SALSOUL NATION-COMPILED AND MIXED BY LUKE HOWARD.

SALSOUL NATION-COMPILED AND MIXED BY LUKE HOWARD.

Two of my favorite labels are Philadelphia International Records and Salsoul Records. Both labels were hugely important during the seventies, producing some of the greatest music of the decade. Even forty years later, the Philly Sound’s inimitable sound is still as popular and influential. Similarly, Salsoul Records’ music played an important part not just in providing the soundtrack to the disco and post-disco era, but influenced the development in house music. However, as someone steeped in Salsoul, I’m saddened that, no record label has undertaken a comprehensive and extensive reissue of Salsoul’s back-catalogue. Given that Salsoul’s vaults contains albums by Loleatta Holloway, Inner Life, First Choice, Logg, Skyy, Double Exposure, Candido and of course, the Salsoul Orchestra, you’ll realize the veritable feast of musical gems awaiting discovery by music fans old and new. To me, this is a missed opportunity, given how many people, myself included, love the music of Salsoul. It also means that a new generation of music fans, are almost unaware of one of the most important labels in the history of disco. Sometimes, rumors go round that Salsoul’s back-catalogue is being rereleased, but usually, this is just wishful thinking. So with most of Salsoul’s back-catalogue presently unavailable, all that’s left for Salsoul fans to savor, are the release of occasional compilations. While there are a variety of compilations available, most just scratch the surface of Salsoul’s illustrious back-catalogue. Previously, I’ve reviewed one of the best Salsoul compilations, Harmless Records’ The Definitive Salsoul Remixes. For me, this is perfect introduction to the music of Salsoul Records. Another quality Salsoul is Salsoul Nation, Compiled and Mixed By Luke Howard, which I’ll tell you about.

Back in 1990, DJ Luke Howard cofounded the Queer Nation club night in London. Since then, Queer Nation has become one of London’s longest running and most successful club nights, where clubbers dance to a mix of soulful house and disco. During his time DJ-ing at Queer Nation, one label in particular has been a constant companion for Luke Howard…Salsoul Records. So it was fitting that in 2005, Luke compiled a two-disc compilation Salsoul Nation. 

Not only did Luke mix Salsoul Nation, but reedited a number of its twenty-eight tracks. Unlike many compilers, Luke eschews many of the familiar tracks. Instead, many hidden gems feature on the two discs. So do a number of new and intriguing reedits, which instantly, grab your attention, forcing you to take notice. This includes twenty-eight tracks featuring Salsoul royalty, including the Queen of Salsoul, Loleatta Holloway, with Carol Williams, Charo and Sharon Bailey just a few of Salsoul’s Princesses. Along with tracks from First Choice, Skyy, Instant Funk, Inner Life, Candido and the Salsoul Orchestra, Salsoul Nation is two discs of disco delights awaiting discovery.

DISC ONE.

On Disc One of Salsoul Nation, Luke Howard mixes thirteen tracks seamlessly. These are a mixture of familiar tracks, plus more than a few hidden gems. Among the better know from Loleatta Holloway, Double Exposure First Choice, Instant Funk and Salsoul Orchestra. Among the more leftfield choices are Charo, Carol Wiliiams, Metropolis and Lemon. With so much great music on Disc One of Salsoul Nation, I’ll tell you about some of the thirteen tracks.

Opening Disc One of Salsoul Nation is a track from the undisputed Queen of Salsoul Loleatta Holloway Hit and Run. This is a track from Loleatta’s 1976 album Loleatta, released on Norman Harris’ Gold Mind Records. The version included is the QN Reedit, where the original verses from the album version are combined with the vocal sassy, confident ad-libs from Walter Gibbons’ 12 remix, with a loop added to the end of the track. Of all the reedits and remixes of the track I’ve heard, brings something new to a classic track from one of the best vocalists of the disco era.

One of the tracks I was pleased to see on Salsoul Nation was Metropolis’ I Love New York. Metropolis only released one album for Salsoul, The Greatest Show On Earth in 1978. Produced by Tom Moulton and Thor Baldursson, the album features the vocals of The Sweethearts, a.k.a. The Sweethearts of Sigma, Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Evette Benson. Their unmistakable vocals are accompanied by lush, sweeping strings, bursts of rasping horns and the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section. Their combined talents plus Tom and Thor’s production skills results in a true hidden gem from the Salsoul vaults.

