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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.)

Let’s Celebrate: Big Break Goes Deep Into The Salsoul Groove with Candido, Skyy

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Skyy LineFollowing last year’s releases from The Salsoul Orchestra, First Choice, Instant Funk and Double Exposure, Big Break Records continues its exploration of the Salsoul Records catalogue with two new reissues from Skyy and Candido.  These discs can be said to offer another side of the Salsoul legacy as neither are locked into the Philly grooves of Vince Montana or Baker-Harris-Young.  Instead, they show just how far the New York label could push the dance/R&B envelope in the waning days of disco.

1981’s Skyy Line gave the eight-person ensemble Skyy its first (and only) Top 40 hit with the intoxicating cry to “Call Me.”  The track also went to No. 1 R&B and No. 3 Disco, solidifying Skyy’s place on the scene.  Born from the ashes of the band Brass Construction, Skyy released its first album – and first for Salsoul – in 1979.  The members of Skyy were said to be emissaries of the planet Yen Zalia.  Though their home planet had been destroyed by war, they came to Earth to spread their message of love.  By the time of Skyy Line, the band’s fourth album, most of the sci-fi trappings had been replaced by a cosmopolitan, urban feel, but the open-hearted messages of joy and love remained.

Solomon Roberts, Jr. (vocals/guitars/producer), Anibal Sierra (guitars/keyboards), Gerald Lebon (bass), Larry Greenberg (keyboards), Tommy McConnell (drums) and sisters Denise, Bonnie and Delores Dunning (vocals) joined with co-producer/arranger/instrumentalist Randy Muller for Skyy Line.  “Call Me,” written by Muller and sung with insouciance by Denise, was the breakout hit.  It has its protagonist rather blatantly stealing another gal’s guy, but Denise’s performance and the band’s tight backing – propelled by a riff that recalls early Stevie Wonder (think “For Once in My Life”) – proved delectable.  It’s far from the only such offering on Skyy Line, though.  The McConnell-penned opening salvo of “Let’s Celebrate” had just the right blend of a slick bass line, grounded drum beat, burbling electronics and swaggering vocals for the early 1980s.

Elsewhere, Skyy shows off its stylistic versatility.  There’s a bit of a Rick James feel on Muller’s “Girl in Blue,” while Roberts’ “Jam the Box” takes the funk one uninhibited step further.  (Talk about democracy among the songwriting credits!   Delores has the lead vocal on the album’s most unexpected highlight, Roberts’ sensual, elegantly arranged ballad “When You Touch Me.”  There’s even a reggae detour for Roberts and Lebon’s “Gonna Get It On” before the band wraps up the brisk, 7-song, 34-minute album with a bow for Muller’s dancefloor invitation “Get Into the Beat.”  The closing track feels like a bit of a disco throwback (“Get up off your seat!  Get up on your feet!  Get into the beat!”) with some CHIC influence in Roberts’ rock guitar flourishes.

BBR’s reissue adds a brace of bonus tracks – the single and 12-inch mixes of “Call Me” and follow-up “Let’s Celebrate” – as well as a strong and incisive new essay from Christian John Wikane.  (For those keeping score, “When You Touch Me,” the original B-side of “Call Me,” was also issued as a single A-side with the B-side of “Girl in Blue.”  “Gonna Get It On” accompanied the A-side “Let’s Celebrate.”)  These bonus tracks are different than those appended to the 2003 Unidisc CD.  That disc included the Tom McConnell and Francois Kevorkian remixes of “Celebrate” along with an instrumental dub mix. Nick Robbins has remastered for BBR, and everything adds up to the definitive reissue of this early-eighties R&B classic.

After the jump: Cuban percussionist Candido Camero is Dancin’ and Prancin’!  Plus order links and track listings for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 8, 2013 at 09:32

Posted in Candido, News, Reissues, Reviews, Skyy

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Funky Town Grooves Digs Up Treasure from Brick, Full Force and More

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Here’s a look at the upcoming slate from the R&B reissuers at Funky Town Grooves.

September 30 will see three new titles added to the label’s discography. First, there’s a two-fer from jazz-funk hitmakers Brick, best known for 1976’s “Dazz,” a U.S. Top 5 hit. This set will put the band’s last two albums for Bang Records – Summer Heat (1981), which included the band’s last big hit, the Top 10 R&B single “Sweat (Till You Get Wet),” and After 5 (1982) – onto one remastered CD.

Next up, we have the sophomore record from legendary producers Full Force. The brothers and cousins that made up Full Force already made a name for themselves as producers for Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam (“I Wonder if I Take You Home”) and UTFO (“Roxanne, Roxanne”) and had released one self-titled album on Columbia Records in 1984 (also recently reissued from FTG). But it was Full Force Get Busy 1 Time in 1986 that brought the group substantial R&B airplay with tracks like “Temporary Love Thing” and “Unfaithful.” This new edition adds five bonus tracks and will be a must-have for the beat lovers in your life.

The last September release is the final LP by Platinum Hook, an underrated group who’d toiled for Motown in the late ’70s before releasing this last album, Watching You (1983), for RCA. The guest personnel on this album is pretty solid, including production work from Reggie Andrews (The Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip”) and Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (the man who gave “Billie Jean” its iconic drum line) plus contributions from Paulinho DaCosta and Fred Wesley.

On October 22 and 29, FTG will release four forgotten R&B LPs, one of which will be expanded. The first date sees reissues of the sole albums by Forecast, an R&B band on RCA in 1982, and Centerfold, an act from 1988 produced by Monte Moir of The Time. The following week will see a reissue of Welcome Back, the 1981 album by Philly soul providers Blue Magic, and an expanded reissue of Skyy’s From the Left Side (1986) for Capitol, featuring the Top 10 R&B song “Givin’ It to You” and five bonus tracks.

Check all the track lists after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

September 16, 2010 at 13:24