LOLEATTA HOLLOWAY-QUEEN OF THE NIGHT.
LOLEATTA HOLLOWAY-QUEEN OF THE NIGHT.
Having signed Loleatta Holloway to Gold Mind Records in 1976, Loleatta’s producer and mentor Norman Harris set about giving Loleatta a makeover. He started transforming the Southern Soul singer in the a disco diva on her debut album Loleatta. After her Sasloul debut Loleatta was released, Loleatta Holloway’s makeover to disco diva and the Undisputed Queen of Salsoul was underway. On Loleatta’s second album Queen of The Night, Loleatta’s transformation would be completed. Soon, Loleatta Holloway would be one disco’s greatest divas. However, Norman Harris’ role in Loleata’s makeover shouldn’t be underestimated. He transformed Loleatta Holloway from a Southern Soul singer, not just to the disco diva that can be heard on the four albums Loleatta released for Salsoul, but the the real Queen of Disco. Along with some of the greatest musicians of the seventies, Norman Harris set about transforming Loleatta’s career on 1977s Loleatta, her first album for Salsoul. Having started this transformation from Southern Soul singer to the undisputed Queen of Salsoul, on 1977s Loleatta, Loleatta Holloway and her mentor at Salsoul, Norman Harris set about recording the followup album Queen of The Night. Together, Loleatta and Norman Harris would complete Loleatta’s transformation, resulting in her becoming the undisputed Queen of Disco after Queen of The Night was released in 1978. Before I tell you about the music on Queen of The Night, I’ll tell you about how Norman Harris, with the help of everyone at Salsoul, completed Loleatta’s transformation to disco diva and ultimately, the rightful heir to disco’s crown.
After the success of the singles released from Loleatta, especially Hit and Run which would sell over 300,000 copies when remixed by Walter Gibbons, Loleatta and her mentor at Salsoul set about recording the followup Queen of The Night. For Queen of The Night, eight tracks were chosen. Norman Harris cowrote two tracks, Catch Me On the Rebound and Good, Good Feeling with Ron Tyson, who also cowrote Two Sides To Every Story with Edward Moore. Bunny Sigler wrote two tracks, I May Not Be There When You Want Me (But I’m Right On Time) and Only You, which he produced and adds guest vocals on. The other three tracks were written by non-Salsoul personnel, and included cover versions of Bobby Womack’s I’m In Love and Joe Brooks classic You Light Up My Life. These tracks would be recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia and New York, with The Salsoul Orchestra accompanying Loleatta.
By the time Loleatta came to record Queen of The Night, she was accompanied by many of the classic lineup of The Salsoul Orchestra. Sadly, one man was absent, vibes virtuoso Vince Montana Jr. He’d split with The Salsoul Orchestra, after a dispute about money. While Vince played a hugely important part in The Salsoul Orchestra’s sound, three other men played an equally important part ,the legendary Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section. Among the other familiar faces were guitarist T.J. Tindall, bassist Jimmy Williams and drummer Scotty Miller, along with percussionist and conga player Larry Washington and keyboard players Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey and Bunny Sigler. Adding backing vocals were the Sweethearts of Sigma, Barbara Ingram, Evette Benton and Carla Benson. It seemed things were changing at Salsoul, with people leaving and new faces joining the label. This included some new faces, who’d play a part in the production of Queen of The Night.
Norman Harris, who’d played such an important part on Loleatta, produced four of the tracks on Queen of The Night. Bunny Sigler and Ron Tyson, who both played an important role in the sound and success of Loleatta both produced tracks. They were all familiar Salsoul faces. So was Jack Faith, who arranged three tracks on Queen of The Night. Floyd Smith and Arthur Jenkins produced the Bobby Womack penned I’m In Love. The other track You Light Up My Life was mixed and produced by Tom Moulton. This was one of Tom Moulton’s first production jobs for Salsoul. He’d later go on to play an influential role, as would Thor Baldursson who arranged You Light Up My Life. Times were indeed changing at Salsoul. Hopefully this wouldn’t affect the success of Loleatta Holloway’s second album for Salsoul Queen of The Night?
When Queen of The Night was released in 1978, the album failed to chart. Two of the singles fared much better, one of them giving Loleatta Holloway her biggest chart hit single. Catch Me On the Rebound reaching number sixteen in the US Dance Charts. I May Not Be There When You Want Me (But I’m Right On Time) was then released as a single, but failed to chart. Then when Only You, featuring Bunny Sigler was released as a single, it reached number eighty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and number eleven in the US R&B Charts. While things were changing at Salsoul, so was Loleatta Holloway and on Queen of The Night, her transformation from Southern Soul singer to disco diva was complete, as you’ll realize when I tell you about the music on Queen of The Night.
