GWEN GUTHRIE-GOOD TO GO LOVER.

GWEN GUTHRIE-GOOD TO GO LOVER.

By 1986, when Gwen Guthrie released Good To Go Lover, her first album for Polydor, she was already an established artist and songwriter. Good To Go Lover which will be rereleased by SoulMusic Records on 18th February 2013, marked Gwen’s debut as producer. It seemed that Gwen Guthrie had the Midas touch when it came to production. Not only was Good To Go Lover Gwen’s most successful album, but featured a number one single that would become synonymous with Gwen Guthrie, Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent. Would this success last though? That’s what I’ll tell you, once I’ve told you about Good To Go Lover.

Before signing to Polydor, Gwen had been signed to Island Records, where she’d released three albums between 1982 and 1985.  Her 1982 eponymous debut album, Gwen Guthrie, reached just number 208 in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-eight in the US R&B Charts. Portrait, Gwen’s 1983 sophomore album, failed to chart and 1985s Just For You, stalled at number fifty-five in the US R&B Charts. While Island had been supportive of Gwen’s career, signing to Polydor made sense.

Signing to Polydor made sense on several levels. They were willing to fund Gwen’s tours. This in turn would grow her fan-base, so was a win-win situation. Not only were Polydor willing to help fund her tours, but were would fund the now necessary music videos, but allow Gwen to produce her albums, including her Polydor debut, Good To Go Lover. The clincher was that Polydor would allow Gwen to produce her albums. It seemed that Polydor were the perfect label for Gwen. So, having signed to Polydor, Gwen started work on recording Good To Go Lover.

Gwen Guthrie had already established a reputation as a gifted songwriter, penning hits for Ben E. King, Roberta Flack and Angela Bofill. So, it’s no surprise she penned two tracks on Good To Go Lover, You Touched My Life and Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent. Gwen also cowrote the title-track Good To Go Lover with Bill Hagans. Bernard Jackson, David Conley and David Townsend cowrote I Still Want You and Stop Holding Back. With Joshua Thompson, they cowrote Outside In The Rain. The other two tracks included Passion Eyes, penned by Charles Rogers and a cover of Bacharach and David’s (They Long To Be) Close To You. These eight tracks became Good To Go Lover, which marked Gwen’s production debut.

For recording of Good To Go Lover, several studios were used, including House Of Music, Soundtrack, Quadrasonic and Ears. Accompanying Gwen were guitarist Ira Siegel, drummer, Steve Farrone, percussionist Danny Grigsby, Dave “Pic”Conley and Jimmy Maelen. As was the fashion in 1986, keyboards, synths, Moog Bass and drum programming played a major part in Good To Go Lover’s sound. Dave “Pic” Conley, Brian Morgan and Bill Hagans played an important part in this. So too, did Sly Dunbar, who helped with the drum programming. Horns and strings were arranged by Onaje Gumbs, while Gwen took charge of background and lead vocals. She also produced and mixed Good To Go Lover. Helping with the mixing of Good To Go Lover, was legendary DJ Larry Levan, who turned Gwen into a Paradise Garage favorite. Once Good To Go Lover was recorded, it was released in 1986.

On the release of Good To Go Lover in 1986, it reached number 158 in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty in the US R&B Charts. The lead single, Ain’t Nothing Goin’ On But The Rent, was a game changer for Gwen. It reached number forty-two in the US Billboard 100, number one in the US R&B and Dance Music/Club Play Charts, while reaching number three in the Hot Music Charts. This made Gwen the Queen of clubland, especially in the Paradise Garage, thanks to legendary DJ Larry Levan . Outside In The Rain, which was  a duet with Surface reached number fifty-five in the US R&B Charts. (They Long To Be) Close To You was the final single released from Good To Go Lover in 1987, but stalled at number sixty-nine in the US R&B Charts. While Good To Go Lover, Gwen Guthrie’s Polydor debut had been a commercial success, this would be the only album she’d release on Polydor. Their alliance would last just one album. However, Good To Go Lover was Gwen’s most successful album. Indeed, Good To Go Lover represents Gwen Guthrie at the height of her career, as you’ll realize when I tell you about the album.

A cover of Bacharach and David’s (They Long To Be) Close To You, made famous by The Carpenters opens Good To Go Lover. It features an emotive, heartfelt vocal from Gwen. The song is slowed way down, with keyboards and strings accompanying Gwen. Then the arrangement slows way down, and drums crack signaling all change. Keyboards, percussion and guitars combine, while Gwen with multi-tracked backing vocals for company makes the song swing. Her vocal is playful, sassy and joyous, as she reinvents a familiar classic, helped no end by her tight, talented band.

