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Archive for the ‘Loleatta Holloway’ Category

Relight Their Fire: BBR Compiles Hits, Rarities For Loleatta Holloway, Skyy and Evelyn “Champagne” King

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Loleatta AnthologyIt’s no secret that Big Break Records, an imprint of Cherry Red Group, has mastered the art of the reissue when it comes to vintage R&B, soul and disco. But the label has expanded its horizons recently with a new series of deluxe 2-CD artist anthologies combining hits, rarities, remixes and key album tracks into one package. Three such titles are available now from the label, dedicated to the sensational Loleatta Holloway, “Shame” diva Evelyn “Champagne” King and the band Skyy.

Though Chicago-born Loleatta Holloway (1946-2011) only released four albums on Salsoul Records’ Gold Mind imprint between 1976 and 1980, the gospel-trained singer with the powerful, passionate voice made her mark by putting the soul in Salsoul. During her tenure at the label, Holloway not only headlined her own albums – with productions from R&B legends Norman Harris (also Gold Mind’s chief) and Bobby Womack as well as her husband Floyd Smith – but her voice graced tracks by The Salsoul Orchestra (the galvanic “Run Away” and “Seconds”) and Bunny Sigler (the romantic “Only You”). Dreamin’: The Loleatta Holloway Anthology (1976-1982) begins with Holloway’s arrival at Salsoul following a brief but pivotal tenure at Atlanta’s Aware Records where she charted with the single “Cry to Me.” Salsoul transitioned Holloway into the disco market, but with Harris primarily at the helm, she never lost sight of her deep soul roots.

The chronologically-assembled Dreamin’ selects highlights from Holloway’s four Gold Mind releases (all of which are available in expanded editions from BBR). From label debut Loleatta, you’ll hear six songs including the defiant roar of Allan Felder, Ron Tyson and Norman Harris’ R&B and Disco chart single “Hit and Run,” arranged and produced by Harris in pull-out-all-the-stops mode. “Dreamin’,” which gives this compilation its title, afforded Holloway spoken monologues to which she committed the same level of fervor as she did singing. T.G. Conway arranged the sassy Philly soul update of a girl group record – with prominent backup vocals – with Holloway confronting another woman with eyes for her man. “Dreamin’” should have gotten Loleatta to the top of the pops, but alas, the track only hit No. 72 on the U.S. Pop chart. Before completing her second LP Queen of the Night, Loleatta joined The Salsoul Orchestra’s leader Vince Montana Jr. for “Run Away,” an effervescent opus that reached No. 3 on the Disco chart with an impossibly catchy hook and a deliciously elaborate production.

Five songs have been reprised from Queen of the Night including the sensual Bunny Sigler duet “Only You” and Walter Gibbons’ 12-inch mix of “Catch Me on the Rebound” showcasing Holloway’s forceful vocal style, and co-writer/producer Harris’ array of liquid guitar licks, swelling strings, funky bass, nonstop percussion and punchy horns.  1979’s self-titled album yields another four cuts here including a funky reworking of Burt Bacharach, Mack David and Luther Dixon’s “Baby It’s You” as a duet with its producer Bobby Womack, and Floyd Smith’s production of the anthem “The Greatest Performance of My Life.” Loleatta’s final Gold Mind platter, 1980’s Love Sensation, earned Holloway a Disco No. 1 with its Dan Hartman-helmed title song, one of four songs from the LP heard here.

Hartman figures prominently on Dreamin’. Not only is “Love Sensation” here in Tom Moulton’s mix, but this is the very first Holloway compendium ever to include “Vertigo/Relight My Fire,” Hartman’s sizzling smash featuring Holloway which also reached No. 1 on the Disco chart in 1979. Other highlights include “Seconds,” a reunion with The Salsoul Orchestra from their 1982 Patrick Adams-produced collection Heat It Up, and Walter Gibbons’ 12-inch remix of “Hit and Run.” Wayne A. Dickson and Malcolm McKenzie have produced this beautiful set (housed in a Super Jewel Box) which features remastering by Nick Robbins, a fine, concise essay by Christian John Wikane and an appreciation from such luminaries as Tom Moulton, Bobby Eli, Bob Esty, Bunny Sigler, Patrick Adams and the late Bobby Womack. Loleatta Holloway might not have reached the pop stardom of her contemporaries – Eli opines in his note that she “should have been just as big or even bigger than Aretha Franklin” – but her scorching brand of soulful disco hasn’t aged a day.

