1978 marked the start of the next chapter in the long and successful career of Vince Montana Jr. Just a few months earlier, one chapter closed and the next began. The chapter that had just finished lasted three years. It began in 1975, when Vince Montana Jr. founded The Salsoul Orchestra. Vince conducted, arranged, produced and wrote much of The Salsoul Orchestra’s music. For three years, The Salsoul Orchestra was disco’s premier orchestra, while Salsoul Records was disco’s greatest label. Then a dispute between Vince and the Cayre brothers who owned Salsoul would forever change Salsoul and The Salsoul Orchestra. This dispute was over royalties and when it couldn’t be resolved, Vince Montana Jr, decided to quit Salsoul. After this, The Salsoul Orchestra were never the same. While they were still the best disco orchestra, the music was never quite as innovative, flamboyant and complex. Things was starting to change at Salsoul, and this was just the start. Given Vince Montana Jr’s reputation, he wasn’t short of offers. Eventually, he settled on a major label, Atlantic Records, who would release I Love Music, his debut solo album which he released in 1979 as Montana. Would I Love Music replicate the success Vince had enjoyed at Philadelphia International Records and Salsoul?

By the time Vince Montana Jr, signed to Atlantic Records, his career was into its third decade. Vince had been born on 12th February 1928. He grew up in South Philadelphia and by the time he was sixteen, in 1944, Vince was playing in local clubs. Then by early fifties, Vince was working in jazz clubs, where he backed legends like Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Red Garland and Clifford Brown. Next stop for Vince was Las Vegas, where he played in places like the Golden Nugget and the Freemont Hotel. All the time, Vince was learning his craft and honing his skills. So, when he moved back to his hometown of Philly, he was an experienced, talented and versatile musician.

Back in Philly, Vince played on sessions for local labels, including Cameo Parkway and Chancellor Records. He played on numerous sessions, including recordings by Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker and Bobby Rydell. Then Vince became a member of the orchestra for the Mike Douglas television show. After that, Vince Montana Jr, returned to Philly, just as the Philly Sound was emerging.

Vince had picked the perfect time to return to Philly, with the nascent Philly Sound developing. Soon, he was working with producers like Thom Bell and then Gamble and Huff. He was not just a musician, but an arranger, producer and songwriter. Look at the sleeve-notes to any Philly Soul classic, and Vince Montana Jr, worked on the album. The Stylistics, The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Blue Magic, Billy Paul, Barbara Mason, The Delfonics, Major Harris and The Trammps all feature the multitalented Vince Montana Jr. Then in 1975, Vince Montana Jr, formed The Salsoul Orchestra.

The Salsoul Orchestra came about almost by accident. Many of the original lineup of M.F.S.B. were locked in a dispute with Gamble and Huff over money. During that time, Vince was discussing a Latin group he’d discovered with the Ken Cayre. Ken wasn’t interested. However, Joe Bataan who was in the next office, overheard them and the idea of a disco orchestra was born. Out of the meeting came the idea of a disco orchestra fused with Latin, salsa, rock, soul, and the big band sound. Add to that the Salsoul logo, which signified a fusion of musical genres and cultures. From that meeting, The Salsoul Orchestra was born. When the original lineup of M.F.S.B.left Philadelphia International Records, they became The Salsoul Orchestra.

With Vince arranging, producing, conducting and writing much of The Salsoul Orchestra’s songs, success came quickly for The Salsoul Orchestra and Salsoul Records Their self-titled debut album The Salsoul Orchestra sold a million copies. From there, a series of innovative albums were released. Vince worked with other artists on Salsoul, including Charo and Loleatta Holloway. Then in 1977, Vince and the Cayre brother were locked in a dispute over royalties. When this couldn’t be resolved, Vince left Salsoul. Straight away, numerous record labels wanted to sign a true musical innovator. Here was a man that was a musical genius. Vince’s eventual destination would be Atlantic Records.

