The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for the ‘Bunny Sigler’ Category

BBR Continues Its “Journey” With Salsoul Catalogue

with one comment

Salsoul Orchestra - Magic JourneyIf you’re looking for another chance to “dance your ass off,” look no further.  Big Break Records has returned to the mighty catalogue of Salsoul Records for another three “made in Philadelphia” classics from the soulful disco label.

“C’mon, Vince, play your vibes!”  Loleatta Holloway exclaimed before the leader of The Salsoul Orchestra, Vince Montana Jr., stepped forward for a solo on “Run Away,” the third track on the powerful unit’s third non-holiday long-player.  1977’s Magic Journey follows its predecessors The Salsoul Orchestra and Nice ‘n’ Naasty in receiving the deluxe BBR treatment.  By the time of Magic Journey, Montana had perfected the formula of showcasing each side of the so-called “disco orchestra” – and given the pedigree of the musicians involved, there were many sides.  The album featured MFSB veterans Earl Young, Charles Collins, Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman, T.J. Tindall, Bobby Eli, Larry Washington, Don Renaldo and Jack Faith, and many others, along with the Sweethearts of Sigma – Barbara Ingram, Yvette Benton and Carla Benson – on backing vocals and arranger-conductor Montana himself on timpani, bells, chimes, marimba and vibes.

Though the second side of the original LP took listeners on the trip promised in the title, the first side offered one enjoyable pop-disco treat after another.  The bright scene-setter “It’s a New Day,” co-written by Montana, and a campy revival of Bob Gaudio’s “Short Shorts,” however, were mere appetizers for the sublime Philly soul of “Run Away.”  Sung by Holloway backed by the Salsoul Orchestra, “Run Away” was then – and is now – one of the finest songs to emerge on Salsoul.  With its infectious melody, shimmering arrangement and urgent vocals, it’s unfathomable that the song stalled at R&B No. 84 and didn’t even dent the pop chart.  It’s the undisputed highlight here, along with “Themes from Montreal Olympics 1976 – Farewell Song and Ballet of the Closing Ceremony.”   The lush orchestral sound of “Farewell Song” could be mistaken for a Stylistics backing track crafted by Thom Bell, and its immaculate blend of horns and strings is as far-removed from the conventional notion of disco as possible.  Only at about the 3-1/2 minute march does this soft and lovely piece musically nod at something as anthemic or victorious as the title would indicate.  Few tracks better show off the immaculate musicianship of The Salsoul Orchestra, not to mention just how much Vince Montana had grown as an arranger since his early MFSB days.

Besides “Short Shorts,” a couple of other pop covers pepper the album: a lightly disco take on the Cuban folk song-turned-Sandpipers hit “Guantanamera” and a funky reworking of Earth Wind and Fire’s “Getaway.”  Smoky saxophone leads the horn section, while taut guitar, Philly-style strings and the Orchestra’s trademark Latin percussion add up to a track that might best the EWF original for sheer excitement.

After the jump: more on Magic Journey, plus the scoop on BBR’s new reissues from Loleatta Holloway and Bunny Sigler! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 27, 2013 at 11:31

Reviews: Bunny Sigler and Billy Paul’s Philadelphia International Classics from BBR

leave a comment »

When Philadelphia International Records turned 40 this past year, there was no single campaign to recognize the milestone.  In the U.S., Legacy Recordings offered up the sizzling rare concert Golden Gate Groove, and the U.K.’s Harmless label delivered the most comprehensive box set to date of the label’s music.  But a great deal of the heavy lifting has come from another U.K. label, Big Break Records.  The BBR team has delivered a selection of generously expanded, beautifully designed album reissues from the PIR back catalogue including two recent releases: Bunny Sigler’s 1974 label debut That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You (the first of three PIR albums released by Sigler before he decamped for New York’s Salsoul Records) and Billy Paul’s 1973 War of the Gods, his fifth solo album and third for PIR.

Though he supplied many memorable songs for the Gamble and Huff roster (including “Drowning in a Sea of Love” and “Sunshine”), Walter “Bunny” Sigler had long had his sights on stardom as a singer.   Once billed as “Mr. Emotion” for his impassioned vocal quality, Sigler first teamed up with Leon Huff at Cameo-Parkway in 1967, and scored a Top 25 Pop hit with “Let the Good Times Roll/Feel So Good” as produced by Huff with John Madara and David White.  Sigler followed Huff, now with Kenny Gamble, to their Neptune label and finally to PIR.  Following some one-off singles, Bunny got the okay for his first PIR long-player: That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You.  This lost gem of an album has been rediscovered by Big Break for an expanded reissue, and it’s as perfect an example of the Philly Sound as any.

The album’s opening salvo implores that “Things Are Gonna Get Better.”  The lyric is directed at a lover, yes, but it’s also imbued with an optimism that spoke on a much broader level.  Social responsibility was always a key theme in Gamble and Huff’s ouevre, and it’s not hard to believe that co-writers Sigler, Allan Felder and Ron Kersey all believed that things were going to get better for every man.  The sentiment of the lyric was supported by Norman Harris’ sympathetic orchestration, which from its very first notes identified the song’s origins in the City of Brotherly Love: those jazzy horns!  Those dramatic strings!  That beat!  It’s funky yet elegant.   Though Sigler’s voice lacked the resonance of a Lou Rawls or a Teddy Pendergrass, his passion shines through in every track, including the title song.  The big ballad “That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You” retained some intimacy largely due to Sigler’s vocals, and the song surely turned the ladies’ heads in Bunny’s direction.  As would have “Somebody Free,” a sultry ode to a lady who makes our Bunny “walk a different walk, talk a different talk.”  This harmony-packed track, complete with a spoken rap from the singer, could be a lost vocal group gem.

The rest of the album (produced by the artist) is varied, perhaps too varied to have established Sigler as a formidable artist in his own right.   It’s no less enjoyable, however.  A disco workout on “I Lied,” with Sigler’s emotive, whooping, over-the-top vocals foreshadows Sigler’s later, commercially successful work at Salsoul.  It’s back to romance with the sweet doo-wop of “Picture Us,” first recorded by The Cruisers on the pre-PIR Gamble label.   Then Sigler detours to somewhere else entirely (Mexico?) with the lighthearted, atypical “Marianne.”  Its mariachi brass, marimba sound  and freewheeling lyric (“I would try to turn the moon to cheese/If I thought it would keep you pleased”) make it one of the most offbeat and fun items in the PIR catalogue.  “My Other Love” is as dark as “Marianne” is light.  Richard Rome’s textured arrangement can nearly hold its own with Thom Bell’s most dramatic work.  Ronnie Baker handled the arranging honors on “Your Love is Good,” a real swinger on which he’s prominently joined by the cooing female background vocalists (the Sweethearts of Sigma?).

There’s more on Bunny and Billy right after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 28, 2012 at 10:05

Posted in Billy Paul, Bunny Sigler, News, Reissues, Reviews

Tagged with