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Archive for February 28th, 2014

Hot Shots: Big Break Relights Dan Hartman’s “Fire,” Expands Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Solo Debut

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Dan Hartman - Relight My FireTalk about fusion!  For “Hands Down,” the opening cut of his 1979 album Relight My Fire, Dan Hartman enlisted rock and roll great Edgar Winter to weave his alto saxophone licks throughout the Latin-flavored disco track, and Stevie Wonder to provide his instantly recognizable harmonica.  Hartman wasn’t just a dilettante, but a regular musical renaissance man.   A veteran of the Johnny Winter Band and the Edgar Winter Group, he wrote the latter’s smash hit “Free Ride,” and successfully completed the transition to solo stardom with 1978’s “Instant Replay,” a No. 1 Disco hit that also reached the Pop Top 30.  In the eighties, he revitalized James Brown’s career with “Living in America” and gave blue-eyed soul a contemporary makeover with “I Can Dream About You.”  The title song of “Relight My Fire,” on which Hartman was joined by Salsoul queen Loleatta Holloway, proved that he could capture the disco magic twice, as the song remained atop the Billboard dance chart for six weeks.  In 1993, it became a hit all over again for Take That and Lulu.  Now, thanks to Hot Shot Records, Hartman’s Fire has once again been relit.

Over just six tracks – all written by Hartman, who also played keyboards, guitar, bass, drums and percussion on the album – Relight My Fire pulsates with the energy of the era as filtered through Hartman’s pop sensibility.  It was a catholic sensibility that made the musician and songwriter adaptable to pop, rock and soul settings.  For the album centerpiece “Vertigo/Relight My Fire,” Hartman traveled to Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios and enlisted veteran Norman Harris (Blue Magic, The O’Jays) to arrange and conduct.  Harris brought his sublime orchestrated style to the introductory “Vertigo” as well as to the main body of the sizzling, catchy “Relight My Fire,” with a typically passionate duet vocal from Loleatta Holloway.  (Harris had also frequently produced Holloway at Salsoul.)  Whether in the original, nearly 10-minute album version of “Vertigo/Relight My Fire” or the 3+-minute single edit of “Relight” (among the six bonus tracks on Hot Shot’s reissue), Hartman and Holloway’s musical invitation can’t be denied.

“Just for Fun” (“Just do what makes you feel all right…If you’re hungry for some good times now, don’t be late, let me show you how!”) is lyrically in the good-time, hedonistic vein expected of a disco record, and the singer’s enthusiasm is infectious, as is his boogie piano solo.  (The piano has a bit of the flavor of another disco anthem, Peter Allen’s “I Go to Rio.”)  The same goes for the bubbly “I Love Makin’ Music,“ which flows out of “Just for Fun” and epitomizes what could have been Hartman’s personal credo throughout his all-too-short 43 years.  “Love makin’ music, love makin’ love,” the female background vocalist coo during the track, but on Relight My Fire, the two acts seem synonymous.  Hartman’s disco remake of his own “Free Ride” is surprisingly effective.  If it doesn’t replace the original, it succeeds on the strength of the song’s abundant melody, signature riff and energetic performance here.

After the jump, we have more on Relight My Fire, plus a look at Hot Shot’s rediscovery of actress-singer Sheryl Lee Ralph’s foray into contemporary R&B! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 28, 2014 at 09:46