After the jump: the full track listing and order links for Dreamin’, plus the scoop on the releases from Skyy and Evelyn “Champagne” King! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 17, 2014 at 10:28

Release Round-Up: Week of July 8

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Crosby Stills Nash and Young, CSNY 1974 (Rhino)

The legendary supergroup documents the so-called “Doom Tour” for its 40th anniversary in an absolutely stunning package containing 40 songs, over 3 hours of music (on CD or Blu-ray Audio), a nearly 200-page book and a bonus video DVD with eight additional performances.

3 CD/1 DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Blu-ray Audio/DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Highlights Disc: Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.

Late for the SkyJackson Browne, Late for the Sky (Inside Recordings/Rhino)

The SoCal troubadour goes bare-bones to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his seminal Late for the Sky. The album has been freshly remastered by Doug Sax, Robert Hadley and Eric Boulanger, but there’s no additional content and the disc is housed in a simple fold-out digipak with full lyrics. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Neil Diamond - All Time Greatest HitsNeil Diamond, All-Time Greatest Hits (Capitol/UMe)

Diamond’s move to Capitol, taking all of his masters with him under one roof, necessitates a new single-disc compilation with most of the hits you desire, plus the rarer solo version of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Loleatta AnthologyLoleatta Holloway, Dreamin’ – The Loleatta Holloway Anthology (1976-1982) / Skyy, Skyyhigh – The Skyy Anthology (1979-1992) / Yarbrough & Peoples, The Two Of Us (Expanded) / Jesse Green, Nice & Slow (Expanded) (Big Break Records)

Big Break Records kicks off July with a quartet of amazing R&B titles including lavish and definitive anthologies from Salsoul queen Loleatta Holloway – featuring Dan Hartman and Loleatta’s smash “Relight My Fire” for the first time ever on a Loleatta album – and the band Skyy, with hits from Capitol, Atlantic and Salsoul! As always, Joe will have a full rundown on these titles soon!

Loleatta: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Skyy: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Yarbrough & Peoples: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Jesse Green: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.

The Best of ClimaxClimax, The Best of Climax featuring Sonny Geraci: Precious and Few (Fuel 2000)

The one-hit wonders behind 1972’s romantic “Precious and Few” get the anthology treatment with 25 original tracks (including some rarities) and a new essay by Bill Dahl. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Steve Lawrence BroadwaySteve Lawrence, Steve Lawrence Conquers Broadway (Sepia)

The U.K.-based Sepia label has a slew of classic showtunes as sung by the incomparable Steve Lawrence on this new compilation drawing on his pre-1962 recordings! (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)

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

Release Round-Up: Week of March 11

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Sid Selvidge - Cold of the MorningSid Selvidge, The Cold of the Morning (Omnivore)

A long out-of-print classic, produced by Big Star producer Jim Dickinson and featuring a killer set of tunes written or arranged by the late Memphis folk master (and father of Steve Selvidge, current guitarist of The Hold Steady, who produced this new reissue) and featuring six unreleased bonus tracks.

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Todd Cochran - Worlds Around the SunBayeté, Worlds Around the Sun (Omnivore Recordings)

The debut album by jazz keyboardist Todd Cochran, known for his work with names as diverse as Carl Palmer, Peter Gabriel and Joey Scarbury, is released on CD for the first time with two bonus tracks from the vaults. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Songs Our Daddy Taught UsEverly Brothers, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us (Varese Vintage)

Varese expands the classic Everlys collection – recently covered song for song as Foreverly by Norah Jones and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong – with six previously unissued alternate takes of tracks including “Barbara Allen,” “Roving Gambler,” “Down in the Willow Garden” and “Put My Little Shoes Away.”  Expect a review from Joe soon! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Chicago Live in JapanChicago, Live in Japan (Rhino)

A Japan-exclusive live set released in 1972 makes its first appearance on CD in almost 10 years. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Time for Judy CanovaJudy Canova, Time for Judy Canova: The Rare Recordings 1928-1962 (Sepia)

