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Archive for April 3rd, 2014

Big Break Has “Street Sense” With Two New Salsoul Reissues

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Salsoul Orchestra - Street SenseCherry Red’s Big Break Records label continues its deep exploration into the vaults of Salsoul Records with two releases that might seem like business as usual for these artists, but are anything but. Street Sense, from The Salsoul Orchestra, isn’t a Vince Montana-led extravaganza but rather a project helmed by Tom Moulton, “the father of the 12-inch remix.” And Loleatta Holloway’s self-titled 1979 album isn’t a Philly-style banquet but rather a feast of southern soul.

Street Sense is another indispensable entry in BBR’s definitive reissue series for The Salsoul Orchestra. The 1979 release is a transitional album in virtually every sense, bridging the gap between the Philadelphia soul era represented by Montana (and then Bunny Sigler, Ron Baker and Ron Tyson) and the Orchestra’s two final albums from producer Patrick Adams (Phreek, Inner Life). Don’t fear, however: BBR will soon return to the Philly period with Montana’s final album as bandleader, the Hollywood-inspired Up the Yellow Brick Road, along with the Sigler/Tyson/Baker-helmed How High.

For Street Sense, Moulton stayed in place at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios, utilizing a number of the studios’ key players (Earl Young, Keith Benson, Larry Washington, Don Renaldo’s Horns and Strings) to maintain musical continuity. But Moulton and arranger Thor Baldursson brought their own cutting-edge style to Sigma. This was signaled on the album’s opening track. On Donny Hathaway and Richard Evans’ “Zambezi,” the old meets the new. Renaldo’s brassy horns and swelling strings recalled the Vince Montana-led efforts of The Salsoul Orchestra, but the song’s funky bass, overtly jazz rhythms and prominent, spacey synthesizers conjured up a somewhat leaner, decidedly more contemporary Euro-disco spin on the Orchestra’s Philadelphia-honed sound.

Arranger/conductor Baldursson’s futuristic synths are at the forefront of Evans’ “Burning Spear,” which also offers relaxed saxophone work from Michael Pedecine, Jr. straddling the line between fusion and smooth jazz. The overtly Salsoul touches are evident in the strings and bright Latin percussion, with the original Orchestra’s Larry Washington among the three conga players. (Tom Moulton amusingly recalls in Stephen “SPAZ” Schnee’s excellent liner notes that “[Salsoul’s Ken Cayre said the album needed more] ‘percussion like congas and cowbells’ and all that crap. So I started adding the percussion to it and that’s how the album came out.” More cowbell, indeed!

The album’s title centerpiece, “Street Sense,” is an epic 7+-minute length call to the dancefloor with choral vocals imploring for life as a natural high: “You’ve got to check it out,” “feel the motion,” etc. As intended, it sets the pulse racing. (“Street Sense” appears as Track 3 rather than Track 4 as indicated on the sleeve and CD label.) Moulton didn’t veer too far from the Montana blueprint in including a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.” Montana’s Orchestra had previously made over such songs as “Let’s Spend the Night Together” (Cuchi-Cuchi, with Charo), “Short Shorts” (Magic Journey), “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Feelings” (Nice ‘n’ Naasty) and even the standards “Tangerine” and “Love Letters” (The Salsoul Orchestra); Moulton and Baldursson’s contemporary “Somebody” lacks the bite of the Grace Slick-written and sung original, but is a fun diversion for fans of the classic rock staple. (And who isn’t?)

But the catchy instrumental “212 North 12th” – Sigma Sound Studios’ address – is the quintessential Tom Moulton Mix here, the album’s most pure fusion of the Philadelphia brass-and-strings sound with Baldursson’s synths and the sleek, European flavor. The arc of Moulton’s mix allows each element of the Orchestra’s style to come into focus, individually and collectively. Closing track “Sun After the Rain,” co-written by Salsoul labelmate Bebu Silvetti, isn’t as intoxicatingly breezy as Silvetti’s previous, wordless “Spring Rain” (which certainly inspired it to some degree) but applies its predecessor’s bright, refreshing mood in a more driving context.

There’s much more after the jump on both Street Sense and Loleatta Holloway, including full track listings and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 3, 2014 at 09:52