During her time on Salsoul, Charo and The Salsoul Orchestra only released two albums. The first of these is Cuchi-Cuchi, which was released in 1977, with vibes player extraordinaire Vince Montana arranging, conducting and producing the album. Charo’s breathy vocal is accompanied by blazing horns, vibes and swathes of lush strings that glide elegantly into the arrangement. Baker, Harris Young provide the track’s heartbeat, while backing vocalists accompany Charo. Later, her vocal becomes much more flamboyant, as disco and Latin music are fused seamlessly. By the end of the track, you realize a little Charo will brighten up your life. 

Carol Williams has one of the most underrated voices you’ll ever have the privilege of hearing. Although best known for her track Love Is You, there’s much more to Carol’s time on Salsoul than just one track. Indeed, Carol’s 1977 album ‘Lectric Lady, arranged, conducted and produced by Vince Montana features another of her best tracks More. From the opening bars you’re hooked. Carol’s emotive vocal is accompanied by percussion, the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section and swathes of elegant strings. The Sweethearts of Sigma add sweeping harmonies and punchy backing vocals, while Carol vocal takes centre-stage, where it rightly belongs.

Before becoming the Salsoul Orchestra, its members had found fame as M.F.S.B., Philadelphia International Records‘ house-band. Many of its members including the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section and Vince Montana would go on to write, arrange and produce many classic Salsoul tracks. This was the case on Salsoul Orchestra’s 1978 album Nice-N-Nasty, which included Good For the Soul, arranged, conducted and produced by Vince Montana, with Norman Harris laying down a peerless guitar solo. A proliferation of percussion, backing vocalists, punchy horns and dancing, shimmering strings are key to the track’s success and its joyful, uplifting sound.

My final choice from Disc One of Salsoul Nation is Inner Life’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, a track where the combined talents of some musical giants resulted in a club classic. Written by Ashford and Simpson and produced by Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael, this was a track from Inner Life’s 1981 album Inner Life. Straight away, Inner Life have your attention. Key to the track is Jocelyn’s sassy, emotive vocal. Along with cascading strings, bursts of booming drums and backing vocalists they add to the track’s drama. The tempo is relentless, and later, to give dancers a rest, a breakdown is added. When the synth solo enters, the track’s drama rebuilds, and the rest of this Salsoul classic reveals its charms and delights.

Disc One of Salsoul Nation features a mixture of well known and lesser known tracks, each with one thing in common…quality. The disc is like a who’s who of Salsoul’s best arrangers, producers, songwriters, musicians and artists. With the Salsoul Orchestra providing the musical backdrop for artists like Loleatta Holloway, Carol Williams, Charo, Candido and Bunny Sigler, one quality track follows hard on the heels of another. Not once do you feel yourself reaching over and skipping a track. Instead, you revel in fifteen tracks mixed seamlessly by Luke Howard, who if Disc One of Salsoul Nation is anything to go by, has impeccable taste in music. Will this be the case on Disc Two of Salsoul Nation?

DISC TWO.

Whereas Disc One of Salsoul Nation only features one track from each artist, this isn’t the case in Disc Two. The Salsoul Orchestra feature four times and Skyy twice. However, given the quality of the music whose complaining? Among the other artists are Instant Funk, Logg, Sharon Bailey, The Jammers and First Choice. Again, this is a combination of familiar tracks and hidden gems sit proudly next to each other. However, will Luke Howard’s taste be as impeccable on Disc Two of Salsoul Nation?

Instant Funk’s I Got My Mind Made Up was a track from their 1979 album Instant Funk. This was Instant Funk’s second album of 1979, and was produced by Bunny Sigler. Sadly, the Say What Edit that’s included on Salsoul Nation is only ninety-seconds long. Having said that, it whets your appetite nicely, resulting in you digging out the original, and revelling in seven minutes of Salsoul bliss.

Skyy released their eponymous album Skyy in 1979. On the album was their best known track, First Time Around. It demonstrates just how the Salsoul sound was changing, with the track having a post-disco sound. Rocky guitars solo, synths, percussion aplenty and a sultry, sensuous vocal are the vital ingredients for this track. Although quite different in sound from the earlier music on Salsoul Nation, it proves that Salsoul weren’t content to rest on their laurels, instead were determined to develop their sound in the now post-disco times.

Similar to Instant Funk’s I Got My Mind Made Up, the version of Inner Life’s Moment of My Life is just a shortened three minute version. Released in 1982, on Inner Life II, the group’s third and final album, with Shep Pettibone mixing the track. What makes the track so memorable is the interplay between the soaring lead vocal and backing vocalists. They so compelling, they become the focus of your attention, becoming spellbound by their emotion and drama. In doing so, you sometimes forget how good the arrangement is. Of the two albums Instant Funk released on Salsoul, this is one of their best ever tracks and like several other tracks on Salsoul Nation is worthy of being called a classic.

