When Loleatta Holloway came to record her fifth album, and third for Gold Mind Records Loleatta Holloway, she encountered a very different company. Gone was Norman Harris who’d previously run Gold Mind and who’d been at Loleatta’s side every step of the way, during her Gold Mind career. Norman Harris wasn’t the only change the undisputed Queen of Disco discovered. Indeed, the whole landscape at Salsoul had changed, with musicians, arrangers, songwriters and producers changing.

These changes had started a year ago, when Loleatta recorded her previous album Queen of The Night. Vince Montana Jr, had left Salsoul, after a dispute with the Cayres over royalties. He was now a solo artist at Atlantic Records. Now for the recording of Loleatta Holloway, there was no Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, no Bobby “Electronic” Eli and no Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey. Given how big a part each of these musicians had played in Loleatta’s career, it would only be natural if she was slightly concerned at their absence. After all, all these changes in personnel could affect the success of the album she was about to record, Loleatta Holloway which will be rereleased by BBR Records. Would that be the case or would Loleatta Holloway continue to wear the crown of the undisputed Queen of Disco with pride?

For Loleatta’s third album for Gold Mind Records Loleatta Holloway, seven tracks were chosen. On Loleatta’s Gold Mind debut Loleatta, it featured tracks like Hit and Run, Dreamin’ and That’s How Heartaches, three of Loleatta’s classic tracks. Queen of The Night wasn’t as heavy on dance classics, but featured Catch Me On the Rebound. The other tracks were a mixture of Loleatta’s soulful and uptempo, dance-floor friendly sides. This was the case with Loleatta Holloway, which featured The Greatest Performance of My Life and All About the Paper, two tracks which showed why Loleatta was the Queen of Disco. With so many of the personnel who wrote and produced Loleatta’s previous album Queen of The Night, many non-Salsoul personnel were brought in to write and produce tracks.

The seven tracks that comprise Loleatta Holloway included The Greatest Performance of My Life written by Oscar Anderle, Robert Allen and Roberto Sanchez and All About the Paper which Clarence McDonald and Lowrell Simon cowrote. Bobby Womack cowrote There Must Be A Reason with Bob Incorvaia, while Helen Robinson wrote Sweet Mother of Mine. Burt Bacharach cowrote Baby It’s You with Barney Williams and Mack David and Floyd Smith and Eugene Record penned There’ll Come A Time. Bunny SIgler kept the Philly influence on That’s What You Said, which he cowrote with Rick Wigginton. For the recording of the seven tracks on Loleatta Holloway, sessions took place at several studios, including Sigma Sound.

Loleatta Holloway was recorded at Sigma Sound Studios, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, PS Recording Studios and Universal Recording. This was because three different producers were producing the seven tracks. Floyd Smith produced four tracks, Bunny Sigler one and Bobby Womack and Patrick Moten two tracks. They were joined by musicians that included a few familiar faces. Among the other familiar faces were guitarist T.J. Tindall, Bobby Womack and Kim Miller, bassists Raymond Earl and Bernard Reed, and drummer Scotty Miller and Roger Hawkins. They were joined by percussionist and conga player Larry Washington and keyboard players Bunny and Jimmy Sigler. Adding backing vocals were The Sweethearts of Sigma, Barbara Ingram, Evette Benton and Carla Benson, while Don Renaldo and His Strings and Horns feature on several tracks. Eventually, Loleatta Holloway was ready for release on Gold Mind Records in 1979.

On the release of Loleatta Holloway in 1979, the album wasn’t a commercial success, failing to chart. Surprisingly, neither of the singles charted. Considering they were two of the best tracks on Loleatta Holloway, All About the Paper nor The Greatest Performance of My Life this is all the more surprising. However, why was Loleatta Holloway not a commercial success? Was it anything to do with having three producers or Salsoul’s changing personnel? That’s what I’ll tell you, after I’ve told you about the music on Loleatta Holloway.

Opening Loleatta Holloway is The Greatest Performance of My Life, produced by Floyd Smith, with the track remixed by Bobby “DJ” Guttadaro. Gentle keyboards open the track, before Loleatta’s vocal soars, full of power and passion. She unleashes her full vocal range, as Larry Washington’s congas accompany her. Soon, the pounding rhythm section join, and the track explodes into life. Strings sweep and swirl, horns rasp, while the rhythm section combine funk and drama. Meanwhile, Loleatta unleashes apowerful, emotive vamp. She struts her way through the track delivering vocal that’s a mixture of emotion, power, drama and soulfulness. In doing so, the draws upon her Southern Soul roots, her band fuse funk, soul, Latin and disco. While the track isn’t quite the greatest performance of her life, it’s quite simply up their with the best of them and one of her best vocals on Loleatta Holloway.