Now signed to Atlantic Records, Vince began work on his debut album I Love Music.  Like the music Vince had created at Salsoul, I Love Music would an innovative, fusion of musical genres and influences. Six tracks featured on I Love Music. The title-track was a cover of The O’Jays classic, penned by Gamble and Huff. Another cover version was Aaron Copland’s Fanfare For the Common Man. Vince wrote You Know How Good It Is and Samba De Montana, and cowrote two other tracks. Bobby “Electronic” Eli cowrote Montana and Friends with Vince, while Ronnie Walker and Vince penned Maybe It’s In My Mind. To record Montana’s debut album I Love Music, Vince and some of Philly’s best musicians headed to the familiar surroundings of Sigma Sound Studios.

At Sigma Sound Studios, Vince was joined by an all-star line up. The rhythm section comprised bassist Vince Fay Jr, drummer Grant MacAVoy and guitarists Bobby “Electronic” Eli, T.J. Tindall and Ronnie Walker. Vince played vibes, bells, percussion, piano and electric piano, while Lenny Pakula played organ, Larry Washington played congas and James Walker bongos and timpani. Add to that a full string, woodwind and horn section, including violinist Don Renaldo and flautist Jack Faith. Goody Montana, Vince’s daughter sang the lead vocal on the title-track I Love Music and The Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Evette Benton and Barbara Ingram sang backing vocals. Arranging, conducting and producing the album was Vince Montana Jr.

On the release of Montana’s debut album I Love Music in 1979, it proved to be one of the most innovative albums Vince Montana Jr, had worked on. Sadly, it didn’t prove a commercial success, failing to chart. Since then, I Love Music has become recognized as one of the most far-sighted, cutting-edge and ambitious albums. You’ll realize that when I tell you about Montana’s 1979 debut album I Love Music.

I Love Music opens with the title-track, I Love Music, featuring Goody Montana singing the lead vocal. This is an ambitious way to open a debut album. After all, The O’Jays version is a stonewall Philly Soul classic. Straight away, congas, bongos and pounding drums combine before that familiar bass line, stabs of piano and lush, dancing strings enter. Then comes Goody’s joyous, powerful vocal. She mixes power, sass, energy and sheer joy. The Sweethearts of Sigma add urgent harmonies. Meanwhile, a mass of percussive delights, swirling strings, growling horns and a pulsating disco beat combine. A piano helps drive the arrangement along, adding to the sheer drama and energy of this joyous arrangement. Add to that, a searing guitar solo from Bobby “Electronic” Eli and later, one of Vince’s signature vibes solos. Hooks aplenty are unleashed, as this infectiously catchy, innovative, reinvention of this Philly Soul classic proves to be a Montana family affair, thanks to the twin talents of Goody and Vince Montana Jr.

You Know How Good It Is was one two tracks Vince wrote. It has his trademark sound as it marches into life. From just pounding drums and bongos combining Vince’s band kick loose. Marching along to the rhythm section’s beat, horns bray and rasp, lush strings sweep and swirl while percussion is sprinkled throughout the arrangement. Vince adds vibes while the arrangement combines elements of jazz, funk, Latin, salsa and disco. After two minutes, Vince strips the arrangement bare. He takes centre-stage before introducing a funk-laden rhythm section, then the grizzled with just a hypnotic beat for company. Gradually, the arrangement rebuilds, marching along to Vince’s beat. Horns blaze, strings dance and Vince’s vibes combine as this innovative, genre-sprawling fusion of musical styles and influences takes shapes. There’s everything from funk, slinky jazz, big band music right through to Latin and Salsa. It’s a truly delicious, serving of cutting-edge music from one of music’s true innovators.

Put It In Love sees Vince introduce The Sweethearts of Sigma, who add harmonies. Here, Vince rolls back the years, returning to big band era for inspiration. Horns growl and kick, Lenny Pakula adds Hammond organ and the bass drives the arrangement along. Vince delivers the lyrics, his lived in voice perfect for the track. The Sweethearts of Sigma prove the perfect foil. Their tight, jazzy harmonies range from heartfelt, sassy sensual and breathy. They soar above the arrangement, witt handclaps for company. With woodwind, sultry horns and Lenny Pakula’s Hammond organ combining, and the bass driving the arrangement along, the result is a vintage slice of big band music that swings along beautifully and brilliantly. What a way to close Side One of I Love Music.

