There’s a certain symmetry that in return for Loleatta Holloway adding a vocal on what became one of Dan Hartman’s biggest hit singless, Relight My Fire, that Dan returned this favor by writing one of Loleatta’s most successful singles, Love Sensation. This story starts back in 1979, when Dan Hartman was about to record his third album Relight My Fire. He’d written a track and wanted one of his favorite vocalists to add a vocal. The track was Relight My Fire and the vocalist he wanted to sing it, was Loleatta Holloway. Having spoked to Loleatta’s husband Floyd Smith, and then Ken Cayre, one of the co-owners of Salsoul Records, an agreement was reached. Loleatta would sing Relight My Fire and Dan would produce a track for Loleatta’s next album. Dan Hartman kept his word and wrote a track that wasn’t just a stonewall disco classic, but became synonymous with Loleatta Holloway and gave her one of the biggest hit singles of her career. Love Sensation was penned and produced by Dan Hartman and was also the title-track of what was Loleatta Holloway’s fourth and final album for Gold Mind Records. Once I’ve told you about the background to Love Sensation,which was recently rereleased by BBR Records,  I’ll tell you if Love Sensation was a fitting finale to the undisputed Queen of Disco’s career at Gold Mind Records?

Although Dan Hartman penned and produced Love Sensation, the other seven tracks on Love Sensation followed a similar pattern to Loleatta’s previous album Loleatta Hollaway. This meant the songs were split between Salsoul personnel and outside songwriters and producers. In total, four separate producers or production teams played their part in the making of Love Sensation at four separate studios.

Three of the tracks were produced by Norman Harris, who by 1980, was almost a Salsoul veteran. Despite the many changes at Salsoul, Norman was still there. Norman Harris arranged Love Sensation for Dan Hartman, and arranged and produced three other tracks. This included I’ll Be Standing There, which he cowrote with ex-Temptation Ron Tyson. The other two tracks Norman produced were Long Hard Climb To Love written by Michael and Richard Berardi and Two Became A Crowd, penned by Gary Knight and Gene Allan. While Norman produced three of the tracks, 

Of the other four tracks, Floyd Smith, Loleatta’s husband produced the cover of I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, which was written by Otis Redding and Jerry Butler. The other three tracks were arranged and produced by Patrick Molten and Bobby Womack. Two of these tracks, Short End of the Stick and Dance What ‘Cha Wanna were written by Bobby and Cecil Womack. Bobby Womack also cowrote My Way with Noel Resnick. 

Recording of Love Sensation took place at four different studios. Three tracks were recorded at Sigma Sound in Philly. At The Schoolhouse, Dan Hartman recorded the title-track Love Sensation. Other sessions took place at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and Universal Recording Studio in Chicago. With sessions taking place in four different studios, different musicians and backing singers were used. This includes drummers Keith Benson and Roger Hawkins, bassists Jimmy Williams and Gordon Edwards and guitarists Norman Harris, T.J. Tindall, Bobby Womack and Kim Miller. They were joined by conga players Larry Washington and keyboard player Cotton Kent. Adding strings were Don Renaldo and His Strings and Horns and at the other session, Patrick Moten and His Strings and Horns. Legendary Philly backing vocalists the Sweethearts of Sigma, Barbara Ingram, Evette Benton and Carla Benson, feature on the three Norman Harris’ produced tracks. Eventually, Love Sensation was ready for release on Gold Mind Records in 1980.

When Love Sensation was released in 1980, the Dan Hartman penned title-track gave Loleatta one of the biggest hits of her career. It reached number one in the US Dance Music/Club Play Singles charts. Sadly, Love Sensation the album didn’t repeat the success of its namesake. Love Sensation failed to chart in the post-disco musical landscape. However, why did Love Sensation fail to make an impression on the US Charts when the single Love Sensation fared so well? That’s what I’ll tell after I’ve told you about the music on Love Sensation.

