when you look back at the history of Salsoul Records, you realize they weren’t short of some stunning female vocalists. Loleatta Holloway, First Choice, Charo, Carol Williams, Jocelyn Brown from Inner Life, The Sweethearts of Sigma, Brenda Gooch and Claudja Barry. Each of these divas feature on Salsoul Presents: Disco Divas and Soulful Sista Flavas, which was released in 2005 by Suss’d Records. This is one of the finest compilations of Salsoul divas you’ll find anywhere, so i’ll now tell you about Salsoul Presents: Disco Divas and Soulful Sista Flavas.

Opening Salsoul Presents: Disco Divas and Soulful Sista Flavas is Loleatta Holloway’s That’s What You Said. This was a track from Loleatta’s third Salsoul album Loleatta Holloway, which was released in 1979. That’s What You Said is is arranged by Jack Faith and written by Bunny Sigler and Rick Wigginton. Dancing strings, a pounding rhythm section and growling horns combine with Loleatta’s fiery vocal. Handclaps punctuate the arrangement, while a really catchy, dance-floor friendly arrangement unfolds. There’s a quite joyous sound to the arrangement, with hooks aplenty throughout the track. Playing a big part in the arrangement is the cascading strings, blazing horns and punchy rhythm section. Having said that, the rhythm section don’t have the same presence as Baker, Harris, Young. With them driving the song along, what is a great track, could’ve been even better. Mind you, it still has a joyous, hook-laden, uplifting sound.

Carol Williams’ More is a track from her 1976 album ‘Lectric Lady, which was produced by Vince Montana Jr. More iterally explodes into life. A pounding rhythm section, with drummer Earl Young at its helm, combines with blazing horns and cascading strings. Carol’s vocal is a mixture of power and joy, as she struts her way through the track. The Sweethearts of Sigma deliver punchy backing vocals, while swathes of strings dance with delight and horns bray. Ron Baker’s bass helps anchor the track, matching Earl beat for beat, while percussion, congas and Vince Montana Jr.’s vibes feature. Key to the track are the strings, backing vocalists and horns. One of the best saxophone solos you’ll hear on a Salsoul album can be heard here. Truly, Carol Williams and The Salsoul Orchestra transform this track, turning it into an anthemic disco track thirty-sex years later, is best described as a timeless. It’s a joyous, uplifting classic, featuring one of Carol’s best vocals.

Inner Life released their second album, but Salsoul debut in 1981. This was Inner Life I, which (Knock Out) Let’s Go Another Round which was written by Stan Lucas and arranged and produced by Stan and Greg Carmichael. It feature a diva-esque vocal from Jocelyn Brown. This is 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.

First Choice’s Can’t Take It With You is a track from their final Salsoul album Breakaway, which was released in 1980. It’s a hugely underrated album and one that too often, is overlooked. Can’t Take It With You was the second contribution from Melvin and Mervin Steals and McKinley Jackson. It has a more understated sound than other tracks when it opens. Just keyboards, guitar and rhythm section combine as First Choice add heartfelt harmonies. Bursts of rasping horns stabs of keyboards are joined by Rochelle’s powerful, impassioned vocal. Her power and passion is complimented by the tender harmonies. By now the arrangement has grown, with the rhythm section, bursts of rasping horns and elegant strings combining. It’s beautiful combination, especially given some poignant lyrics and a vocal that’s soulful and full of emotion from Rochelle.

Claudja Barry released two albums for Salsoul, 1976s Sweet Dynamite and 1978s The Girl Most Likely, which featured When Life Was Just A Game. It was written by Claudja and her husband Michael Hoffman. The producer was Jurgen Korduletsch and the remixer Tom Moulton. Adding to the Claudja’s diva-esque are The Sweethearts of Sigma, who help bring out the best in Claudja Barry.

Metropolis only released one album on Salsoul, 1978s The Greatest Show On Earth. Produced by Tom Moulton and Thor Baldursson, The Greatest Show On Earth featured unmistakable sound of The Sweethearts of Sigma. Billed as The Sweethearts, Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Evette Benton’s harmonies were the perfect foil for the Euro Disco arrangements and is one of the most underrated albums Salsoul released Proof of this is Every Time I See Him.

If You’re Gonna Love Me is a track from Inner Life’s third album Inner Life II, released in 1982. It was written by Stan Lucas and produced by Greg Carmichael. Percussion, crashing drums and a pounding bass combines before Jocelyn delivers the familiar lyrics to If You’re Gonna Love Me. Straight away, you’re hooked. It’s impossible not to succumb to the track’s charms. Jocelyn’s vocal is a mixture of sass and power. It’s as if this song was written with her in mind. For company, she has that unmistakable combination of the rhythm section, keyboards and percussion accompanying her. As Jocelyn’s vocal drops out, the guitar takes charge. It almost tees up Jocelyn’s vocal when it returns. She takes charge, delivering what is, a Magnus Opus of a vocal.

