Set My Love in Motion

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The history of R&B (much like the history of rock, country, and reggae) is full of artists who were more successful in a behind-the-scenes capacity than they were with their own albums. The late Syreeta Wright Muhammad was such an artist. Anyone who is seriously into '70s soul has heard some of the songs she co-wrote with Stevie Wonder, which include "You've Got It Bad, Girl," "If You Really Love Me," "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer," and the Spinners' 1970 smash "It's a Shame." But as a recording artist, Syreeta was a marginal figure in R&B. Nonetheless, she recorded some worthwhile albums, and one of them was 1981's Set My Love in Motion. This album didn't contain any major hits, but it's a respectable, decent effort even though it falls short of earth-shattering. Produced by Ollie E. Brown, Set My Love in Motion finds Syreeta fluctuating between energetic funk/dance jams and mellow quiet storm ballads. The funkier tracks include "Can't Shake Your Love," "Quick Slick" (a number 41 R&B hit), and "Move It, Do It," while the romantic quiet storm items include "Wish Upon a Star," "You Set My Love in Motion," "I Love You," and "There's Nothing Like a Woman in Love." As a rule, Syreeta doesn't get into the type of really gutbucket, down-and-dirty funk that Parliament/Funkadelic, Rick James, the Bar-Kays, Cameo, Mutiny, and the Gap Band were known for; the funkiness on this album is generally closer to Chic, Chaka Khan, Dynasty, or the Brothers Johnson. But the exception is "Out the Box," which contains some P-funk-isms and draws on George Clinton's quirkiness and goofy sense of humor. Back in 1981, Set My Love in Motion was originally released on LP by Motown; 30 years later in 2011, it was reissued as a 60-minute CD by the Brooklyn-based Funky Town Grooves, which added two extended mixes of "Can't Shake Your Love" and an instrumental version of "Move It, Do It." Set My Love in Motion isn't among the essential recordings of early-'80s R&B, but it is an enjoyable demonstration of what Syreeta had to offer in the funk-dance and quiet storm departments.

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