SALSOUL PRESENTS-PHILLY SOUL FLAVAS.

SALSOUL PRESENTS-PHILLY SOUL FLAVAS.

There aren’t many musicians who played their part in making two separate record labels the most critically acclaimed, commercially successful, innovative and influential labels in the history of music. However, back in the late sixties in Philadelphia, a group of supremely talented musicians began working together. This included the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, vibes virtuoso Vince Montana Jr and percussionist Larry Washington. Then in 1971, when Gamble and Huff founded Philadelphia International Records, they became the nascent label’s legendary house-band M.F.S.B. They played on albums by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The O’Jays, The Three Degrees, Billy Paul and released a string of commercially successful albums as M.F.S.B. However, there was more to M.F.S.B. than their work at Philadelphia International Records.

When not working at Philadelphia International Records, played on albums by some of the most successful groups of the Philly Soul era. This included playing on albums by The Spinners, Blue Magic, The Stylistics and The Delfonics. By then, members of M.F.S.B. like Norman Harris, Bobby “Electronic” Eli and Vince Montana Jr. were working as songwriters, arrangers and producers. Indeed, Norman Harris and Vince Montana Jr. were architects of Philly Soul. Until 1975, members of M.F.S.B. happily combined their work at Philadelphia International Records with outside work. Then in 1975, Gamble and Huff became locked in a dispute with members of M.F.S.B. over money.

Throughout most of 1975, M.F.S.B’s dispute with Gamble and Huff continued. Then fate intervened. Ken Cayre, who with his brothers owned Salsoul Records, wanted to import the Philly Sound to Salsoul. Ken’s dream was to have an orchestra similar to M.F.S.B. His wish was granted when he met Vince Montana Jr, who wanted Ken to sign Latin group Mericana to Salsoul. Ken wasn’t interested, but explained his vision to Vince. Then Ken wrote Vince a cheque and in return, Vince would deliver three songs where the Philly Sound was fused a Latin, salsa influence. Without even looking at the cheque, Vince headed back to Philadelphia to record the three songs. On the bus back to Philly, Vince looked at the cheque, and found it was for $10,000.

With some of Philly’s legendary musicians, three tracks were recorded, Nice Vibes, Dance A Little Bit Closer and Salsoul Hustle. After these tracks were delivered to Ken Cayre, he took Salsoul Hustle to CBS who’d first refusal on Salsoul releases. Unluckily for CBS, they were busy releasing albums by Bob Dylan and Barbara Streisand. CBS passed on Salsoul Hustle, as did Atlantic and Polydor Records. So Salsoul released and distributed Salsoul Hustle. Immediately, Salsoul had a hit single on their hands. This meant Salsoul needed more songs, enough for an album. To record this album, Ken Cayre needed his orchestra. Luckily, this coincided with the disputed between Gamble and Huff and M.F.S.B. coming to a head.

The dispute between Gamble and Huff and M.F.S.B. couldn’t be resolved. So many key members of M.F.S.B. left Philadelphia International Records, and one-hundred miles to New York, where they became The Salsoul Orchestra. At Salsoul Records, the former members of M.F.S.B’s influence resulted in many Salsoul recordings having a Philly Soul influence. Proof of this is Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas, which I’ll pick the highlights of. It features tracks by Loleatta Holloway, Double Exposure, First Choice, Eddie Holman and Bunny Sigler, many of which were either written, arranged or produced by former members of M.F.S.B.

Legendary guitarist, songwriter and producer Norman Harris recommended that Ken Cayre sign Double Exposure to Salsoul Records. Double Exposure released three albums between 1976 and 1979. Their most successful album was 1976s Ten Percent, which featured Salsoul classics like Ten Percent, Everyman and My Love Is Free. Its followup was 1978s Fourplay, which featured Falling In Love and I Declare War. Of the two tracks, the Norman Harris I Declare War is the best. With a dramatic arrangement, Jimmy Williams’ lead vocal combines power and passion. Accompanied by the tightest of soulful harmonies, this is a true hidden gem, which epitomises Philly Soul.

