Today I visit an often underrated Soul record produced by the great Stevie Wonder. His signature sound musically is all over it, and he even lends some background vocals throughout the Lp. This was a dollar find at the end of one of my digging excursions. I didn’t know much about it, other than it looked like it was a pretty decent pull for four quarters. Here’s Syreeta with “To Know You Is To Love You” from 1972 on MoWest Records.
Born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1946, Syreeta Wright moved around with her mother and grandmother before finally settling in Detroit. As luck would have it, after singing in a few girl groups she became a secretary at Motown Records. Just as Martha Reeves had done, she parlayed the secretary job into a singing career. Wright had a few early singles under Rita (which did well in the UK), and sang back up for the Supremes and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. However, it was the meeting with Stevie Wonder that would change it all. The two dated, wrote music (“It’s A Shame” by the Spinners) and eventually married. Syreeta co-wrote some Stevie tunes, most notably “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered”. Unfortunately, the marriage was a short year and a half, but that didn’t stop Stevie from producing this very underrated record. Syreeta swoons on some Stevie, Beatles, and Smokey Robinson covers, while Stevie’s use of the synthesizer in 1972 no less, is utterly fantastic on this Motown West aka MoWest release. The two still remained close and worked together up until the late 70’s where she would hook up with Billy Preston to do music for the movie Fast Break (starring Mr. Kotter Gabe Kaplan!). In fact, Wright sang background for him and still collaborated with Wonder up until the 80’s. She retired from the music biz in the 90’s for good, settling in Los Angeles, CA where she passed in 2004.
“ The brilliant songs she conceived and gave birth to, her voice that was and is so extraodinarily clear and beautiful, were both God-given gifts that she shared. The general public should be made aware of all of her contributions. ”-Quincy Jones
File this Syreeta record right up there with Alice Clark’s self titled record. Unknown heat! All throughout it echoes of Stevie, but this track is the strongest of them all. His short vocals in the beginning while he plays the synthesizer are a tribute IMHO to his marriage with Syreeta. It’s said that this record was a sort of tribute to each other, but that is not confirmed. Wonder stacked up the players on this record, Scott Gordon Edwards’ (Stevie’s bass player) bass line and Keith Copeland’s (notable Jazz drummer) drums lock in tight. It finishes off beautifully with some strings and Wonder working his magic on the keys and some nice bass playing. An underrated record if I ever heard one, this one plays through from start to finish without a hitch. If anything Stevie Wonder touches is gold, then this record doesn’t go against that. Go out and find this record, you won’t be disappointed. Another buck well spent.