'Talking Book' saw the then 22 year-old Wonder enjoying more artistic freedom from Motown, taking over the production reins and playing most of the instruments himself. As a result, the sound of the album is sharply defined by Wonder's exquisite keyboard work, and his use of the Hohner clavinet model C on 'Superstition' became widely regarded as one of the definitive tracks featuring the instrument.
With 'Talking Book' it became clear Stevie Wonder was beginning to speak his mind and use personal history for material (just as Marvin Gaye had with the social protest of his 1971 hit 'What's Going On'). The lyrics became less convoluted, while the emotional power gained in intensity. 'You and I' and the glorious 'I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)' subtly illustrate that the conception of love can be stronger than the reality. Ironically, the biggest hit from 'Talking Book' wasn't a love song at all; the funk landmark 'Superstition' urges empowerment instead of hopelessness, set to a grooving beat that made it one of the biggest hits of his career. It's followed by 'Big Brother', the first of his directly critical songs, excoriating politicians who posture to the underclass in order to gain the only thing they really need.
With 'Talking Book', Stevie also found a proper balance between making an album entirely by himself and benefiting from the talents of others. His wife Syreeta and her sister Yvonne Wright contributed to three songs lyrically, and Ray Parker Jr. came by to record a guitar solo that brings together the lengthy jam 'Maybe Your Baby'. Two more guitar heroes, Jeff Beck and Buzzy Feton, appeared on 'Lookin' for Another Pure Love', Beck's solo especially giving voice to the excruciating process of moving on from a broken relationship. Like no other Stevie Wonder album before it, 'Talking Book' is a complete piece, the first unified statement of his career and one which veers breathtakingly from love to heartbreak and back with barely a pause.