousness. The number-one smash "You Haven't Done Nothin'" toasted the Nixon administration in classic style and bookends his previous topical cuts such as "Living for the City."