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Do The (Salsoul) Hustle: Big Break Celebrates Salsoul Records Legacy with Four Reissues

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By 1975, Philadelphia soul had become too big even for the City of Brotherly Love.  In the first half of the decade, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff had, along with the third member of their Mighty Three, Thom Bell, reinvented the sound of soul music.  The Pennsylvania city had become synonymous with sweeping strings, punchy horns and the hi-hat cymbal of drummer Earl Young, offering up music that could be dramatic, sweet and funky, sometimes all within the same three-minute song!  Bell had long kept a foot outside the Philadelphia International Records offices with his productions for Atlantic, Columbia, Avco and other labels, even while contributing arrangements for Gamble and Huff, especially in PIR’s early years.  The crème of the Philly crop, though, could be found at Joe Tarsia’s Sigma Sound Studios playing in MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother).  PIR’s house orchestra, MFSB backed the likes of Billy Paul, The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and the Three Degrees for Gamble and Huff, and The Stylistics and The Spinners for Bell.  Eventually, though, individual musicians and arrangers desired to step out of the Mighty Three’s shadow.  Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker, Earl Young, Bobby Martin, Bobby Eli and a certain Vincent Montana, Jr. all began to strike out on their own, bringing their individual spins to the already-familiar orchestral, proto-disco sound.  Enter Joe, Ken and Stan Cayre, the three brothers behind New York’s Mericana Records label.

What happened next is currently being surveyed on CD by Cherry Red’s Big Break Records imprint.  The Cayres went on to form Salsoul Records, still one of the most beloved labels in dance, disco and R&B circles.  Yet, until now, the mightily impressive Salsoul catalogue has never gotten the same kind of lavish treatment on CD as PIR’s for any number of reasons.  Likely high among those reasons is the fact that the label hasn’t always had a major distributor, as the Cayres were initially turned down by CBS, Atlantic and Polydor!  The existing CDs hardly seemed aimed at collectors, lacking deluxe packaging and fidelity to the original albums.  Finally, though, this new reissue series aims to restore Salsoul to its rightful place in the soul music pantheon.  Big Break has just launched its Salsoul campaign with four classic titles from the company’s catalogue, from The Salsoul Orchestra, First Choice, Instant Funk and Double Exposure, respectively.  Each title has been definitively expanded with bonus tracks and new liner notes, allowing this music to be explored and enjoyed once more.  (It’s no coincidence that Big Break has also been reissuing a number of PIR titles, including last month’s Love is the Message from the original MFSB line-up, featuring many of the players who went on to form the Salsoul Orchestra.)

After the jump: we pick up with the Salsoul story and take a look at all four titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 15, 2012 at 10:02