Tuesday, 4 January 2011

"Syreeta/Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta" by SYREETA [featuring STEVIE WONDER] (2004 Hip-O Select CD Reissue with an Ellen Fitton Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...



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"…Walking In The Rain…"

Numbered to 5000 and released on Hip-O Select's own website in June 2004 and then given a Stateside commercial release that same year - this limited edition CD has long since been deleted and has acquired a bit of a hefty price-tag ever since.

US released June 2004 – "Syreeta/Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta" by SYRETTA [featuring STEVIE WONDER] on Motown/Hip-O Select B0002543-02 offers up the first two of six LPs Syreeta Wright recorded for Motown in the Seventies and breaks down as follows (78:07 minutes):

1. I Love Every Little Thing About You
2. Black Maybe
3. Keep Him Like He Is
4. Happiness
5. She’s Leaving Home
6. What Love Has Joined Together
7. How Many Days
8. Baby Don’t You Let Me Lose This
9. To Know You Is To Love You
Tracks 1 to 9 are her debut album "Syreeta" released June 1972 in the USA on MoWest MW-113L and November 1972 in the UK on MoWest MWS 7001
[Tracks 1, 2, 4 and 7 are written by Stevie Wonder with 3, 8 and 9 co-written with Syreeta Wright. Tracks 5 and 6 are covers of The Beatles "She's Leaving Home" and The Temptations "What Love Has Joined Together" (written by Smokey Robinson)]

10. I’m Goin’ Left
11. Spinnin’ And Spinnin’
12. Your Kiss Is Sweet
13. Come And Get This Stuff
14. Heavy Day
15. Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers
16. Just A Little Piece Of You
17. Waitin’ For The Postman
18. When Your daddy’s Not Around
19. I Wanna Be By Your Side
20. Universal Sound Of The World (Your Kiss Is Sweet)
Tracks 10 to 20 are her 2nd LP "Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta" released June 1974 in the USA on Motown M6-808S1 and September 1974 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 11268 [Tracks 13, 15, 17, 18 and 19 are written by Stevie Wonder with 10, 11, 12, 14, 16 and 20 co-written with Syreeta Wright]

The gatefold card digipak is numbered in gold on the rear (a limited edition of 5000 worldwide) and features the artwork to "Syreeta" on the front cover with the rear sleeve of to the original LP pictured beneath the see-through tray on the inside. The 16-page booklet has the 2nd album artwork complete too with detailed recording and reissue credits and an essay on the releases by British Soul aficionado DAVID NATHAN (with contributions from Syreeta herself - sadly in the year before she died).

The sound quality is truly BEAUTIFUL - remastered from the first generation tapes by one of Universal's top engineers - ELLEN FITTON. She did all 12 of the extraordinary "Motown Complete Singles" Box Sets (Volumes 1 to 11B) as well as many, many other releases from Motown artists. I've created a TAG above for both her work and Hip-O Select releases worth noting - it gives you a pictorial display (I've reviewed a large number of them).

Married to Syreeta since 1970, both albums heavily featured Stevie Wonder's mercurial involvement in production, song contribution and playing - and both are so much the better for it (this was his 1972 to 1974 run-of-genius period - "Music Of My Mind", "Talking Book", "Innervisions" and "Fulfillingness' First Finale"). So it's also not surprising to find that his production values on these two records matched that of the highly produced "Innervisons" say - all swirling synths and funky beats with that wonderful Seventies feel. Ace guitarist BUZZY FENTON played on "Syreeta" while MINNIE RIPERTON sang backing vocals on "Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta".

Both albums were critically acclaimed at the time, but the public didn't take to either in earnest giving them modest positions of 38 and 53 on the USA R'n'B album charts. Which is strange because the lead off single from "Syreeta" was its strongest track - an edit of "To Know You Is To Love You". It's the albums only duet vocal between Stevie and her and was released Stateside on MoWest 5021 in July 1972. Its sound quality here is a real highlight. The cover of the Sgt. Peppers classic “She’s Leaving Home” features a treated vocal by Stevie cleverly wrapped around layered backing vocals from her. Another goody on the debut is "I Love Every Little Thing About You" which Stevie had released on "Music Of My Mind" in March 1972 - but her later version is equally good - and very suited to her sweet vocals.

It's not all genius of course - the 2nd LP sports some dreadfully saccharine tracks like "Your Kiss Is Sweet" and "Waitin' For The Postman" (which features GC Cameron on duet lead vocals). But it redeems itself big time on the heartfelt "Cause We Ended As Lovers" (lyrics above) - a track I've loved for years and came to in a roundabout way. Jeff Beck did a stunning instrumental cover version of it on his brilliant 1975 "Blow By Blow" album - and I backtracked to find the lovely original. Another track where the romance and music do combine so sweetly is "Just A Little Piece Of You" - a bit of a forgotten Soul gem really.

To sum up - this is a lovely reissue with gorgeous sound quality - and while it's not all Godlike in terms of songs - the good stuff is well worth seeking out - even if it costs...
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