Delusions was First Choice’s first album for Norman Harris’ Gold Mind Records. It was released in 1977 and featured Chances Go Round, written by Norman Harris, Allan Felder and Ron Tyson. Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey arranged and produced a track where funk and disco are fused. The two genres immediately unite, with the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section adding funk, as Ron Baker gives a funk masterclass, slapping his six-string bass. Sweeping, swirling strings, keyboards and braying horns are responsible for the disco influence. When Rochelle’s vocal enters, it’s fiery, full of frustration and anger, while tight, punchy harmonies accompany her. Flourishes of strings, the rhythm section and growling horns all add to the drama, in Rochelle’s vocal. It’s filled with emotion, regret and bravado as she brings the lyrics to life, sounding as if she’s lived and survived them. While funk and disco are fused, there’s a real Philly Soul sound in a track that’s laden with drama and hooks.

The first album Loleatta Holloway released for Gold Mind Records was 1976s Loleatta, which featured We’re Getting Stronger (The Longer We Stay Together). It was one of three tracks recorded in Chicago, with a different band. Bobby “Electronic” Eli was the only musician to play on both sessions. Even without The Salsoul Orchestra the quality of music doesn’t suffer. As the track opens, Loleatta scats while braying horns, cascading strings and a pounding rhythm section accompany her. Stabs of keyboards and Bobby “Electronic” Eli’s a searing guitar accompany Loleatta’s powerful, passionate vocal.  Her vocal soars, displaying a wide vocal range and incredible control, while backing vocalists accompany her. Swathes of strings dance above her vocal, as she vamps her way through the track. It’s an inspirational, uplifting performance from Loleatta, on a track that for far too long, has been a hidden gem of Loleatta’s back-catalogue.

Trying to choose the best track on Carol Williams’ 1976 album ‘Lectric Lady isn’t easy. Indeed, it’s an album crammed full of quality music, including My Time Of Need. My Time Of Need is the first of three songs Carol cowrote, with this one of two she cowrote with Vince Montana Jr. This song is like a four minute soap-opera, filled with drama and emotion. Carol singing the song from the perspective of a young woman, pregnant, desperate and on her own. Strings cascade, while horns rasp, as percussion and vibes accompany the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section. Together they provide track’s dramatic and moody heartbeat. Carol’s voice is tinged with sadness and hurt, while the Sweethearts of Sigma add judgmental backing vocalists, their vocals are full of shock and surprise. Their back vocals are the finishing touch, contrasting Carol’s desperation, sadness and loneliness. Here, also Carol shows how a talented songwriter and storyteller she, painting vivid pictures in just four minutes.

Probably Charo and The Salsoul Orchestra’s best known song is Dance A Little Bit Closer. This was a single from her 1976 album Cuchi-Cuchi which reached number 100 in the US Billboard 200. Dance A Little Bit Closer was released as a single, reaching number eighteen in the US Dance Charts and number forty-four in the UK. After Cuchi-Cuchi, Charo released two more albums, 1978s Ole Ole and 1981s Dancing With Charo. However, the track that Charo will forever be remembered for is Dance A Little Closer, a a true Salsoul classic.

Closing Salsoul Presents: Disco Divas and Soulful Sista Flavas is First Choice’s Let Me Down Easy, a track from her 1978 album Hold Your Horses. Let Me Down Easy was written by Andrew Smith and David Jordan and produced by Tom Moulton and Thor Baldursson. Pounding drums are placed at the heart of the arrangement, as percussion and John Davis’ rasping saxophone solo combine before Rochelle Fleming’s vocal enters. It’s heartfelt and impassioned soaring above the arrangement, while Annette Guest and Ursula Herring add tight, dramatic harmonies. The arrangement flows along, before thunderous drums are unleashed, replacing the lush strings from the Munich Philharmonics. When they drop out, the piano, rhythm section and strings combine, as John Davis unleashes a blazing saxophone solo. When all this is combined with First Choice’s vocals, it’s an impressive opening track from that’s both soulful and dance-floor friendly.

The thirteen tracks on Salsoul Presents: Disco Divas and Soulful Sista Flavas demonstrates that when it came to female vocalists, no other label could match Salsoul Records. After all, Salsoul could boast the true Queen of Disco Loleatta Holloway, Carol Williams. Rochelle Fleming of First Choice, Jocelyn Brown of Inner Life and Charo. Then there are The Sweethearts of Sigma, who not only featured on Metropolis’ Greatest Show On Earth, but feature on The Salsoul Orchestra’s albums. The Sweethearts of Sigma backing vocals also feature on numerous Salsoul recordings. Often, their harmonies transform a great track to an outstanding one. 

The vocalists that feature on Salsoul Presents: Disco Divas and Soulful Sista Flavas played an important part in making Salsoul Records disco’s premier label. However, it’s not just disco these vocalists sung. Not at all. Instead, Loleatta Holloway, First Choice and Carol Williams were capable of producing moments of true soulfulness. So whether it’s disco divas or soulful sisters you’re looking for, then you’ll find plenty of both on Salsoul Presents: Disco Divas and Soulful Sista Flavas. Standout Tracks: Loleatta Holloway That’s What You Said, Carol Williams More, First Choice Can’t Take It With You and Charo and The Salsoul Orchestra Dance A Little Bit Closer. 


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