January 26, 2009 – 4:46 am

Stevie Wonder was invited for one of the many concerts to celebrate America’s first black president. If Marvin Gaye was alive, he too would have been called. From 1973 to 1976, Wonder made some of his best music, commenting on civil rights and lambasting Richard Nixon with You Haven’t Done Nothin’ which incidentally was a No. 1 hit. Here is one great live performance from that period.

Click on the panels for a better view or to download artwork.

Funkyfied Rainbow [Big Fro Records, 2CD]

Live at the Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park, London, January 31, 1974. A very good stereo soundboard.

People hand in hand
Have I lived to see the milk and honey land?
Where hate’s a dream and love forever stands
Or is this a vision in my mind?

- Visions, from Innervisions.

At the We Are One concert in Washington for Barack Obama, Stevie Wonder dug deep into his repertoire for a song to sing. He chose Higher Ground from Innervisions. But if you ask us, this sterling live rendition of Visions from his famed Rainbow Concert is the cream on the cake.

As he introduces Visions to his London audience 35 years ago, Wonder talked about his hopes and dreams. “The lyric that I wrote to this song expresses the question that I will probably have for the rest of my life,” he said. “About the visions, about the things and places that we only see in our minds.”

He said it was a shame that we have to build a world of make-believe in our souls. “It’s a shame people have to escape from reality by getting high.” But he hoped, “Maybe someday, I’m sure not in my lifetime, but someday it might… come together. I hope that through my music, through my expression, singing and writing you all can feel and understand how I feel.”

On that cold January day in America, Stevie Wonder’s vision came together when a million people received their new president. A colored man, a negro, a black man that until that moment was just a dream, a vision in somebody’s mind.

Back at the Rainbow in 1974, Wonder was just hammering away at the songs from Innervisions. This show probably went unreleased not because of any technical shortcomings but because every song was played like a jam session for a Miles Davis album. Guitarist Michael Sembello and Wonder are dueling on stage, finding new spaces in the songs that were never recorded in the studio.

The version of Visions is almost eight minutes long. If you add the spoken intro where Wonder talks while his band cooks up a slow jazz tempo, then it’s 10 minutes. The first track of CD1 is Contusion and that’s 18 minutes long. Living For The City is 11 minutes, with Wonder soloing rapturously. And the three-minute single You Are The Sunshine of My Life is stretched to 12. Then there’s seven minutes of Superstition and finally a blowout jam with the impromptu [You’ve Been Better To Me Than] A Lot Of My Dreams and Wonder ad-libbing inventively the lyrics as he goes along.

The folks at Big Fro Records took it upon themselves to liberate Stevie Wonder’s Rainbow Concert, for which we owe a mighty big thanks. An excellent bootleg never officially released. Maybe someday, hopefully soon.
- The Little Chicken

These tracks are no longer available for sharing.Disc 1
Contusion [2 years later, Wonder recorded it for Songs In The Key Of Life] (24.9MB)
Higher Ground* (8.0MB)
Superwoman (4.4MB)
To Know You Is To Love You [from wife Syreeta’s debut album] (9.8MB)
Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours (4.2MB)
Visions* (13.6MB)

Disc 2
Don’t You Worry ’bout A Thing* (6.5MB)
Living For The City* (15.0MB)
You’re The Sunshine of My Life (16.8MB)
Superstition (10.2MB)
[You’ve Been Better To Me Than] A Lot Of My Dreams [unreleased song, actually a jam] (8.3MB)

* songs from his then new release Innervisions [August 1973]

Stevie Wonder - lead vocal, keys
Michael Sembello - guitar
Reggie McBride - bass
Ollie E. Brown - drums
The Wonderlove - backing vocals

For the original studio versions, you can’t go wrong with Stevie Wonder’s 1973 album Innvervisions. Click here to order the album.

  1. 7 Responses to “BACK TO BLACK - THE RAINBOW SOUL MAN”

  2. AWESOME!..Stevie jamming in his prime!

    By mike traynor on Jan 26, 2009

  3. Contusion is one of great jams from all time!!!!!!!!!

    By Rochacrimson on Jan 26, 2009

  4. Thanks for this! Stevie kicking butt.

    By Bill on Jan 27, 2009

  5. the file of “Higher Ground” is only 8 MB (just in case someone’s missing 10 MB)

    By Walter on Jan 28, 2009

  6. Thanks Walter. Yes, the file is 8MB. (Have amended).

    By bigozine2 on Jan 29, 2009

  7. This show is fantastic! Excellent sound tremendous playing and a fine Stevie Wonder setlist from ‘74.

    Man the folks that got to see live music from the late sixties and early seventies were the luckiest flickers in the world!

    The BigO is the greatest music website on the planet. Thanks yet again!

    By Sluggo714 on Jan 29, 2009

  8. There is a new book out Muzik Kinda Sweet, featuring pics of Stevie in Birmingham England. Taken during the 1980s by legendary photographer Pogus Caesar. This book is a must have if only for the rarity of the images. A real treasure for Stevie’s real fans.

    By Miquel E on Jan 25, 2011

Post a Comment