Syreeta [1972]


(Digital Download - Motown / Universal #)

Review by Donald A. Guarisco

This album represented the solo debut of Syreeta, a Motown staffer who was one of Stevie Wonder's most important collaborators during his early-'70s renaissance. Fittingly, Wonder returned the favor by producing this album and writing or co-writing several of its songs (he is also notably present in the background vocals of several of the tracks). As a result, the album utilizes the same experimental approach to R&B music that defined his early-'70s work, blending conventional string-sweetened '70s soul with ventures into synthesizer-inflected funk. Highlights include "Black Maybe," a jazz-inflected ballad with socially conscious lyrics, and "Baby Don't You Let Me Lose This," a gently percolating midtempo number that benefits from an infectious chorus and some sleek synthesizer textures. There is also a strong cover of the Smokey Robinson classic "What Love Has Joined Together" that provides an excellent showcase for Syreeta's emotionally rich vocals. Unfortunately, this experimental approach occasionally fails to pan out: the big misstep is a badly misjudged cover of the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" that suffers from a gimmicky production featuring annoying voicebox-treated vocals on the chorus. Another problem with the album is that it fails to build a cohesive sense of flow from song to song, resulting in an album that feels more like a loose collection of songs than a proper album. Despite these problems, Syreeta offers enough likable soul music to make it worth a spin for anyone interested in Syreeta, and the rare Stevie Wonder tunes it includes make it a necessity for his hardcore fans.

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