1979 was one of the most important years in the history of Salsoul Records. That year, disco died and briefly, Salsoul returned to its Latin roots. This happened when veteran Cuban percussionist signed to Salsoul Records. Dancin’ and Prancin’ his Salsoul debut, consisted of just four infectiously catchy, genre-sprawling tracks. Despite it indisputable quality, Dancin’ and Prancin’ failed to chart. It seemed that the Cayre brothers decision to revisit the past to ensure Salsoul’s future in the post-disco musical landscape hadn’t paid off. Maybe Candido’s followup to Dancin’ and Prancin,’ Candi’s Funk, which was recently reissued by Octave Japan would see a change in both his and Salsoul’s fortunes. Would that be the case?
By 1979, Salsoul Records had changed almost beyond recognition. No longer was Salsoul consistently releasing the hits it once was. What had been disco’s equivalent of Goliath had been slain. Many of its top artists had either left the label. Things had started to go wrong after Vince Montana Jr, left Salsoul following a dispute over royalties. Then when Norman Harris’ Gold Mind Records lost its distributor, things took a turn for the worse. Vince and Norman had been responsible for much of Salsoul’s success. Those trying to fill their shoes didn’t have the Midas Touch. What didn’t help matters, was music was changing beyond recognition. Salsoul’s biggest stars were no longer as successful.
Double Exposure, First Choice and Loleatta Holloway had been signed to Norman Harris’ Gold Mind Records, which was an imprint of Salsoul. Along with The Salsoul Orchestra, they were Salsoul’s biggest acts. That was all in the past. Music had changed, changed beyond recognition. They were still signed to Salsoul, but were no longer as successful. While Loleatta, First Choice and Double Exposure remained, many of the classic lineup of The Salsoul Orchestra had left the label. The ones that remained, they either played a smaller part or were gradually being sidelined. Even the music was changing and changing quickly.
Disco was no longer as popular. For a disco label like Salsoul, this hit them hard. Sales were down. Neither disco nor Salsoul enjoyed the widespread commercial success of even a year ago. Since 1975, Salsoul’s fusion of salsa, Philly Soul and disco was at its strongest. This was the case right through to 1979, when Candio signed to Salsoul. Now music had changed and new groups were signed to Salsoul. This included groups like Instant Funk, Aurra, Inner Life and Logg. They were perceived as the future of Salsoul. So too was Candido whose music was said to epitomise the Salsoul sound.
What turned out to just a brief stopover at Salsoul didn’t start well for Candido. Neither his Salsoul debut Dancin’ and Prancin’ nor the singles had charted. That wasn’t to do with the quality music. Instead, it was to do with the style of music. The music on Dancin’ and Prancin’ epitomized the traditional Salsoul sound. That was the problem. It was no longer fashionable. Music had evolved. So Candido’s music had to evolve. If it didn’t then his Candi’s Funk would suffer the same fate as Dancin’ and Prancin.’ That wasn’t an option. If that happened, the Cayre’s critics would see Candido’s signing as steeped in sentimentality. To save them from this fate, Candi’s Funk needed to be a success. Was that the case.
Just Dancin’ and Prancin,’ an old friend of Candido’s, Joe Cain produced Candi’s Funk. The pair had worked together on albums like Thousand Finger Man and Beautiful. Joe had been brought to Salsoul by the Cayres, as General Manager of Salsoul Salsa and Mericana. During his career, Joe had produced over 400 Latin albums. However, when it came to disco, Joe was lacking in experience. His apprenticeship was Dancin’ and Prancin.’ Having served what was an all too brief apprenticeship, Joe Cain and Candido got to work on Candi’s Funk.
Candi’s Funk, just like Dancin’ and Prancin,’ featured only four tracks. They were lengthy tracks which filled both sides of the vinyl. Side one featured Candi’s Funk and Do You Wanna Dance, while Samba Funk and Super City featured on side two. That was the only similarity. The musicians accompanying Candido on Candido’s Funk were different to those that featured on Dancin’ and Prancin.’ The winds of change it seemed, were blowing through Salsoul.
Accompanying Candido on Candido’s Funk, was a rhythm section of drummer Woody Cunningham, bassist Bob Blank and guitarists Marty Horne and Joe Caro bassist Bob Blank. Norman Durham only played bass on Do You Wanna Dance, while Carlos Franzetti played synths and keyboards. They were joined by a horn section and backing vocalists that included Jocelyn Brown, Isabelle Cole, Yvonne Lewis, Chris Wiltshire and Al-Yasha Anderson. Candido, he played everything from congas, bongos, cowbells, jawbone, clave, quinto and tumbao. Producing this compelling fusion of musical genres was Joe Cain. However, would Candido’s Funk succeed where Dancin’ and Prancin’ failed?
