In the last few articles I’ve written about Salsoul Records, I’ve mentioned how from 1978 onwards, things were changing at Salsoul. The Salsoul Orchestra played a huge part in Salsoul’s success. They were much more than musicians, with many of its members songwriters, arrangers and producers. This included the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey and Vince Montana Jr. So when Vince Montana Jr. left Salsoul in 1978 after a dispute with the Cayre’s over royalties, Salsoul lost one of its most creative members. When Baker, Harris, Young weren’t playing as big roles at Salsoul: “the times they were a-changing.”  Some of their replacements weren’t musicians, including remixer Tom Mouton, while producers like Thor Baldursson recorded tracks in Munich Germany. As the personnel started to change, so did The Salsoul Orchestra. By 1978, Ron Baker and Earl Young were no longer regular features in The Salsoul Orchestra and Vince Montana Jr. had now signed to Atlantic Records. 

Then in July 1979, the musical landscape changed even more, after the Disco Sucks movement tried to destroy disco. Suddenly, disco sucked and record companies weren’t interested in disco. Disco artists and disco albums were now deeply unpopular. For a disco label like Salsoul, this was disastrous. However, Salsoul managed to survive the disco backlash, doing so by adapting and signing new artists and new producers. One of these new signings was Inner Life, a studio based project formed by Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael, that featured Jocelyn Brown’s vocals. Inner Life had enjoyed a huge hit in 1979 with I’m Caught Up (In A One Night Love Affair), which they followed up with I Want To Give You Me. After that release, Greg Carmichael took Inner Life to Salsoul and they agreed a two-year deal. In July 1981, Inner Life released their first Salsoul album Inner Life I. How would Inner Life I differ from the earlier Salsoul sound? That’s what I’ll tell you after I’ve told you about the background to Inner Life I.

When disco producer Patrick Adams and singer Jocelyn Brown met by chance, it was a fortuitous meeting. Patrick was looking for a vocalist for a project he was working on, Musique. Jocelyn sang the lead vocal on Musique’s two tracks The Bush and Keep On Jumpin.’ When The Bush and Keep On Jumpin’ were released as a double-A-side on Prelude, it reached number one in the US Dance Charts in 1978. The two tracks were then released as singles, and gave Musique two hits in the US R&B Charts. After the success of Musique, Patrick Adams hooked up with Greg Carmichael to form a new studio-based group Inner Life.

After the success of Musique, Inner Life were signed by Prelude. Inner Life featured Jocelyn Brown’s vocals and their first single I’m Caught Up (In A One Night Love Affair) reached number twenty-two in the US R&B Charts in 1979. This was followed up with I Want To Give You Me, and then Inner Life’s debut album I’m Caught Up (In A One Night Love Affair). This proved to be Inner Life’s only album released on Prelude. Greg Carmichael decided to take Inner Life to disco’s greatest label Salsoul. Salsoul and Greg Carmichael agreed a two-year deal. So now signed to Salsoul, Inner Life would set about recording their new album Inner Life I, which showed how times were changing at Salsoul.

For Inner Life’s second album six tracks were chosen, with Jocelyn Brown contributing It’s You and Pay Girl, while Stan Lucas a friend of Greg and Patrick wrote (Knock Out) Let’s Go Another Round and Live It Up. Greg Carmichael wrote what would become an Inner Life classic, Make It Last Forever. Good as Make It Last Forever was, Inner Life’s version of Ashford and Simpson’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough would go on to become a post-disco Salsoul classic. Unlike so many Salsoul albums, recording didn’t take place at Sigma Sound Studios, with Inner Life preferring familiar surroundings.

Inner Life I was recorded at three studios, Blank Tape Studios, Right Track Recording and Nola Recording Studios. Jocelyn Brown sang lead vocals, while Carol Sylvan, Dennis Collins, La Rita Gaskins and Jocelyn added backing vocals. Production was shared between Patrick Adams, Greg Carmichael, Stan Lucas and Jocelyn Brown. Greg and Jocelyn arranged and produced It’s You and Pay Girl. Patrick and Greg arranged and produced the two best known tracks Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and Make It Last Forever, while Greg and Stan Lucas arranged and produced the other two tracks. Showing how the musical landscape was changing, each of the six tracks were remixed. Tee Scott remixed three tracks, Larry Levan two tracks and John Morales one track. With Inner Life I recorded, the album was released in July 1981.

When Inner Life I was released in July 1981, it failed to chart. However, two of the singles proved successful. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough reached number twenty in the US Dance Charts. (Knock Out) Let’s Go Another Round was the second single released from Inner Life I, but failed to chart. Then when Make It Last Forever was released as a single in 1982, it reached number fifteen in the US Dance Charts. Although Inner Life I wasn’t a huge commercial success, it contained two Inner Life classics, as you’ll realize when I tell you about the music on Inner Life I.

Opening Inner Life I is It’s You, written by Jocelyn Brown and produced by Greg Carmichael and Jocelyn. It’s just Jocelyn’s impassioned vocal accompanied by a piano as the track opens. She displays a wide vocal range and controls her voice perfectly. After ninety-seconds, a thoughtful rhythm section joins the piano as the track reveals its secrets and beauty. The understated arrangement grows in power and drama, matching the emotion, power and passion in Jocelyn’s vocal. When soulful backing vocalists join Jocelyn, a moving, powerful and quite beautiful song takes shape. It allows you to hear a very different side to Jocelyn Brown, one I’d like to hear much more of.