Outside In The Rain was the sophomore single released from Good To Go Lover. The arrangement is spacious, with sound effects and keyboards accompanying Gwen’s scatted vocal. Multi-tracked backed vocals accompany Gwen, as the arrangement is panned, surrounding you. Just the backing vocals, keyboards, chiming and percussion accompany Gwen’s teasing, tender vocal. Cascading backing vocals and synths play an important part in the song’s success. Washes of synths join beeping, buzzing synths. The backing vocals are a perfect foil for Gwen, as she delivers a vocal that’s sweet and sensual.

Cunchy drums and understated keyboards combine, before the drums drive Good To Go Lover along. Gwen’s vocal is tough, sassy and confident, with even a hint of a country music influencing her delivery. Meanwhile keyboards, synths and drums transform the arrangement into a musical juggernaut. Soon a hypnotic, driving dance-floor friendly track is unfolding, with Gwen delivering a strident, sassy vocal.

You Touched My Life sees the tempo drop, marking in a change in style. Just keyboards, percussion and synths combine, setting the scene for Gwen’s tender, emotive vocal. This shows a very different side to Gwen Guthrie. She’s just as comfortable delivering a ballad, as she is as a dance-floor diva. Her vocal grows in power and emotion, as she breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Her band are spurred on, providing one of their best performances on Good To Go Lover, providing the backdrop for one of Gwen’s most inspired and impassioned vocals.

When you hear the familiar lyrics: Bill collectors at my door…What can you do for me,” instantly, it’s 1986 again. Back in 1986, Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent was one of the hottest dance-floor hits. This classic has become synonymous with Gwen Guthrie. No wonder. She struts her way sassily through the arrangement. The arrangement has a real eighties sound, but has aged well. Crispy, crunchy drums crash, guitars chime, with synths and percussion for company. They provide the perfect backdrop for Gwen, as she delivers a career defining vocal.

Like the previous track, I Still Want You has a real mid-eighties sound. There’s even a Madonna influence on this track. Synths, Moog Bass and drums join multi-tracked backing vocalists as Gwen delivers a needy, pleading vocal. Filled with sincerity and emotion, her vocal veers between wistful and tender to powerful and passionate. The backing vocals are arranged perfectly, replying to Gwen’s call, and reflecting the heartache and hurt in her needy vocal.

A vocoder and crunchy drums open Stop Holding Back, before Gwen’s urgent, cascading vocal struts centre-stage. Sassy, strident and full of confidence describes her vocal. With synths, backing vocalists and drum machines providing the backdrop, Gwen delivers a considered, sensuous vocal. It’s her vocal you concentrate on, given its sheer quality. Meanwhile the arrangement dances around it, the vocoder making regular reappearances. Thankfully, it’s not overused. Gwen realizing that a little vocoder goes a long, long way, uses it sparingly and lets nothing detract from her vocal.

Passion Eyes closes Good To Go Lover. Keyboards and synths meander along, while Gwen delivers a breathy, sensual vocal. The understated arrangement allows Gwen’s heartfelt, beautiful vocal to take centre-stage. Backing vocalists sweep in, matching Gwen for emotion and beauty. Soon, Gwen’s vocal grows in power and passion. Behind her, keyboards give the arrangement a jazz-tinged sound. Like Gwen, the band have kept one of their most inspired performances for last. For her part, Gwen delivers what is quite simply, her best vocal on Good To Go Lover.

While Gwen Guthrie only released one album for Polydor, Good To Go Lover, it proved to the most successful album of her six album career. This proved somewhat fitting. After all, if you’re only going to release one album for a label, make it one as good as Good To Go Lover. Maybe after Good To Go Lover, Gwen regretted leaving Island, who’d been supportive of her career. However, like so many things in life, if we don’t see whether the grass is indeed greener, we’re left wondering and sometimes, rueing the spurned opportunity. At least Gwen Guthrie got the chance to compare whether the grass was greener. It also allowed her to release her most successful album, Good To Go Lover. Sadly, Good To Go Lover was as good as it got for Gwen Guthrie.

Good To Go Lover was the highpoint of Gwen Guthrie’s career. Two further albums followed. Lifeline, the 1988 followup to Good To Go Lover was released on Warner Bros, but failed to chart. This proved to be the case with 1990s Hot Times, which released on Reprise. It was Gwen’s final album, and it too failed to chart. Tragically, Gwen Guthrie died of cancer in 1999, aged just forty-nine. One song has since become synonymous with this muti-talented singer, songwriter and producer, Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent. It was one of the eight tracks on, Good To Go Lover, which looking back on Gwen Guthrie’s tragically short career, was her best and most successful album. Now twenty-six years after the release of Good To Go Lover, SoulMusic Records are rereleasing the album, complete with four bonus tracks. This rerelease of Good To Go Loveris a fitting and poignant reminder of a hugely talented singer, songwriter and producer, Gwen Guthrie. Standout Tracks: (They Long To Be) Close To You, Outside In The Rain, Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent and Passion Eyes.

GWEN GUTHRIE-GOOD TO GO LOVER.

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