During their time at Gold Mind Records, a subsidiary of Salsoul run by Norman Harris, Love Committee only released one album. This was 1978s Law and Order. Although it wasn’t a commercial success, it’s one of the most underrated albums in Gold Mind Records’ back-catalogue. Proof of this is the Ron Tyson and Eddie Moore penned Tired of Being Your Fool. It features a soul baring vocal from Ron, against a broody backdrop. Adding to the song’s sheer soulfulness are truly heartfelt harmonies from The Sweethearts of Sigma.

Eddie Holman is another artist who only released one album for Salsoul Records, 1977s This Will Be A Night To Remember. It was produced by Baker, Harris, Young who were given the job of rejuvenating Eddie’s career. Sadly, This Will Be A Night To Remember failed to chart. However, it’s a reminded of just how talented and versatile a singer Eddie Holman was. Two tracks penned by Ron Baker demonstrate this perfectly, All My Life and This Will Be A Night To Remember, which Ron cowrote with Ron Tyson. Both tracks see a confident Eddie strutting his way through the tracks spreading hooks and happiness in his wake.

In 1976, The Salsoul Orchestra released their sophomore album Nice ‘N’ Nasty. Featuring the classic lineup of The Salsoul Orchestra, Nice ‘N’ Nasty reached number sixty-one in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-three in the US R&B Charts. Unsurprisingly, of the ten albums The Salsoul Orchstra released, Nice ‘N’ Nasty is one of the best. Standing and Waiting On Love was written by Floyd Smith with Vince Montana Jr, who arranged, conducted and produced this track. The best way to describe this track is an uplifting, joyous slice of sunshine, featuring The Salsoul Orchestra at their very best.

Before signing to Gold Mind Records, Instant Funk had accompanied some of the legends of Philly Soul. They’d also released two albums for Philadelphia International Records. However, it was at Gold Mind Records where commercial success came their way. Their debut single When I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl) was released in December 1978, reaching number twenty in the US Billboard 100 and number one in the US R&B Charts and US Disco Charts. Then Instant Funk was released on January 1979 the success continued. It reached number twelve in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts and US Disco Charts. The best track from Instant Funk was Crying, which only reached number forty-one in the US R&B Charts. Despite this, it’s regarded a true Salsoul classic, with an irresistibly catchy, hook-laden sound. The other track from Instant Funk on Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas is Can You See Where I’m Coming From, a track from their 1980 album The Funk Is On, a track that’s funky and soulful.

Often, when compilers are compiling a Salsoul compilation, they tend to stick with tracks many people are familiar with. That’s not the case here. True Example’s Love Is Finally Coming My Way is something of a hidden gem, so its inclusion on Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas is to welcomed. This 12” single was True Example’s only release Gold Mind Records. Written by Alan Felder, Ron Tyson and T.G. Conway, who produced the track, it was mixed by Walter Gibbons. The result was a delicious and truly memorable combination of Philly Soul and disco.

Metropolis’ 1978 album The Greatest Show On Earth featured the vocal prowess of legendary Philly backing vocalists The Sweethearts of Sigma. The unmistakable harmonies of Barbara Ingram, Evette Benton and Carla Benson feature on nearly every Philly Soul classic of the seventies. Producing The Greatest Show On Earth were Tom Moulton and Thor Baldursson. Given the personnel involved, The Greatest Show On Earth should’ve been a huge commercial success. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Instead, Metropolis’ fusion of Euro Disco, Philly Soul and disco has remained an underrated, hidden gem that’s awaiting discovery. Proof of this is Here’s To You, one of the highlights of The Greatest Show On Earth.

Bunny Sigler released a trio of albums for Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records before signing to Gold Mind Records. Sadly, they weren’t commercially successful. Next stop for Bunny was Norman Harris’ Gold Mild Records, which was a subsidiary of Salsoul. Bunny was a member of The Salsoul Orchestra and worked as a songwriter, arranger and producer. Between 1977 and 1980, he released three albums, Let me Party With You in 1977 and 1979s I’ve Always Wanted To Sing…Not Just Write Songs. His third album Let It Snow, released in 1980, was released on Salsoul, after Gold Mind’s demise. Cry My Eyes Out featured on I’ve Always Wanted To Sing…Not Just Write Songs and sees Bunny deliver a vocal laden with heartbreak, hurt and emotion.