The answer to that is no. On the release of Candido’s Funk in 1979, it failed to chart. History was repeating itself. When the title-track Candido’s Funk was released as a single it too failed to chart. Signing Candido hadn’t proved to be the Cayre’s best idea. Why was this? Was it that Candido represented Salsoul’s past rather than future? That’s what I’ll tell you, once I’ve told you about Candido’s Funk.
Opening Candido’s Funk is the title-track Candi’s Funk, which is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. Bursting into life, thunderous, pounding drums, blazing horns, percussion and rocky guitars grab your attention. Having set the scene, celestial harmonies sweep in. Soon, an irresistible fusion of funk, jazz, salsa and Latin music combines. Add to that searing, sizzling guitars that drive the arrangement along, join forces growling horns and a myriad of percussion. By now you’re hips are swaying to this truly hypnotic music. Then as if that’s not enough, tantalizingly brief soulful vocal makes a welcome, but sadly fleeting appearance. Innovative, dance-floor friendly and timeless, Candido’s Funk is much more than funky.
Do You Wanna Dance? If Candidio is providing the music, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Especially to such a catchy, genre-sprawling track. Indeed, it’s an eight-minute epic. Chiming guitars, congas, bongos and synths propel the arrangement along. Vocals drift in and out, to be replaced by tender, sensual harmonies. Soon, the vocal becomes feisty and punchy as it probes, asking Do You Wanna Dance? As the tempo increases, a flute and bubbling bass join forces. Their raison d’etre is to help drive the arrangement along. Stabs of piano add to the sense of drama. Candido relying on his years of experience, deploys his trusty percussion. When bursts of joyous harmonies drift in, that proves to be the finishing touch. They inject a sense of urgency and soulfulness to a track where music-genres and influences seamlessly, unite.
Quickly, Samba Funk becomes an unstoppable musical juggernaut. Candido drives the arrangement along at breakneck speed, while the funkiest of rhythm section, keyboards, blazing horns and woodwind combine. Breathy, seductive vocals sweep in and out. The triumvirate of guitars, bass and keyboards unite. They inject further drama and energy. By now, it really is like being onboard an unstoppable juggernaut. Applying the brakes is a waste of time. Best just to sit back, relax and enjoy the journey which lasts eight mesmeric minutes.
The irresistible and infectiously catchy Super City closes Candi’s Funk. Thunderous drums, percussion, growling horns and keyboards combine funk, jazz and salsa. Locked in the tightest of grooves, flourishes of keyboards, jazz guitars, lung-bursting horn solos and urgent, sweeping harmonies provide the backdrop for Candido. So too do synths, have an experimental sound. Even they don’t spoil things. Candido decides to showcase his inconsiderable skills. Yet he’s not afraid to let other members of the band take centre-stage. Quite the opposite. He’s a generous bandleader who it seems, wants his band to showcase their talents. This works to his advantage. Super City is best described as a frantic, frenzied and funky, irresistible and infectiously catchy, outpouring of creativity, passion and talent.
Despite Candi’s Funk failing commercially, just like its predecessor Dancin’ and Prancin,’ the quality of music can’t be faulted. Candi’s Funk, like Dancin’ & Prancin,’ was a fusion of funk, Philly Soul, jazz, rock, disco, salsa and Latin music. Seamlessly, musical genres and influences melted into one. It was a complex, multilayered album full of subtleties, nuances and surprises. If anything, Candi’s Funk was even more irresistible, infectiously catchy and dance-floor friendly. It also had a stronger disco influence. Sadly, Candi’s Funk didn’t see Candido innovate. There was no progression from Dancin’ & Prancin’ to Candi’s Funk. Canido was treading water. He’d stood still.
In the post-disco landscape, standing still wasn’t an option. Disco’s popularity had plummeted. Music was quickly evolving. Alhough Candi’s Funk wasn’t a disco album per se, it had a strong disco influence. Granted there’s more to Candi’s Funk than disco. Sadly, some people however, couldn’t see past Candi’s Funk’s disco influence. To them, the disco influence was a turn off. The Cayre’s decision to look to Salsoul’s past to help move the label forward had backfired. This isn’t surprising.
If Candido had been signed to Salsoul in 1975 or 1976 and released albums like Dancin’ & Prancin’ and Candi’s Funk, they’d have been commercially successful and critically acclaimed. Instead, they were released too late. Candido’s background was in jazz, Cuban and Latin music. However, with some hugely talented and experienced personnel involved in both albums, especially Candi’s Funk. With their help, Candido was transformed into a disco artist, one who produced two soulful, fabulously funky and dance-floor friendly albums that are irresistible and infectiously catchy.