DAN HARTMAN-RELIGHT MY FIRE.
DAN HARTMAN-RELIGHT MY FIRE.
Nostalgia it seems is the future. Everyone it seems wants to relive the music of their youth. So a few years ago, major record companies started releasing classic albums. Now it’s no longer just classic albums being released. A whole host of new reissues labels have been founded. They’re digging deep, deeper than before. Every month, they release reissues of albums from the past forty years. However, sometimes, more that one label reissues the same album. I’ve noticed that during the last year or so. This is the equivalent of two bald men fighting over a comb. The latest example of this, is Dan Hartman’s Relight My Fire, which was recently released by BBR Records. However, it was also released by Purpose Music Vaults last year. This poses two questions. Is Relight My Fire worth buying and if so, which version should you buy? Before that, I’ll tell you about Dan Hartman’s career.
During his career, Dan Hartman wrote almost 250 songs and appeared on over one-hundred albums and worked with everyone from Loleatta Holloway, Dusty Springfield, Little Richard, Diana Ross, James Brown, Tina Turner and the Average White Band. Dan also released eight solo albums between his 1976 debut album Images and his final album Keep the Fire Burning in 1994. Despite such a prolific career, many people will forever remember Dan Hartman for one song, Relight My Fire. Ironically, when Relight My Fire was released back in 1979, it wasn’t a huge commercial success. Many people think that because the song was so popular and became a timeless, dance classic that it was one of Dan’s biggest hits. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Not by a long chalk.
Relight My Fire wasn’t even one of Dan Hartman’s top ten biggest hits. Featuring the unmistakable voice of the Queen of Disco, Loleatta Holloway and with strings and horns arranged by the legendary Norman Harris formerly of M.F.S.B. and in 1979, a member of The Salsoul Orchestra, Relight My Fire should’ve been a huge hit. The only small crumb of comfort for Dan and everyone involved was it reached number one in the US Dance Charts and lit up dance floors worldwide, which it continues to do. Relight My Fire was also the title of Dan’s 1979 album, until 2o12 has been unavailable on CD. Now we’ve two versions of the album available. However, what about the man behind the music?
Dan Hartman was something of a musical prodigy. He was born in 1950 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. By aged thirteen, Dan was a classically trained pianist and managed to persuade his brother to let him join his band The Legends. Soon, Dan was writing most of the songs, which ranged from soul to rock and everything in-between. The Legends couldn’t attract the interest of record labels until Blue Sky Records, a subsidiary of Epic Records heard their demos. Steve Paul at Blue Sky Records’ previous group White Trash had recently split. He was in the process of putting together a new group, The Edgar Winter Group. Success was just round the corner for Dan.
Soon, Dan had auditioned and joined the group, playing bass, guitar and keyboards as well as co-writing half of the songs on The Edgar Winter Group’s 1972 debut album They Only Come Out At Night. It was a huge commercial success, resulting in it being certified double-platinum. Two further albums followed, 1974s Shock Treatment and 1975s The Edgar Winter Group With Rick Derringer. Three years later, The Edgar Winter Group spilt and Dan was offered a solo deal by Blue Sky Records.
A year after The Edgar Winter Group split, Dan Hartman released his 1976 debut album Images. Images was quite different from Dan’s music with The Edgar Winter Group, given its much more poppy sound. By the time he released his sophomore album Instant Replay in 1978, Dan Hartman had dived headfirst into disco, which resulted in top twenty singles in the UK with Instant Replay and This Is It. In the US, both Instant Replay the single and album were both commercial success. The album reached number eighty in the US Billboard 200, while the single reached number twenty-nine in the US Billboard 100 and gave Dan his first number one in the US Dance Charts. Having established what was his sound and style, Dan Hartman decided that his third album Relight My Fire would feature more of the same.
For Relight My Fire , Dan wrote six tracks, with poppy hooks aplenty and a dance-floor friendly sound. He enlisted a few special guests for the recording of Relight My Fire, with one track reserved for one of his favorite vocalists Loleatta Holloway. This was the title-track, Relight My Fire. Having spoked to Loleatta’s husband Floyd Smith, and Ken Cayre one of the co-owners of Salsoul Records an agreement was reached. Loleatta would sing Relight My Fire and Dan would produce Love Sensation in 1980. To arrange the song Norman Harris of the legendary Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section and a member of M.F.S.B. and in 1979, a member of The Salsoul Orchestra would arrange the track. Norman would bring in many members of M.F.S.B. for the recording of Relight My Fire. With M.F.S.B. accompanying Loleatta, including the percussive skills of Larry Washington an eight-minute Magnus Opus took shape. However, Loleatta Holloway wasn’t the only big-name to feature on Relight My Fire.