Opening Love Sensation is the number one club hit Love Sensation, penned and produced by Hartman and arranged by Norman Harris. Nine years after its release, Love Sensation was “sampled” by both Black Box on Ride On Time and Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch. in 1989 While both tracks were huge commercial successes, neither can match the original. Here, Loleatta Holloway demonstrates why she as the true Queen of Disco. Opening with a combination of rhythm section, percussion, piano and cascading strings, so familiar is the track you anticipate the entrance of Loleatta’s strutting, powerful vocal. Accompanied by swirling strings, rasping horns and a punchy rhythm section, Loleatta delivers one of her trademark vocals. Her voice becomes an impassioned roar, while backing vocalists accompany her. The remix is a myriad of the lushest strings combined with dramatic drums and blazing horns, with Loleatta’s powerful, sassy vocal key to the track’s timeless, dramatic sound and huge commercial success.

Long Hard Climb to Love is the first of the trio of tracks Norman Harris arranged and produced. He had an enviable track record of success with Loleatta, and could bring out the best in her. This track demonstrates this. Just a piano, wistful woodwind and bursts of growling horns combine with strings to provide an emotive backdrop for Loleatta’s vocal. Her heartfelt vocal is laden with emotion, with the Sweethearts of Sigma adding tender harmonies. Loleatta’s vocal grows in power as she breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Drums add to the drama and horns to the emotion. So do the woodwind, harmonies and piano as Loleatta rediscovers her Southern Soul roots, mixing power, passion, drama and emotion peerlessly.

There’s a change of producer on Short End of the Stick. Bobby Womack and Patrick Molten take over production duties on a track that’s funky, full of hooks and dance-floor friendly. A slapped bass is joined by Loleatta’s soaring, sassy vocal. She’s accompanied by lush, cascading strings, a tough, funky rhythm section and testifying backing vocalists. Elegant strings dance with delight, while Loleatta vamps her way through the track with backing vocalists for company. Disco and funk are fused as Loleatta delivers a vocal tour de force that results in a timeless dance track.

I’ve Been Loving You Too Long sees the Bobby Womack and Patrick Molten production team take charge of this cover of a track made famous by Otis Redding. The song’s slowed way down, and given a dramatic makeover. Just a guitar drums combine dramatically before rasping horns and shivering strings enter. They accompany Loleatta’s impassioned, powerful vocal. Her delivery is full of feeling, as if realizing that given how good the original was, she must deliver something special. This she does. Not only is her delivery brimming over with emotion, power and drama, but it’s soulfulness personified. Quite simply, Loleatta pays a fitting and moving homage to Otis Redding, who recorded and cowrote this track.

Norman Harris return to the producer’s chair on Two Became a Crowd. Just a pounding bass is joined by bursts of drums and growling horns and Norman’s chiming guitar. Then shimmering, strings sweep in, as if announcing the arrival of Loleatta’s vocal. Her vocal is tinged with sadness and regret. Reflecting this are the Sweethearts of Sigma, who add emotive, soulful harmonies. Wistful horns, quivering strings and keyboards punctuate the arrangement. Later, they accompany Loleatta as she adds a heartfelt, half-spoken vocal, her voice full of hurt and heartbreak. As her vocal grows in power and passion, the Sweethearts of Sigma accompany Loleatta as this epic track reaches a dramatic and emotive crescendo.

Cecil and Bobby Womack cowrote two tracks on Love Sensation, and Dance What ‘Cha Wanna is the second of these tracks. A driving, uber funky rhythm section is joined by sweeping, swirling strings before the undisputed Queen of Disco makes her grand entrance. Loleatta’s vocal is a powerful, sassy and feisty vamp with punchy backing vocals accompanying her. The pounding rhythm section, powered along by the funky bass, join piano and cascading strings. They’re key to the track’s sound and success. Later, Loleatta demands horns. Growling horns she gets. They briefly punctuate the arrangement as the piano, dancing strings and rhythm section provide the backdrop to Loleatta’s vocal masterclass. 

