SALSOUL PRESENTS: THE DEFINITIVE 12” MASTERS VOLUME 2.

SALSOUL PRESENTS: THE DEFINITIVE 12” MASTERS VOLUME 2.

Recently, I was asked by a friend to recommend a Salsoul Records compilation. They’d heard a couple of songs from Salsoul’s illustrious back-catalogue, and decided they wanted to dig deeper. Realizing that I was huge fan of all things disco, and especially Salsoul, they asked if i could recommend some compilations and albums that would provide them with an introduction to Salsoul Records. That however, presented a problem. 

My problem was that there are so many different Salsoul compilations available, the quality differs from excellent to mediocre. Thankfully, one compilation stood head and shoulders above the rest. This was Harmless Records The Definitive Salsoul Mixes, what I’ve come to regard as the definitive Salsoul compilation. Then when I started digging deeper, the Salsoul compilations started to vary in quality. So I decided I’d review a several Salsoul compilations to help the newcomer to Salsoul Records find the creme de la creme of Salsoul compilations. The first compilation I reviewed saw me strike gold, with Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 1. It was one of the finest Salsoul compilations that I’ve come across in the past twenty years. While it didn’t quite match the quality of The Definitive Salsoul Mixes, it’s a worthy addition to any record collection. Then I discovered that Suss’d Records had released a followup to Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 1. This was Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2, released in 2008. Would Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 be a worth successor to Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 1 and join my recommended list of Salsoul Records’ compilations? That’s what I’ll tell you, once I’ve picked my top ten tracks from the two discs that comprise Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2.

DISC 1.

Disc One of Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 features nine tracks, including tracks from some of the biggest names in Salsoul’s history. This includes The Salsoul Orchestra, Loleatta Holloway and Double Exposure. There’s also contributions from Eddie Holman, Gaz, Moment of Truth, Joe Bataan and Claudja Barry. Immediately, you realize that Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 is a compilation where familiar tracks and hidden gems sit comfortably side by side. In total, there are nine original 12” versions on Disc One, which I’ll pick the best five.

My first choice from Disc One of Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 is The Salsoul Orchestra’s Nice ‘N’ Nasty, which was the title-track of their sophomore album. When Nice ‘N’ Nasty was released in October 1976, it reached number sixty-one in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-three in the US R&B Charts. The title-track Nice ‘N’ Nasty was the lead single, reaching number thirty in the US Billboard 100, number twenty in the US R&B Charts, number eight in the Disco Charts and number three in the Dance Music-Club Play Charts. Written and produced by Vince Montana Jr, Walter Gibbons remix features on Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2.  Earl Young’s thunderous drums and hissing h-hats give way to a sizzling guitars, before horns blaze, strings swirl and breathy female vocals enter. From there, you’re swept away, atop lush strings, while horns serenade you. Later, Norman Harris lays down a peerless guitar solo. A proliferation of percussion, sweet, sensual harmonies from The Sweethearts of Sigma, punchy horns and dancing, shimmering strings are key to the track’s success and its joyful, uplifting sound.

Although Double Exposure released three albums for Gold Mind Records, Ten Per Cent was their most successful album. It was released in August 1976, it reached number 129 in the US Billboard 200 and number forty in the US R&B Charts. One of the singles released from Ten Per Cent was Everyman, written by Allan Felder and Bunny Sigler. Norman Harris arranged and produced the track. The original 12” version literally bursts joyfully into life. A flourish of piano, the funky Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, blazing horns, dancing disco strings and Vince Montana’s vibes give way to Jimmy’s lead vocal. He makes the song his own, delivering it with a mixture of power, passion and joy, bringing out the meaning in the lyrics. The Sweethearts of Sigma harmonies augment Double Exposure. Soon they and The Salsoul Orchestra kick loose. Bobby Eli adds his trademark guitar sound, horns blaze, strings dance with delight, each playing their part in the track’s joyous, inspirational and feel-good sound. The song has Salsoul written all over it and Norman Harris’ production is absolutely peerless. That’s why this is the greatest song Double Exposure ever recorded. It’s anthemic, uplifting, inspirational and totally joyous. 

This Will Be A Night To Remember was the title-track to Eddie Holman’s 1977 album. It was produced by Baker, Harris, Young Productions, but failed to chart. Baker, Harris, Young drive the arrangement along, creating a pulsating beat. Keyboards add flamboyance, strings dance appreciatively and joyously and horns growl, The arrangement builds and builds. It’s a  truly delicious, vintage slice of Salsoul. One part of you wants this to last forever, the other wants to hear what happens next. What happens is Eddie’s sassy, teasing vocal enters. Eddie becomes Dr. Love. Punchy harmonies accompany him, each forcing the other to greater heights. Meanwhile, The Salsoul Orchestra have kicked loose. They’re at their very best. Flourishes of piano, frantic strings and Baker, Harris, Young drive this musical juggernaut backdrop along. It’s life in the fast lane. This peerless fusion of Philly Soul, disco, funk and jazz results in a glittering hidden gem in the Salsoul back-catalogue.