Among the other big-names to feature on Relight My Fire. Stevie Wonder, who plays harmonica on Hands Down, which opens Relight My Fire. Edgar Winter an old colleague of Dan’s from The Edgar Winter Band plays alto saxophone. The other personnel that appear on Relight My Fire include drummer Brian Blake, Craig Peyton on electric vibes, conga player Jimmy Maelens and guitarists G.E. Smith and Phil Houghton. Dan a true multi-instrumentalist plays keyboards, bass, guitar, drums and sings lead and backing vocals. Once Relight My Fire was recorded the whole album was remixed was remixed by John Luongo and Michael Barbiero. Their Progressive Mix of Relight My Fire, which features on this rerelease is perceived as the classic mix. This was after all, the era of the DJ-remixer and they were now remixing not just single tracks, but whole albums. Now that Relight My Fire was recorded and remixed, it was ready for release. Before that, this hugely innovative single Relight My Fire had to be promoted.
With Relight My Fire recorded and the title-track remixed, the single was heavily promoted in clubs. DJs like Larry Levan and Frankie Crocker instantly, saw that this was an innovative track and one that could be huge. Suddenly, DJs wanted to remix the track. So did John Luongo who’d mixed Relight My Fire with Michael Barbiero. He decided he’d like to remix Relight My Fire and came up with another classic mix that features on the rerelease the Historical 1979 remix. Like the original version of Relight My Fire it would prove to be huge, but sadly, not the huge commercial success that people thought. Lady Luck decided to intervene and suddenly disco sucked.
By the time Relight My Fire was ready for release, disco’s popularity was waning. The backlash of the Disco Sucks’ movement was being felt. Disco was no longer flavor of the month, with many record companies not even releasing disco music, and disco artists’ releases selling badly. It seemed Relight My Fire was the wrong album at the wrong time. What didn’t help was that many radio DJs had loved Dan’s work with The Edgar Winter Group and felt he’d sold out by releasing disco music. Relight My Fire didn’t get the airplay it deserved. On the release of Relight My Fire as a single, it failed to chart in both the UK and US. Its only success was in the US Dance Charts, where the original and John Luongo’s Historical 1979 remix both reached number one on the US Dance Charts. The only single from Relight My Fire to chart was Hands Down, which reached number twenty-six in the US Dance Charts. On the release of the album in 1979, Relight My Fire only reached number 189 in the US Billboard 200 and number sixty-seven in the US R&B Charts. For everyone concerned, this must have been a crushing blow. After all, here was Dan Hartman’s disco epic, derailed by the Disco Sucks backlash. Despite that, Relight My Fire has since become a true, timeless disco classic. Similarly, Dan Hartman has quite rightly become a legend of disco, as you’ll realize when I tell you about the music on Relight My Fire.
Opening Relight My Fire is Hands Down, which features none other than Stevie Wonder on harmonica and Edgar Winter on alto saxophone. From the opening bars, this is joyous, good-time party music, with poppy hooks in plentiful supply. Pounding drums, percussion and a blazing saxophone usher in Dan’s joyful vocal as this hook-laden track gets underway. Dan’s accompanied by joyous harmonies and handclaps accompanying him. This punchy arrangement is musical perection. Chiming guitars help the pounding rhythm section drive the arrangement along, as they provide the track’s heartbeat. They’re helped by dramatic bursts of keyboards, percussion, harmonies and handclaps that help create the track’s good-time party sound. It’s just an irresistible explosion of happiness. Stevie’s harmonica and Edgar’s saxophone trade musical blows towards the end of this track. They help add the icing to this delicious musical cake, which has poppy hooks aplenty.
As Love Strong opens, it’s to applause, as if Dan’s still basking in the acclaim of the opening track. The track is made to sound as if it’s recorded live. Dan becomes a preacher, the audience his believers. His voice is higher, sounding not unlike Michael Jackson. Indeed, the whole song sounds like something Michael Jackson should’ve recorded. With a thunderous beat, rock tinged guitars, soaring harmonies and banks of keyboards accompanying him, Dan fuses rock, disco and drama. It’s one of these tracks where you’re swept along by the arrangement. Gradually, it reveals its charms and subtleties, the drama growing and the song getting better over the four minutes. That pounding beat is omnipresent, while harmonies sweep in, rocky guitars, keyboards and Dan’s vocal add to the theatre and spectacle of this musical soundscape, where genres and influences are seamlessly fused.
Quite simply, Relight My Fire is Dan’s Magnus Opus. This is a near ten-minute innovative masterpiece arranged by Norman Harris and featuring Loleatta Holloway’s vocal prowess. From the opening bars, the tension builds. Philly’s finest musicians do what they’re so good at, making great music. With a meandering piano opening the track, you’ve no idea what’s about to unfold. The pulsating beat joins the mix. Soon, an explosion of synths, percussion, vibes, dancing strings and rasping horns unite. They build and build the drama for over three minutes, becoming like an unstoppable, melodic, musical juggernaut. Guitars and a pounding rhythm signal the arrival of Dan’s powerful vocal. As it reaches a crescendo, he’s joined by lush, shivering strings, harmonies and growling horns. Soon, it’s like riding a joyous, dramatic, musical roller-coaster. All you can do is sit back and enjoy the ride. The only problem is keeping still. It’s impossible. You can’t. You’re swept away amidst the shivering strings, pounding beat, cascading harmonies and rasping horns. Then there’s Loleattta’s sassy, vampish vocal that accompanies Dan. Does disco get any better or more dramatic? That’s just the finishing touch to this timeless, multi-layered disco classic, that’s been lighting up dance-floors since 1979 and will continue to do so.