Sepia collects 27 rare sides from singing comedienne and Republic Pictures star Judy Canova beginning with tracks recorded in 1928 and ending with her final recordings made in 1962. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Lena on the Blue SideLena Horne, Lena on the Blue Side Plus Bonus Tracks (Sepia)

This 1962 album by Lena Horne makes its CD debut outside of Japan with eight bonus tracks!   All bonus tracks are rare singles also making their CD debut, including four songs from her Broadway musical Jamaica that were recorded with Neal Hefti in pop arrangements! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Hank Snow Souvenirs Country HitsHank Snow, Souvenirs/Big Country Hits (Sepia)

This two-fer presents two complete LPs from Canadian country singer Hank Snow and adds four bonus tracks Snow recorded with Anita Carter of the Carter Family! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

LoleattaThe Salsoul Orchestra, Street Sense: Expanded Edition / Loleatta Holloway, Loleatta Holloway: Expanded Edition (Big Break)

Salsoul Orchestra: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Loleatta Holloway: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

ICON Blue NoteVarious Artists, ICON: The Best of Blue Note (Blue Note/UMe)

With an ambitious Blue Note vinyl campaign underway, UMe also honors the jazz label with a new two-disc compilation as part of the ICON series. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

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

Dance a Little Bit Closer with Charo and The Salsoul Orchestra, Loleatta Holloway

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Charo and Salsoul OrchestraCuchi-cuchi!  Charo, or María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza, burst onto the cultural radar with her goofy, slightly suggestive catchphrase during the late-sixties run of the television phenomenon Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.  Once a frequent passenger on The Love Boat, the comedienne-bombshell still is a familiar face today on television (Dancing with the Stars, RuPaul’s Drag University) and onstage – on land and on sea, even on the good ship Disney Magic.  In 1977, Charo teamed with Vince Montana Jr., the arranger-conductor of Salsoul Records’ house band The Salsoul Orchestra, for a fun disco romp entitled (what else?) Cuchi-Cuchi.  It’s one of two Salsoul classics recently given the deluxe treatment by Cherry Red’s Big Break Records label, along with Loleatta Holloway’s 1978 Queen of the Night.

Cuchi-Cuchi, jointly credited to Charo and The Salsoul Orchestra, definitely proved that camp and stellar musicianship could co-exist.   “Dance a little bit closer…move it in like this…a little bit closer/You and me can dance so free/Oh, come/A little bit closer/Slide your feet like this/A little bit closer…” Charo coos on the opening song, one of the three compositions that sold Salsoul’s Cayre Brothers on Montana’s concept for a Philly soul-meets-Latin-fusion orchestra.  The lyrics of “Dance a Little Bit Closer” don’t get any deeper than that, but the seductively insinuating groove and immaculate arrangement – with lush strings, commanding horns and of course a vibes solo from Vince – were pure, sophisticated Philly disco.  “Dance,” breathily sung in the heavily accented English that made Charo famous (or infamous?) on Laugh-In, makes room for asides in Spanish (“Loco, loco, loco!”) as the singer’s playful personality compensates for her lack of a powerhouse voice.  She was rewarded with a Top 20 dance hit for the infectious track.

That effervescent personality is also used to good effect on a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”  Its once-controversial lyrics have always lent themselves to interpretation by sexy female artists – think Claudine Longet’s steamy rendition.  Charo’s salsa-fied rendition of the Jagger/Richards melody comes with a healthy dollop of humor, as does “You’re Just the Right Size.”  This remake of Montana’s 1976 Salsoul Orchestra song (basically an instrumental with choice vocal interjections) is one of the album’s most carnal cuts, but it’s also a fine showcase for the Orchestra’s trademark Latin percussion and Montana’s swirling and oddly elegant strings. “Cookie Jar,” co-written by the bandleader, is driving yet catchy funk, highlighted by Charo’s lighthearted double entendres.

