Universal’s excellent Import Music Services have just started to bring in some of the Hip-O-Select range – that wonderful series of limited edition collectable albums that wouldn’t normally get a reissue. First of the bunch is this lovely little twofer from the one-time Mrs. Wonder – Syreeta Wright. Ms. Wright came to Detroit to work in the Hitsville offices but was lured to the studio by Brian Holland. Their collaborations (as Rita Wright) had little commercial impact, but after a whirlwind relationship with Stevie Wonder (and a reversion to Syreeta) the lady made a full album debut with an eponymous collection that forms the first 9 tracks of this collection. Produced by her then hubby, the album can be seen both as a crucial part in Stevie’s development and a major step in Syreeta’s career. There’s lots of that synth-inflected funk that was Wonder’s trademark and a remarkable duet, ‘To Know You Is To Love You’. But Syreeta is her own woman too – listen to the way she makes Smokey’s ‘What Love Has Joined Together’ her own. For her second album, in an attempt to garner mores sales, Motown made the Wonder-link patently obvious and there’s as much musical experimentation here as there is on Stevie’s own same period albums. Indeed there’s a sequence of segued cuts that recall the end medley of the Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ and in fairness stuff like ‘Waitin’ For The Postman’ haven’t travelled that well. The cut which seems to have survived the best is the charming old school ballad that is ‘I Wanna Be By Your Side’ on which Syreeta duets beautifully with G. C Cameron… it’s a delight. Both ‘Syreeta’ and ‘Stevie Wonder Presents…’ are 70s Motown and soul highlights and collectors will need to grab copies while they can.
(BB) 4 out of 5