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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