More boisterous is Pedro Calaf’s singalong-style “Borriquito,” sung in Spanish as a disco-fied flamenco track.  Charo warbles modestly in both English and Spanish on Mexican singer-songwriter Roberto Cantoral’s “The Clock” (reportedly recorded over 1,000 times by various artists worldwide).  It’s performed in a straight ballad version with another delectable string chart from Montana.  The oddest, campiest track on Cuchi-Cuchi, however, is far less authentically Mexican.  It’s the disco revival of Pat Boone’s “Speedy Gonzales,” sans Mel Blanc’s animated interjections that enlivened the original recording.  A more successful tongue-in-cheek moment comes courtesy of Montana and Ronnie Walker’s made-to-order title track “Cuchi-Cuchi,” a centerpiece disco workout for the album.

Charo is backed by the ubiquitous background vocalists known as the Sweethearts of Sigma on the quintessential Philly soul of “More of You,” on which she sings “straight” over the irresistible and slickly funky track.  Her hushed vocal is also commendable on the sensual ballad “Only You,” co-written by Montana, Ronnie James and Janet Gugliuzza.  The melody is tailored to Charo’s strengths, and boasts some lovely Spanish-style guitar, too.  Though Charo herself is a flamenco guitarist, she’s not among the credited musicians on the LP, but that’s hardly a liability considering those who did play on Cuchi-Cuchi.  Among this list of Philadelphia all-stars: Earl Young and Charles Collins on drums, Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman on bass, T.J. Tindall and Bobby Eli on guitar, Ron Kersey on keyboards, Larry Washington on percussion and Don Renaldo leading the string section.

What extras will you find on BBR’s reissue?  Hit the jump!  Plus: the scoop on Loleatta Holloway’s Queen of the Night! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 31, 2014 at 09:36

Release Round-Up: Week of January 21

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The Beatles - U.S. Albums BoxThe Beatles, The U.S. Albums (Apple/Capitol/UMe)

The centerpiece product of The Fab Four’s 50th anniversary celebration (thus far, anyway) is a 13-disc box featuring the original, unique American releases on Capitol/United Artists from 1964 to 1970 (including six titles from that first year alone). All but the spoken-word documentary album The Beatles’ Story will be available individually, and all but that and 1970’s stereo-only Hey Jude compilation will be available in mono and stereo on the same disc.

The U.S. Albums: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Meet The Beatles!: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Beatles’ Second AlbumAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
A Hard Day’s Night: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Something NewAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Beatles ’65Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Early BeatlesAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Beatles VI: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Help! Original Motion Picture SoundtrackAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Rubber SoulAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Yesterday and TodayAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Revolver: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Hey JudeAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Del Amitri TwistedDel Amitri, Waking Hours Change Everything Twisted: Deluxe Editions (Mercury/UMC)

Best known in the U.S. for peppy rock radio hit “Roll to Me,” the recently-reunited Glasgow rockers’ first three alternative-friendly albums for A&M are being expanded as double-disc sets with heaps of non-LP B-sides.

Waking HoursAmazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Change Everything: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
TwistedAmazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.

Mike + The Mechanics The Singles 1986-2014Mike + The Mechanics, The Singles 1985-2014 The Living Years: Deluxe Edition (UMC)

To time with Mike Rutherford’s new memoir, the Genesis guitarist/bassist’s famed side-project (with vocals from Paul Carrack and Sad Café’s Paul Young) is first anthologized with a career-spanning double-disc hits and rarities set, and then an expansion of 1988’s The Living Years (whose title track was the band’s biggest worldwide hit), featuring a new version of the track with vocalist Andrew Roachford and a disc’s worth of live recordings from 1989.

The Singles 1985-2014Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
The Living YearsAmazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.

Off the GroundPaul McCartney, Off the Ground (MPL/Hear Music)

Sir Paul’s 1993 album gets a no-frills new remaster. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

CharoCharo and The Salsoul Orchestra, Cuchi-Cuchi: Expanded Edition / Loleatta Holloway, Queen of the Night: Expanded Edition (Big Break)

Two more expanded albums from the Salsoul label on BBR – one from label queen Loleatta Holloway and the debut album from the famed singer-comedienne.

Charo: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Loleatta Holloway: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.

Major HarrisMajor Harris, How Do You Take Your Love / Margie Joseph. Knockout: Expanded Edition (Funky Town Grooves)

FTG puts the first and only RCA album by ex-Delfonic/”Love Won’t Let Me Wait” singer Major Harris on CD for the first time, while expanding a 1983 album by Harris’ onetime labelmate Margie Joseph.