After a true epic track like Relight My Fire, it’s almost as if anything else will be an anticlimax. Dan doesn’t disappoint though. He unleashes Just For You, another slice of good-time, party music and becomes like a one-man band, playing every instrument except the congas. Like other tracks, a pounding rhythm section and piano are at the heart of the action, while congas, harmonies and Dan’s powerful, uplifting vocal drives the arrangement along at breakneck. Backing vocalists answer his call, while flourishes of piano add to the track’s uplifting, good-time party sound. This is definitely the album you want as the soundtrack for your next party. Making a good thing even better, is Dan’s virtuoso, jazzy performance on the piano, with punchy harmonies accompanying him. Again, poppy hooks are in plentiful supply, while Dan’s joyous, good-time, party music is guaranteed to make put a smile on your face and make your party swing.
I Love Makin’ Music could be Dan Hartman’s theme tune, given how prolific an artist he was. The tempo drops slightly, but Phil Houghton’s wah-wah guitar, Larry Washington’s congas and Craig Peyton’s electric vibes ensure this is another slice of joyful, good-time music. Dan’s vocal is sultry and sassy, with the constant pounding beat and growling horns accompanying him. Phil adds the unmistakable sound of his wah-wah guitar, while soulful harmonies interject. Later, Larry Washington’s congas and Craig’s vibes punctuate the arrangement as disco, funk and soulful harmonies are fused. This results in another hook-laden slice irresistibly catchy music from Dan Hartman.
Closing Relight My Fire is Free Ride a track that instantly grabs your attention. Guitars licks that sound as if they belong on a Chic album are joined by dramatic bursts of drums and with that, the track bursts into life. Dan’s lead vocal is accompanied by backing vocals while a driving, dance-floor arrangement unfolds. Searing, sizzling guitar, percussion and congas accompany his vocal, while electric vibes add to the drama. Rocky guitars and piano both play their part in the dramatic, pounding arrangement as soaring harmonies join the fray. It’s another breathtaking musical roller-coaster ride, one that lasts seven-minutes, with twists and turns aplenty in-store. During that journey, Dan fuses rock, funk, soul and of course disco, adding in plenty of poppy hooks and powerful, joyous vocals.
Although Dan Hartman’s third album Relight My Fire only lasts six songs, they’re six slices of pop perfection set to a pulsating disco beat. It’s uptempo, uplifting and joyous music, designed to put a smile on your face and get you up on your feet dancing. Sadly, Dan was just a year too late in releasing Relight My Fire. If he’d released Relight My Fire in 1978, not 1979, then we’d be talking about Relight My Fire as one of disco’s Magnus Opus’. Unfortunately, disco’s bubble had burst by the time Relight My Fire was released. By then, disco had lost its popularity and disco was something of a musical pariah. So, when Relight My Fire was released, it wasn’t to critical acclaim and commercial success, it was into a very different musical landscape. Now thirty-three years later, we’ve the opportunity to reassess Relight My Fire and give it the critical acclaim it quite rightly deserves.
Each of the six tracks are packed full of poppy hooks and designed to stick in your memory. Opening with Hands Down, Relight My Fire continues on its journey through good-time, party music. Love Strong sees Dan the preacher basking in deserved applause, before the album’s centrepiece and masterpiece Relight My Fire. It’s a complex, multilayered track which is like a musical roller-coaster featuring Loleatta Holloway and Dan vamping their way through the ten-minute track. After that comes three more hook-laden slices of good-time, party music, Just For You, I Love Makin’ Music and Free Ride, which closes Relight My Fire. However, that isn’t the end of both versions of Relight My Fire.
Both BBR Records and Purpose Music Vaults versions of Relight My Fire have the same six bonus tracks. This includes the Historical 1979 remix and the Progressive Remix of Relight My Fire. These six tracks and Relight My Fire. So there’s nothing between them. It’s literally a toss of the coin. The sound quality is good on both versions. They bring to life Dan Hartman’s disco Magnus Opus, and its timeless, joyous good-time music, which is full of poppy hooks aplenty. Thirty-three years after its original release in 1979, Dan Hartman’s Relight My Fire is back and sounds better than ever and is perfect music for your next party. Just remember to clear your floor beforehand, as Dan Hartman’s Relight My Fire will get your party started and make sure it goes with a swing. Standout Tracks: Hands Down, Relight My Fire, Just For You and Free Ride.
DAN HARTMAN-RELIGHT MY FIRE.