Loleatta was Loleatta Holloway’s third album and her first for Gold Mind Records. Hit and Run gave Loleatta a surprise hit single, selling over 300,000 copies. Since then, it’s become one of Loleatta’s best known songs. The unmistakable sound of The Salsoul Orchestra in full flight opens Hit and Run. This includes the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, sweeping swirling strings, bursts of blazing horns and Bobby “Electronic” Eli’s guitar. Then comes Loleatta as she embarks upon a sassy, sultry vamp. She mixes power and passion, while percussion, guitars, blazing horns and Vince Montana’s vibes accompany the rhythm section. Tight, cooing punchy backing vocals from the Sweethearts of Sigma augment Loleatta’s powerful vamp. Meanwhile, strings cascade, punchy horns kick and the greatest rhythm section of the seventies provide the track’s heartbeat. Together, Loleatta Holloway the greatest diva of the disco era, and the multitalented Salsoul Orchestra, make this not just a Salsoul classic, but one of the greatest tracks of the disco era. 

Gaz’s Sing SIng is another track that wasn’t originally recorded by Salsoul. Instead, it was recorded by the German label Lollipop. Produced by Jurgen Korduletsch, who also discovered Claudia Barry and brought her to the US, Jurgen wanted Salsoul to distribute the track. Salsoul gave it to Robbie Rivera to remix. This was his first remix and the result is a joyous track with a real feel-good sound. Released in November 1978, and mixed by Robbie Rivera, the track is extended to seven magical minutes. Opening with pounding drums and guitars, they’re joined by the bass, percussion and strings, before Claudia’s vocal enters. As she sings, her vocal is answered by a male vocalist. The track benefits from a strong rhythm section, which is augmented by rasping horns, keyboards and percussion. Robbie Rivera’s mix is excellent, totally transforming the original track, turning it into a Magnus Opus, where the best of European and US disco becomes one.

Truly, choosing the five best tracks on Disc One of Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 wasn’t easy. It was extremely difficult. I could’ve included two tracks by The Salsoul Orchestra, Joe Bataan’s cover of The Bottle or Moment of Truth’s Helplessly, which is a very welcome inclusion on Disc One. Unlike other Salsoul compilations, the compiler of Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 has dug deeper and unearthed several hidden gems. Moment of Truth’s Helplessly, Gaz’s Sing Sing and Eddie Holman’s This Will Be A Night To Remember. Then there’s Salsoul classics from Loleatta Holloway, The Salsoul Orchestra and Double Exposure. Surpassing the quality of Disc One of Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 won’t be easy.

DISC TWO.

Disc Two of Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 features some of Salsoul’s big-hitters. Loleatta Holloway, The Salsoul Orchestra, First Choice and Skyy all feature on Disc Two. So do Skip Mahoney, Inner Life, Candido and Jimmy Castor. Quite simply, the nine tracks on Disc Two of Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 all have one thing in common…quality. This will make choosing the five best tracks difficult, to say the least.

Skyy’s First Time Around opens Disc Two of Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2. This is from Sykk’s debut album Skyy, released in 1979. First Time Around was released in May 1979 and since then, has become a Salsoul classic. Opening with just a wandering bass, a male vocal enters, before sizzling guitars, cascading strings and pounding drums combine. The arrangement is dramatic, with sweet, sensuous vocals drifting in and out of the track. There’s a different sound to this track, with rocky guitars providing a contrast to the lushness of the strings and the pounding drums. There’s even synths which occasionally reverberate above the arrangement, as the track reveals its charms and secrets. Of all the remixes of First Time Around I’ve heard, Larry Levan’s is one of the best.

By the time First Choice recorded their second album for Salsoul, Hold Your Horses, Salsoul was a very different label. New producers and remixers had joined the label. Other studios apart from Sigma Sound Studios were being used. Four tracks from Hold Your Horses were partly recorded in Munich. This included the title-track. Thunderous drums gallop along the arrangement, before, percussion, quivering strings and the rest of the rhythm section enter. Then come First Choice delivering some of their best vocal. Rochelle’s lead vocal is sultry and powerful. Annette and Ursula add dramatic, soaring harmonies. The Bobby “DJ” Guttadaro’s. remix is perfectly balanced, and features a pounding rhythm section, quivering strings and blazing horns. This results in a masterpiece of modern production, that over thirty years later, still has a timeless sound. 