If you take a lead vocal from Leroy Burgess, who produced Logg’s I Know You Will and get Larry Levan to remix the track, then the end-result is bound to be something special. This was a track from Logg’s only album, 1981s Logg. It’s another track that demonstrates the importance of Salsoul in the development of house music. Leroy’s vocal helps give the track its uplifting, joyful sound. He’s accompanied by soaring backing vocalists, while the drums pound and the track features that unmistakable and much sampled piano riff. When this is all combined, the result is an uplifting, inspirational and almost spiritual sounding track.

First Choice released their debut album Armed and Extremely Dangerous on Philly Grove Records in 1973. By 1977, they were signed to Norman Harris’ Gold Mind Records and released their fourth album Delusions. It featured two of their classic tracks, Dr. Love and Let No Man Put Asunder which was produced by Baker, Harris, Young. Rochelle Fleming’s lead vocal is a sassy vamp, from a true disco diva. The interplay between Rochelle’s and her backing vocalists helps build up the drama and emotion of the track. This she does against a backdrop where the rhythm section, percussion and keyboards combine. For five minutes Rochelle teases and tantalizes with her peerless, sassy vocal.   

My final choice from Disc Two of Salsoul Nation features one of the best vocals on the compilation, from one of the greatest vocalists of the disco era Loleatta Holloway. The Salsoul Orchestra featuring Loleatta Holloway released Runaway in June 1977. Opening with the guitar and drums combine, quickly, the introduction grows. Rasping horns, swirling strings and percussion accompany Loleatta. Her vocal is confident, defiant and powerful, while drums punctate the arrangement and lush strings cascade. The arrangement sweeps along, with its potent combination of dramatic horns and drums, while percussion, vibes and strings provide a contrast. What makes the track is Loleatta’s vocal, as the confidently and defiantly vamps her way through a genuine and timeless disco classic.

Having wondered whether Disc Two of Salsoul Nation would match the quality of Disc One, that’s quite definitely the case. Like Disc One, one great track follows another, leaving you aghast at the consistent quality of music on the compilation. This is something Salsoul managed to do over a prolonged period of time. The reason for their success was the personnel that came together at Salsoul. This included the musicians that made up the Salsoul Orchestra. Vince Montana, Bunny Sigler plus the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section not only were part of the Salsoul Orchestra, but wrote, arranged and produced many of Salsoul’s classic tracks. That’s not forgetting the talents of arrangers, producers and songwriters like Leroy Burgess, Patrick Adams, Greg Carmichael and Tom Moulton. Together, they helped artists including Loleatta Adams, Inner Life, Instant Funk, Skyy and of course the Salsoul Orchestra create some of the most memorable tracks of the disco era and beyond. Many of these tracks are now considered true classics, and many of them are available on the two discs of Salsoul Nation, Compiled and Mixed By Luke Howard. Standout Tracks: Loleatta Holloway Hit and Run, Inner Life Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Inner Life’s Moment of My Life and Salsoul Orchestra featuring Loleatta Holloway Runaway.

SALSOUL NATION-COMPILED AND MIXED BY LUKE HOWARD.

4 Comments

  1. Hi Derek!

    Great stumbling upon your blog. FYI, Salsoul Records recently partnered with #1 dance label Ultra Records to re-release all of the old albums as well as release new compilations and remixes! A few new compilations and one remix (by Third Party featuring Loleatta Holloway) has already been released! We are so excited to bring Salsoul back to life and into the hands of the next generation. You can head here http://salsoulmusic.com/music to check out all of the albums that are up for sale digitally now!

    Thanks for being such a dedicated fan throughout the years and keep listening!

    • Hi there,

      I’m glad that you liked the review. This is great news. Is there any plans to release CDs or vinyl copies of the album? I know that the appetite for all things Sasloul is huge. Good luck with the release of all those classic Salsoul albums.

      Best Wishes,
      Derek.

  2. We’re in the midst of working that out now. We can’t wait to share these classics with the world once again. Be sure to like us on facebook, subscribe to our youtube, and follow us on twitter to stay up to date with all of our announcements!

    http://www.facebook.com/salsoulrecordlabel
    http://www.twitter.com/salsoulrecords
    http://www.salsoulmusic.com
    http://www.youtube.com/salsoulrecords

    • Hi there,

      I’m really excited to hear that. I really hope that both CD and vinyl editions will be released. I’ve already subscribed to Facebook and Twitter, and some time ago, put a link on my blog to the Salsoul website. Hope that helps.

      Best Wishes,
      Derek.

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