Major Harris: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Margie Joseph: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Simon and Garfunkel - PlaylistVarious Artists, Playlist: The Very Best Of (Legacy)

The latest wave in Legacy’s low-price hits series includes some converted greatest hits titles (Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits, Journey’s Greatest Hits LiveCloser: The Best of Sarah McLachlan) but also some new titles – chiefly some newly-curated compilations from Dean Martin, Ronnie Spector, Jermaine Jackson and Ray Parker, Jr. (All Amazon U.S. and U.K. links can be found in the link above!)

BBR Continues Its “Journey” With Salsoul Catalogue

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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

Heart and Salsoul: BBR Reissues First Choice, Loleatta Holloway, Baker-Harris-Young and Love Committee

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B-H-YOne could call bassist Ronnie Baker, guitarist Norman Harris and drummer Earl Young unsung heroes, but it’s not quite accurate to describe the triumvirate of musicians, songwriters, producers and arrangers as unsung.  Individually or collectively, Baker, Harris and Young helmed productions by Blue Magic, The Trammps, First Choice, Ben E. King, Eddie Kendricks, The Whispers, The Persuaders, and so many more.  As part of its ongoing series restoring the Salsoul Records catalogue to R&B supremacy, Big Break Records has recently reissued four albums that, in part or in full, boast the Baker-Harris-Young imprimatur.  All boast comprehensive liner notes in well-designed booklets loaded with photos and artwork, upgraded sound, original Salsoul-style labels, and numerous bonus tracks.

Earl Young’s unmistakable drums are often said to have invented the sound of disco as he infused the use of the hi-hat cymbal into his playing on such landmark tracks for Philadelphia International Records as Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “The Love I Lost.”  His trademark style is at the root of B-H-Y, the 1979 Salsoul release which put the production team front and center (CDBBR 0223).  Recorded at Philly’s Sigma Sound with regulars Bobby Eli and T.J. Tindall (guitars), Larry Washington (congas), the Sweethearts of Sigma (backing vocals) and Don Renaldo’s Horns and Strings, B-H-Y is a coda of sorts to the team’s incredibly productive tenure at Salsoul.  Baker, Harris and Young had all followed Vince Montana out of the halls of PIR and to the upstart New York label, challenging Gamble and Huff for dancefloor supremacy.  But by 1980, naysayers had pronounced disco dead (not quite true!) and Harris had done the unexpected and returned to the Philadelphia International fold, releasing his one and only solo album, The Harris Machine.

For one of their final major flings at Salsoul, B-H-Y turned out a set of eight funk and disco-flavored originals tailored for both the disco and the bedroom.  The compositions aren’t up to the standards of the team’s finest, but the production values are as strong as ever.  Norman Harris, always a virtuosic talent whose best work can compare favorably to that of Thom Bell or Bobby Martin, was in charge of B-H-Y’s highlights.  Produced, arranged and co-written by Harris, the melodic “Handle Me with Love and Care” has the signature Philly horns and strings over a pulsating, Love Unlimited-style track.  Ron Tyson, of The Ethics and The Temptations, joins with the Sweethearts for the sexy “Take My Body Now,” produced by Harris and arranged by George Bussey.  If Harris helmed the album’s two most soulful songs, Earl Young produced its two edgiest tracks.  “I Just Want to Funk (With You)” and “We Funk the Beat” both take a page from the Parliament-Funkadelic playbook.  Bruce Gray (songwriter of First Choice’s “Let No Man Put Asunder”) co-wrote and sings lead vocals on “I Just Want to Funk (With You)” as well as his own production of “Touch Me While I’m Touching You.”  B-H-Y ends with the exclamation, “B-H-Y, flying high!” and even if B-H-Y isn’t their finest hour, it’s worth a listen for disco and Philly soul connoisseurs.  Big Break has treated the album with love and care in this edition remastered by reissue producer Wayne A. Dickson and annotated by Stephen SPAZ Schnee.  One bonus track has been added, the 12-inch mix of the brassy, grooving album opener “Come As You Are.”  Bring your dancing shoes!

After the jump, we’re spinning BBR’s expanded reissues from Loleatta Holloway, First Choice and Love Committee!  Plus: full track listings with discography, and order links for all four titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 10, 2013 at 10:13