Loleatta Holloway was Salsoul’s very own disco diva, who released four albums between 1976 and 1980. Her third album was 1979s Loleatta Holloway. Although, it wasn’t a commercial success, it features Loleatta at her very best. One of her best performances in on All About The Paper, which was arranged by James Mack and  produced by Floyd Smith. Chiming guitars, punchy blazing horns and a pounding rhythm section combine to create the perfect backdrop for Loleatta’s vocal. Briefly, you can hear similarities with Chic’s Good Times. When Loleatta’s vocal enters, it’s a sassy, feisty, strutting vamp. She makes the song her own, demonstrating just why she was the Queen of Disco. Strings dance with delight, while the Sweethearts of Sigma add tender harmonies and bursts of horns punctuate the arrangement. They’re joined by the best performance by the rhythm section on Loleatta Holloway. While they’re no Baker, Harris, Young, they’re crucial to the song’s sound and success. What really makes the song is Loleatta’s vocal, one that feisty, fiery and sassy. Combined with a what’s simply a timeless, dance-floor friendly arrangement and the result is vintage Loleatta.

Inner Life released just two albums for Salsoul. Their second album was 1982s Inner Life II, which featured Moment of My Life which reached number fifteen in the US Dance Music/Club Play Charts. Of the six tracks on Inner Life II, Moment Of My Life is the best and is remixed Shep Petibone. Nothing else comes close. Jocelyn’s vocal soars powerfully and dramatically above the arrangement. She delivers a punchy, powerful and soulful vocal against a backdrop of the rhythm section, percussion and Leroy’s keyboards. Equally punchy backing vocalists accompany her, as she delivers one of the best vocals of her time with Inner Life. The sprinkling of percussion adds to the effectiveness of an arrangement where boogie, funk and soulfulness unite. With the combined talents of Leroy Burgess, Greg Carmichael and Jocelyn Brown at the top of their game, it’s no wonder that thirty years later, this track is regarded as a Salsoul classic.

Chicago Bus Stop (Ooh I Love It) is my final choice from was a track from Disc Two of Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 The Salsoul Orchestra’s 1976 million-selling debut alum The Salsoul Orchestra and is remixed Shep Petibone. It has an irresistibly, joyous and uplifting sound. This track features the Sweethearts of Sigma adding breathy, sassy vocals. The Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section lock into a funky groove, while keyboards, guitars and percussion are joined by sassy, sensual vocals from the Sweethearts of Sigma. A sultry alto saxophone enters, as strings, sweep and swirl as the breathy vocal drifts in and out. Dramatic stabs of growling horns accompany the saxophone, and the rhythm section never miss a beat. They’re responsible for the mesmeric, almost hypnotic backdrop, while flourishes of woodwind and a myriad of percussion give the arrangement a Latin flavor. Here, funk meets disco with a twist of Latin flavor and Philly Soul added for good measure, as only The Salsoul Orchestra could, that is with style, flair and a flourish.

On Disc Two of Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 there’s no let up in the quality of music. This Loleatta Holloway, The Salsoul Orchestra, First Choice and Inner Life. There’s also contributions from Candido, Skip Mahoney, Candido and Jimmy Castor. From start to finish, Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 is quality all the way. The same can be said of Disc One. Both discs act as a perfect primer to disco’s premier label Salsoul Records. Much of that music on Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 is now over thirty years old, but like a good wine, has aged well. Several times during my review I’ve referred to the music as timeless, and often that’s the case. Mind you, with musicians as good as the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, Vince Montana Jr, Bobby “Electronic” Eli and Larry Washington, that’s no surprise. These were the greatest musicians of the seventies. To me, part of the success of Salsoul was the combination of some of the most creative and talented musical minds. Whether it was arrangers, producers, musicians or artists, both labels ensured that they had access to the finest, most creative people. This even extended to Salsoul’s A&R department, who spotted the potential of tracks like Bataan’s The Bottle (La Botella), and Gaz’s Sing Sing. All of this lead to Salsoul becoming disco’s greatest labels, with one of the best back catalogues. Eighteen remixes of these Salsoul tracks can be found on Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2, which is compelling and eclectic collection of music that demonstrates what made Salsoul disco’s greatest label. Not only that, but Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 2 is the perfect companion to Salsoul Presents: The Definitive 12” Masters Volume 1 and one of the finest Salsoul compilations I’ve come across. Standout Tracks: The Salsoul Orchestra Nice ‘N’ Nasty, Loleatta Holloway Hit and Run, Eddie Holman This Will Be A Night To Remember and First Choice Love Thang.

SALSOUL PRESENTS: THE DEFINITIVE 12” MASTERS VOLUME 2.

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