Opening Queen of The Night is Catch Me on the Rebound, arranged and produced by Norman Harris, who cowrote the track with Ron Tyson. The track literally bursts into life, with the chugging Baker, Harris, Young rhythm combining with blazing horns and sweeping, swirling strings. When Loleatta’s vocal enters, it’s a mixture of power, passion and sassiness. Norman Harris arrangement is peerless, combining a backdrop that has made in Philly stamped all over it, with Loleatta’s sassy vamp. Her vocal soars above the arrangement, feisty and fiery. She starts off Queen of The Night where she left off on Loleatta. As the strings cascade, horns growl and flourishes of keyboards, the Sweethearts of Sigma add equally powerful, impassioned harmonies. All the time, Earl Young’s drums, Ron Baker’s bass and Norman Harris guitar provide the track’s pounding dynamic heartbeat. By the end of this classic track, Loleatta, transformation to disco diva by Norman Harris is complete.
Only You gave Loleatta her most successful single in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B Charts. She returns to her soulful roots, with Bunny Sigler joining her on vocal. It’s a very different track from the previous track, bristling with chemistry between Loleatta and Bunny. Just a piano, the lushest of strings and a sprinkling of percussion combine with Norman Harris jazz-tinged guitar. With a burst of Earl Young’s drums, Loleatta kicks loose. Her vocal is soulful and heartfelt, with Bunny matching her every step of the way. The Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section and braying horns provide the track’s dramatic sound, while lush strings add to the emotion and beauty thanks to Jack Faith’s arrangement. For over six minutes, Loleatta and Bunny give a quite beautiful, romantic and soulful masterclass, while Loleatta shows she wasn’t going to forget her soulful roots in a hurry.
Good, Good Feeling is another of the uptempo, dance tracks on Queen of The Night. It’s the second track that Ron Tyson and Norman Harris, who produced the track cowrote. This is a track that would prove influential to a new generation of house producers and has such a timeless sound, that it’s hard to believe it was recorded over thirty years ago. With a punchy, driving Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, strings dance while horns rasp and Loleatta embarks upon one of her trademark vamps. Her vocal is a mixture of controlled power and raw emotion, as the Sweethearts of Sigma add tight, testifying harmonies. They’re harmonies are crucial to the track’s sound and without them, Loleatta’s impassioned vocal wouldn’t be as effective. Norman Harris jazz-tinged guitar is contrasted by rocky guitars, as The Salsoul Orchestra give a peerless performance, as if spurred on by the energetic and dynamic performance of Loleatta and of the Sweethearts of Sigma.
Mama Won’t, Papa Won’t produced by Norman Harris closes Side One of Queen of the Night. It’s another track that could only have been produced in Philly. With its combination of sweeping, swirling strings, growling horns, pounding Baker, Harris Young rhythm section and percussion from Larry Washington, Loleatta produces another gut wrenching vocal. Her vocal’s full of hurt, emotion and frustration while the Sweethearts of Sigma add soaring harmonies. Ron Baker’s bass and Earl Young’s drums provide the tracks pounding, pulsating heartbeat, as Loleatta unleashes one of her most emotive, powerful vocals. Tracks like this prove just why Loleatta Holloway is the true and rightful heir to disco’s crown, someone whose music we “Never Can Say Goodbye” to.
Side Two of Queen of The Night opens with another of the singles, I May Not Be There When You Want Me (But I’m Right On Time). It was written by Bunny Sigler, arranged by Jack Faith and produced by Norman Harris. Tom Moulton was given the job of mixing the track. Here Loleatta’s vocal is a mixture gospel, Southern Soul and disco. These three genres meet head on, with Jack Faith’s arrangement having a real Philly influence. The track bursts into life, sweeping you along atop the cascading strings, blazing horns and pounding piano and rhythm section. Loleatta testifies her way through the track with the Sweethearts of Sigma adding equally impressive and powerful soaring harmonies. When the glorious combination of strings, horns and the Baker, Harris Young rhythm section is added to the fusion of gospel, Southern Soul and disco this is a hugely powerful and moving piece of music, and quite definitely, an underrated track from Loleatta’s back-catalogue.