My Way is another track Bobby Womack cowrote, this time with Noel Resnick. A slow, spacious rhythm section combine with synths, blazing horns and searing guitars. They buildup the drama before Loleatta’s vocal enters. Her vocal is laden with a mixture of emotions. Sadness and regret gives way to hope and confidence. As Loleatta’s vocal soars powerfully, backing vocalists match her every step of the way. They reflect the emotion and drama in her voice. Later, a blazing saxophone adds what’s the finishing touch, as Loleatta sings call and response with her backing vocalists. This is quite fitting given Loleatta’s gospel roots, that shine through.

Closing Love Sensation is I’ll Be Standing There, which Norman Harris and Ron Tyson cowrote. Norman arranged and produced the track, which quite simply, is one of the highlights of Love Sensation. From the get-go, you realize something special is unfolding. The rhythm section, piano and rasping horns combine before Loleatta’s vocal enters. Her vocal grows in power and passion, while the Sweethearts of Sigma adding cooing, sweeping harmonies and handclaps. Their harmonies then soar, matching Loleatta for drama, power and soulfulness. Layers of the lushest strings dance with joy, horns growl and rasp as the rhythm section provide the track’s pulsating heartbeat. Along with the Sweethearts of Sigma’s glorious harmonies they provide the perfect backdrop for Loleatta’s powerhouse of a vocal. The result is an irresistible and hook-laden track, which quite simply, is the highlight of Love Sensation.

When Loleatta’s fourth and final album Love Sensation was released in 1980, it didn’t replicate the success of previous albums. Neither did it match the success of the lead single and title-track Love Sensation. The Dan Hartman penned and produced single reached number one in US Dance Music/Club Play Singles charts. There was nothing whatsoever wrong with the other seven tracks on Love Sensation. Indeed, each of the eight tracks on Love Sensation features Loleatta Holloway at her very best. From the opening bars of Love Sensation, right through to I’ll Be Standing There Loleatta veers between disco and soul. Whether it’s Loleatta Holloway disco diva, or Loleatta revisiting her Southern Soul roots, she’s just as comfortable. This was the same combination as Loleatta’s three previous albums, Queen of the Night, Loleatta and Loleatta Holloway. So it wasn’t as if Loleatta had changed direction musically. What had changed was music. 

Disco was no longer as popular. Indeed since the Disco Sucks’ backlash, neither record companies, nor record buyers, were as interested in disco. Indeed, some record companies dropped disco artists and disco records. Salsoul and Gold Mind Records, which released Love Sensation, had established a reputation as a disco labels. Following the commercial failure of Love Sensation, worse was to come for Loleatta. 

Salsoul ceased trading in the mid-eighties, leaving her without a record label. Then tragedy struck. Floyd Smith, Loleatta’s husband died in 1984. After this, Loleatta Holloway signed to Streetwise Records, owned by producer Arthur Baker. Loleatta released Crash Goes Love later in 1984, which gave her a minor US R&B hit single. For the rest of the eighties and nineties, released tracks for various dance labels. By then, her vocals had become a favorite of producers. They relentlessly “sampled” her vocals. Loleatta’s vocal can be heard on both Black Box’s on Ride On Time and Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch’s Good Vibrations. Ironically, Good Vibrations indirectly gave Loleatta Holloway the number one, million-selling single that eluded her. Sadly, on 21st March 2011, Loleatta Holloway passed away, aged just sixty-four. Loleatta Holloway leaves behind a back-catalogue that demonstrates just why, she was the true and undisputed Queen of Disco. Others may tried to steal her crown, but for evermore, Loleatta Holloway will remain the Queen of Disco. Her fourth and final album, Love Sensation which was recently released by BBR Records, is proof of this, if any was needed. Standout Tracks: Love Sensation, Long Hard Climb to Love, Two Became a Crowd and I’ll Be Standing There.


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