Like many of the tracks released by Salsoul Ain’t No Mountain High Enough has a real timeless sound. It’s hard to believe that it was originally released back in August 1981. This sees a  timeless sounding arrangement and a stunning vocal from Jocelyn Brown combined. Her vocal is diva-esque, as she delivers Ashford and Simpson’s lyrics. Produced by Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael, it’s a track that after a subtle, hesitant start, where drums, percussion and then Jocelyn’s vocal combine. Then. the track literally bursts into life. Drums pound, strings swirl, percussion, keyboards and chiming guitars combine before Jocelyn’s powerful, emotive vocal enters. After that, the track just gets so much better. Handclaps and bursts of backing vocalists join the arrangement, combining power and drama. The result is without doubt, one the highlights of Inner Life I, given its uplifting, joyous and energetic sound.

Pay Girl written by Jocelyn Brown has a really funky sound from the get-go. Just a pounding, slap bass, piano, drums and handclaps accompany Jocelyn’s sassy, feisty vocal. Tight, soaring harmonies accompany Jocelyn’s vocal, as the arrangement swings along. It doesn’t take long to realize just how talented a vocalist Jocelyn really is. She’s another of the long line of Salsoul’s divas, following Loleatta Holloway, Rochellle Fleming and Carol Williams. Later, when Jocelyn’s vocals drops out, a prolonged break sees percussion, piano, handclaps and the pounding rhythm section take charge. Sadly, when a synth makes an unwelcome appearance, things go slightly awry. Why that was included I’ve no idea, but it detracts from the track. Things get back on track when the backing vocals and Jocelyn return, but that synth makes another unwelcome appearance. Apart from that, this a good track, that could’ve been a great track.

(Knock Out) Let’s Go Another Round was written by Stan Lucas and arranged and produced by Stan and Greg Carmichael. It’s a boogie track, with Greg Carmichael’s influence all over it. The introduction sounds like a cousin of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. That similarity is only brief, and quickly, the track takes on its own identity. Percussion, a funky rhythm section, swathes of synths and handclaps combine to create a catchy backdrop, even before Jocelyn’s powerful vocal enters. Her vocal struts in, sassy and full of confidence, with the banks of keyboards and synths accompanying the rhythm section that provide the track’s funky heartbeat. After two minutes, Inner Life tease you relentlessly when the vocal drops out. Synths and keyboards take centre-stage, before Jocelyn’s vocal returns. This pattern continues, so you sit back and enjoy the ride. Over seven minutes, an irresistible track unfolds, which Jocelyn Brown key to the track’s sound and success.

From the opening bars of Live It Up you’re hooked. Instantly, the track grabs your attention. Inner Life’s rhythm section, keyboards and of course Jocelyn’s joyous, sassy vocal combine to take you on a four minute whistle-stop musical roller coaster. During that time, Jocelyn unleashes a powerful vocal accompanied by tight, equally joyous, soaring harmonies. Meanwhile the banks of keyboards and synths, pounding rhythm section, percussion and sizzling guitars provide the perfect accompaniment to another peerless vocal from Jocelyn Brown. Truly, I defy anyone not to succumb to charms and delights of this hook-laden track, which proves that into eighties Salsoul were still releasing groundbreaking dance music.

Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael cowrote Make It Last Forever which closes Inner Life I. Since then, the track became not just an Inner life classic, but a Salsoul classic. This is a seven-minute Magnus Opus, with swathes of cascading strings, joined by the rhythm section and percussion. Then Jocelyn’s vocal heartfelt, impassioned enters, with tight, soulful harmonies accompanying her. Her vocal and the way the strings are used are key to the track. They’re the perfect accompaniment to Jocelyn’s vocal, and are augmented by the rhythm section, keyboards and percussion. As Jocelyn sings “Make It Last Forever,” so good is the tracks, that you wish it would last forever. Of the post-disco era, this is a Salsoul  classic.

While the Disco Sucks movement tried to destroy disco in July 1979, they didn’t destroy disco’s greatest label Salsoul. Instead, Salsoul evolved and the music it released changed. Greg Carmichael and Patrick Adams went on to play important roles in the Salsoul’s future. Inner Life was their way into Salsoul, and in Inner Life I, they proved just how talented they were as songwriters, arrangers, producers and musicians. Although they couldn’t replace legends like Vince Montana Jr. or the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, four men who played huge parts in Salsoul’s success story, they brought new ideas and much needed talent to the label. For their Salsoul debut, Inner Life I, the album featured two stonewall Salsoul classics and  Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and Make It Last Forever. The album also introduced Jocelyn Brown’s vocal prowess to a much wider audience. Jocelyn’s part in Inner Life I’s success can’t be underestimated. She made each of the songs her own, bringing life and meaning into them. Sometimes, she took the song by the scruff of the neck and made it work. With the combined talents of Patrick Adams, Greg Carmichael and Stan Lucas collaborating on Inner Life I, it’s neither a surprise nor a happy accident that the album was a success. With John Morales, Tee Scott and Larry Levan mixing the tracks on Inner Life I, this meant that the tracks were dance-floor friendly. Many of these tracks have has stood the test of time, especially Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, (Knock Out) Let’s Go Another Round, Live It Up Make It Last Forever. It’s You, written by Jocelyn Brown was the perfect track to open the album, and is a real slow burner, that takes its time to reveal its charms and delights. Apart from Pay Girl, which could’ve been a great track, but ends up just a good track, due to the unwelcome intrusion of a rogue synth, Inner Life I is one of my favorite post-disco albums from Salsoul. While Inner Life I may not have been Salsoul’s most successful album, it certainly has stood the test time and features Jocelyn Brown and Inner Life at their very best. Standout Tracks: It’s You, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Live It Up and Make It Last Forever.


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