Side Two of I Love Music opens with Fanfare For the Common Man. This is a track that Vince has visited once before, on The Salsoul Orchestra’s Nice ‘N’ Nasty album. Here, he reinterprets it by adding a dramatic, space-age twist. There’s blazing horns aplenty, booming dramatic drums, a myriad of frenzied percussive delights. They add a Latin twist as the rhythm section the provide the track’s pulsating heartbeat. Urgent strings, keyboards, punchy, grizzled horns create a multilayered, complex combination of musical genres and influences. They intertwine seamlessly, making sense, taking you on an enthralling, dramatic journey.

Bobby “Electronic” Eli and Vince cowrote Montana and Friends. Growling horns, a tough, uber funky rhythm section and the lushest of strings provide a series of musical contrasts. To that add Vince’s vibes as the arrangement variously flows, sweeps and bounces along. Orchestral strings float above the bass driven arrangement. Vince lays down peerless and thoughtful vibes solo, before the swathes of strings take charge. Next its the turn of the sultriest of horns, which tugs at your heart strings. Its jazzy sound means you can add jazz, to funk, disco, classical and Latin music. Seamlessly, Vince brings all this together. Not only does he ensure it all makes sense, but flows beautifully, emotively and powerfully along.

Closing I Love Music is Maybe It’s All In My Mind, which was written by Vince and Ronnie Walker. It features Vince on lead vocal and The Sweethearts of Sigma’s harmonies. Just keyboards, emotive strings and percussion join the rhythm section, who inject power and drama into the arrangement. They also set the scene for Vince’s tender, wistful vocal. It’s accompanied by Lenny Pakula’s Hammond organ and The Sweethearts of Sigma’s tender, heartfelt and truly beautiful harmonies. The backdrop for this is a jazz-tinged guitar, layers of lush strings, Vince’s vibes and a meandering bass. Drums add drama, reinforcing the melancholy sound of the arrangement. This is the perfect backdrop for Vince’s vocal and the harmonies, bringing I Love Music to a wistful, melancholy and beautiful end.

Like the albums Vince Montana Jr, worked on at Salsoul Records, his debut solo album Montana was a truly groundbreaking, innovative, fusion of musical genres and influences. Over the six tracks on I Love Music, Vince fused the sound of the disco orchestra with Latin, salsa, rock, soul, and the big band sound. The result is a glorious melting pot of music. From the opening bars of I Love Music, Vince is mixes musical influences aplenty. Hooks are certainly not rationed. His daughter Goody’s vocal is perfect for I Love Music. After that, there’s no let up in the quality of music. Quite simply, Vince doesn’t miss a beat. Three other vocalists play an important part in the sound and success of I Love Music…The Sweethearts of Sigma. Their harmonies on Put It In Love and Maybe It’s All In My Mind, prove the perfect foil for Vince’s lead vocal. They seem to spur Vince on to greater heights. WIth his all-star band providing the backdrop for the six tracks on I Love Music, Vince had picked up where he left off at Salsoul. Sadly, the only difference was that I Love Music wasn’t a commercial success. 

As I Love Music was released in 1979, musical fashions were changing. The anti-disco bandwagon was rolling. Suddenly, people said disco sucked. So for a man synonymous with the disco orchestra, the release of Montana’s debut album couldn’t have come at a worst time. While I Music may not have been a commercial success, it’s certainly one of the most ambitious, innovative and cutting-edge albums of the disco era. Since 1979, I Love Music was been reappraised, and now seen as something a minor classic. Indeed, Montana’s debut album I Love Music showcases the talent, creativity and genius of one of the architects of the Philly Sound, Vince Montana Jr. Standout Tracks: I Love Music, You Know How Good, Put It In Love and Maybe It’s All In My Mind.


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