You Light Up My Life is a cover of the Joe Brooks standard, with Tom Moulton mixing and producing a track which Thor Baldursson arranged. The track is slowed way down, maybe too much even, and given a real Southern Soul and bluesy makeover by Tom and Thor. Tom Moulton places the piano at the track, gradually building the track up. He drops in the rhythm section, Hammond organ as Loleatta throws herself headlong into the track. She delivers the ballad with a mixture of power, passion and emotion, while slow, lush strings and the Sweethearts of Sigma accompany her, adding gloriously soulful harmonies. With the Sweethearts of Sigma’s help Loleatta transforms an old standard, bringing out the beauty and emotion of the track’s lyrics.
Two Sides To Every Story sees ex-Temptation Ron Tyson take over the producer’s chair, while Jack Faith arranges the track. It’s an uptempo dance track, with Loleatta delivering the lyrics in a way that makes you believe she’d lived them. The Salsoul Orchestra kick loose, producing the perfect backdrop for Loleatta. As the track opens, the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section combine with cascading strings, blazing horns and piano. Loleatta’s vocal is full of anger and frustration with the Sweethearts of Sigma adding punchy, soaring backing vocals, that are crucial to the track’s success. Later, a sultry saxophone solo is added at just the right time, and towards the end of the track, Loleatta embarks on an angry, fiery vamp, at her wandering husband. That’s just the finishing touch to a track that shows Loleatta at her sassy, vampish best.
Closing Queen of The Night is a cover of the Bobby Womack penned I’m In Love, produced by Floyd Smith and Gordon Edwards. Of all the Bobby Womack tracks that could’ve been chosen, this is perfect for Loelatta. It allows her to showcase her considerable vocal talents. The arrangement is quite different, much looser and more spacious. Here lush strings, growling horns and piano accompany the rhythm section, who leave space for Loleatta’s joyous vocal. Backing vocalists accompany Loleatta, as her vocal grows in power and joy, while horns punctuate the arrangement effectively. Although quite different from other tracks on Queen of The Night, it demonstrates Loleatta Holloway’s versatility and ability to interpret a track in such a way that she makes it her own.
Queen of The Night sees Loleatta Holloway picking up where she left off on Loleatta. Queen of The Night bursts into life with a true classic from Loleatta’s back-catalogue, Catch Me on the Rebound. From there, Loleatta variously combines power, passion and her feisty sassiness with emotion, beauty and gut wrenching soulfulness. She continues this throughout the other seven tracks on Queen of The Night. Loleatta makes tracks like Good, Good Feeling, Mama Won’t, Papa Won’t and I May Not Be There When You Want Me (But I’m Right On Time) her own. These tracks were produced by Norman Harris, Loleatta’s mentor. Norman seemed to bring out the best in Loleatta, spurring her on to greater heights. During these tracks, Norman combines Loleatta’s soulful roots with disco. Only You sees Loleatta joined by another Salsoul stalwart, Bunny Sigler, and together, they create a track bristling with chemistry. On Queen of The Night, Loleatta is introduced to Tom Moulton who produced and mixes You Light Up My Life and mixes I May Not Be There When You Want Me (But I’m Right On Time). This is the start of a changing of the guard at Salsoul Records. Tom was joined by Thor Baldursson, who arranged You Light Up My Life. While both men would go on to play bigger roles at Salsoul, Vince Montana Jr. had left Salsoul over a dispute with royalties. Vince signed a contract with Atlantic Records in 1978, and given how important a role he played at Salsoul, was sorely missed. Even The Salsoul Orchestra were changing, with new faces joining the lineup. Thankfully, with musicians like the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, percussionist Larry Washington, guitarist T.J. Tindall and of course, the Sweethearts of Sigma all featuring on Queen of The Night, these changes didn’t affect the quality of music. Along with her mentor Norman Harris, who guided her through this transformation, Loleatta Holloway became one of biggest stars of Salsoul Records. After the release of Queen of The Night, Loleatta Holloway’s transformation from Southern Soul singer to the Undisputed Queen of Salsoul, and in my opinion, the true and rightful heir to disco’s crown was complete. Disco had a new crown and the new Queen of Disco and was Loleatta Holloway, Queen of The Night. Standout Tracks: Catch Me On the Rebound, Good, Good Feeling, Mama Won’t, Papa Won’t and I May Not Be There When You Want Me (But I’m Right On Time).
LOLEATTA HOLLOWAY-QUEEN OF THE NIGHT.