The first Lady of Salsoul was, without doubt, Loleatta Holloway. She released four albums for Gold Mind Records between 1976 and 1980. The Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey produced That’s How Heartaches Are Made is a track from Loleatta’s 1976 album Loleatta. It demonstrates her soulful rooots, while the other track on Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas features Loleatta Holloway disco diva.Two SIdes To Every Story is a track from Loleatta’s 1978 album Queen Of The Night. Here, Loleatta delivers an outstanding performance. She’s sassy, confident and struts her way through the track giving a masterclass in soulfulness. No wonder Loleatta Holloway is remembered as one of the greatest divas of the disco era.

Another welcome inclusion on Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas is Moment Of Truth’s Come On In. This is a track from their only Sasoul album Moment Of Truth. Released in 1977, the eights songs were written by Norman Bergen and Reid Whitelaw, who produced the album. One of the highlights of Moment Of Truth, which was a captivating fusion of Philly Soul and disco was Come On In. For anyone yet to discover the delights of Moment Of Truth, then it’s an album I’d thoroughly recommend.

My final choice from Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas is First Choice’s Sittin’ Pretty. This was a track from their final album Breakaway. Released in 1980, Breakaway wasn’t a commercial success, and since then, has remained a hugely underrated album. Sittin’ Pretty was one of two tracks written by the successful songwriting team of Melvin and Mervin Steals with McKinley Jackson. Lead vocalist Rochelle Fleming unleashes a vocal tour de force. She’s matched all the way by The Salsoul Orchestra. The result is a hook-laden, timeless dance track.

Unlike so many Salsoul Records compilations, the compiler of Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas hasn’t just picked a selection of the best known tracks released on Salsoul and Gold Mind Records. Having said that, this doesn’t mean the compiler has ignored tracks by some of Salsoul’s biggest names. Granted there’s still contributions from First Choice, Double Exposure, Loleatta Holloway andThe Salsoul Orchestra, but mostly, tracks that many people won’t be familiar with. Rather than Runaway or Hit and Run from Loleatta Hollway, Two SIdes To Every Story and That’s How Heartaches Are Made. Similarly, there’s Dr. Love or Let No Man Put Asunder from First Choice, with Sitting Prett’ chosen instead. This is a refreshing from previous Salsoul compilations crammed full of predictable tracks.

What’s also refreshing is the inclusion of several hidden gems. Among the hidden gems on Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas are Love Committee’s Tired of Being Your Fool, Eddie Holman’s This Will Be A Night To Remember, Metropolis Here’s To You and Moment Of Truth’s Come On In. This quartet of tracks are a departure from the familiar tracks that fill many Salsoul compilations. It also demonstrates that, if a compiler is willing to dig deeper, then they can compile a compilation that has an eclectic and captivating selection of tracks. Given how many predictable Salsoul compilations have been released, then compilations like Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas are to be welcomed and encouraged.

Most of the tracks on Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas have one thing in common, the Philly Soul influence that’s their musical D.N.A. That’s no surprise. Many of the musicians who played on numerous Philly Soul classics feature on many of the tracks on Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas. Indeed, musicians like the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, vibes virtuoso Vince Montana Jr and percussionist Larry Washington had been playing together since the late sixties. They’d then been part of M.F.S.B. before they became part of The Salsoul Orchestra. Their musical influence runs through many of the tracks on Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas. As I said, it’s part of the music’s D.N.A. of the sixteen tracks on Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas. Not only that, but  Salsoul Presents-Philly Soul Flavas demonstrates just why the members of M.F.S.B. who became The Salsoul Orchestra were some of the most talented, innovative and influential musicians of the seventies. Standout Tracks: The Salsoul Orchestra Standing and Waiting On Love, Loleatta Holloway That’s How Heartaches Are Made, Eddie Holman This Will Be A Night To Remember and Instant Funk Crying.

SALSOUL PRESENTS-PHILLY SOUL FLAVAS.

 

 

 

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