GWEN GUTHRIE: ‘Gwen Guthrie’ (Label: PTG Records)

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GWEN GUTHRIE: 'Gwen Guthrie'

Before she recorded this debut album in 1982 for Chris Blackwell’s Island label, sweet-voiced Gwen Guthrie from Okemah, Oklahoma, had built up a strong reputation in New York as a talented songwriter and background vocalist – she co-penned ‘Supernatural Thing’ and ‘This Time I’ll Be Sweeter’ for Ben E. King (the latter was also covered by Marlena Shaw and Angela Bofill) and sang backgrounds for the likes of Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack. Guthrie’s first stab at solo stardom was this delightful 10-track opus produced by drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare – reggae’s toughest, most formidable rhythm section – at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas. Evidently, the location had a bearing on the resulting music, which is characterised by grooves that are bright, sunny and imbued with elements of dub music. Guthrie enjoyed a Top 30 Billboard R&B hit with ‘It Should Have Been You,’ which is an infectious dance floor number. Even better is the propulsive, febrile floor filler, ‘Dance Fever,’ together with club favourites ‘Peek-A-Boo’ and ‘Your Turn To Burn.’ Guthrie tries her hand at reggae on a commendable, warmly-harmonised version of Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love.’ Ballad-wise, the lovely, gentle and sweetly melodic ‘For You (With A Melody Too)’ is ear-catching, as is a slowed-down version of ‘God Don’t Like Ugly,’ which Guthrie originally penned for Roberta Flack. This first-time reissue includes two bonus tracks – extended versions of ‘It Should Have Been You’ and ‘Peek-A-Boo.’ This gem of an album reminds us what a beautiful voice Gwen Guthrie possessed – and soul music certainly became poorer for her premature death from uterine cancer aged 49 in 1999. Get it from
(CW) 4/5