Liner Note Authors: Keith Hughes; Tony Rounce.
Recording information: Hitsville USA Studio, Detroit (1967-1970).
Syreeta Wright had been doing receptionist, secretarial, and demo vocalist work for Motown when she made her recorded debut, as Rita Wright, on her employer's Gordy subsidiary. "I Can't Give Back the Love I Gave You," an aching number written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson with Brian Holland, unfortunately went nowhere -- in a commercial sense -- upon its January 1968 release. It did reach Dusty Springfield, whose version was out in the U.K. by the end of November. Within a couple years, Wright co-wrote the Spinners' "It's a Shame" and gained more attention when she and fellow composer Stevie Wonder wed a few weeks after that smash began its chart ascent. As an artist, Wright remained in the shadows until 1972, when she released her Stevie-produced debut album. From 1967 through 1970, however, she recorded a high stack of shelved, frequently decent, occasionally excellent Motown material compiled here by the Kent label. According to Tony Rounce's liner notes, it includes everything Wright recorded that was mixed by a Motown engineer "at or close to the time of recording." "Love My Lovin' Man" alone was mixed later, in 2016. Only a quarter of the tracks were released previously, heard on the Cellarful of Motown series and Kent's Love and Affection: More Motown Girls, or via reissue on volume eight of The Complete Motown Singles. This shows that a lot of history remained. Take the demo of "Love Child." The day after Wright's vocal was recorded, Diana Ross' performance was overdubbed, and within two weeks, the official version was in shops, on its way to classic status. Most of the other songs have fascinating backgrounds detailed in the notes or track-by-track annotation. In some cases, the Henry Cosby/Sylvia Moy-written belter "(Touched) By the Hand of Love" especially, no illuminating context is required for enjoyment. That particular song easily surpasses "I Can't Give Back the Love I Gave You," which is here, along with its B-side, "Something on My Mind" (another Ashford & Simpson song), later recorded by Diana Ross for her self-titled solo album. Altogether, this completes the puzzle of a discography grown by a talent Motown concealed for too long. ~ Andy Kellman