Village Ghetto Land marks the first appearance of Songs In The Key Of Life’s second star: Yamaha’s GX-1.
Produced between 1974 and 1977, less than 10 of these super-huge, super-expensive polyphonic synths were ever made, and Stevie’s had a profound effect on Songs’ sound. Instead of having to layer-up monophonic synth lines, he was able to create complex arrangements in one take.
The stately orchestral-style strings here are a case in point, and are brilliant juxtaposed with Shatema Byrd’s doom-laden lyrics. Byrd spent three months writing what he believed was the full song, and when he phoned it in, Stevie loved it. However, Wonder quickly called back and casually told Byrd that he’d forgotten to mention that’d he’d planned another verse - could he write lyrics for that and get them back to him in ten minutes?
Such demands weren’t unusual during the making of the album, leading some collaborators to remark that, when they were working with Stevie, the clock was set to ‘Wonder Time’.