Running The Greatest Performance of My Life pretty close is All About the Paper. It’s arranged by James Mack, produced by Floyd Smith and remixed by Bobby “DJ” Guttadaro. 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.

There Must Be a Reason written by Bobby Womack and Bob Incorvaia, sees the tempo drop and Loleatta return to her Southern Soul roots. With just piano, a slow rhythm section and a flourish of harp, Loleatta’s half-spoken vocal is a mixture of heartfelt emotion tinged with drama. After a minute strings sweep in and the rhythm section and piano add to the drama. Loleatta’s vocal grows in power, while the Sweethearts of Sigma respond to her vocal, reflecting the sadness and frustration in her vocal. The interplay between Loleatta and the Sweethearts of Sigma really helps the song, adding to this six-minute mini soap-opera. Soon, Loleatta unleashes her trademark powerful, gut-wrenching vocal, and in doing so, breathes life, meaning and emotion into the song.

That’s What You Said is is arranged by Jack Faith, one of Salsoul and Philadelphia International Records’ best arrangers. The track was penned by Bunny Sigler and Rick Wigginton and sees dancing strings, a pounding rhythm section and growling horns combine with Loleatta’s fiery vocal. Handclaps punctuate the arrangement, while a really catchy, dance-floor friendly arrangement unfolds. There’s a quite joyous sound to the arrangement, with hooks aplenty throughout the track. Playing a big part in the arrangement is the cascading strings, blazing horns and punchy rhythm section. Having said that, the rhythm section don’t have the same presence as Baker, Harris, Young. With them driving the song along, what is a great track, could’ve been even better. Mind you, it still has a joyous, hook-laden, uplifting sound.

Baby it’s You is the other Bobby Womack and Patrick Moten production. It’s very different from the previous tracks and was recorded when Bobby Womack was going through a real lean spell. He does his best, trying to fuse elements of funk, soul and disco. With an artist less talented than Loleatta he might not have pulled it off. However, he does….just. Loleatta’s vocal is a mixture of power, passion and emotion, while the rhythm section drive the track along mixing soul and funk. Soon, strings sweep and swirl, horns dance and cascade as backing vocalists combine with Loleatta as the arrangement heads in the direction of disco. Bobby adds one of trademark gravelly vocals, as if he realizing something is missing. By then it’s a bit late and the song works…but only just. The problem was that Bobby hadn’t worked on songs like this very often and as a result, of the seven tracks on Loleatta Holloway, this is probably the weakest. It’s not a bad track, just not as good as other tracks.

Floyd Smith takes charge of production duties for the next two songs, starting with There’ll Come a Time. Straight away, you realize that this a much better track, one that’s made for Loleatta. There’s a real Southern Soul sound from opening bars when blazing horns, searing guitars, piano and lush strings combine. Meanwhile the rhythm section anchors the track, producing the track’s dramatic heartbeat. Strings then sweep in before Loleatta delivers a vocal that’s full of hurt, sadness and emotion. The Sweethearts of Sigma add soaring, soulful harmonies as this big production unfolds. It reveals a glorious sound. Horns rasp and growl, as the piano and heartfelt harmonies adds the drama and emotion of the song. It’s impossible to resist Loleatta’s gut-wrenching, emotive, tour de force of a vocal. Especially when combined with an arrangement as good as this. That’s why it’s one of the highlights of Loleatta Holloway.

Closing Loleatta Holloway is Sweet Mother of Mine, written by Helen Robinson. The way Loleatta delivers the lyrics, you’d almost think the song was autobiographical. Her half-spoken vocal is heartfelt and impassioned, accompanied by just a slow, thoughtful piano and the lushest of strings. After her half-spoken vocal, the track moves in the direction of gospel. A Hammond organ and piano combines with Loleatta’s sincere vocal, as she sings every word as if she means it and as if the words mean something to her. The result is a powerful, moving song, where Loleatta revisits her gospel roots and in doing so, reveals just how versatile a vocalist she truly is.

While much had changed at Salsoul, one thing that hadn’t changed was Loleatta Holloway’s glorious vocal on Loleatta Holloway. Whether it was Southern Soul or disco, Loleatta grabbed the song and made it her own. She put power, passion, emotion and drama into each song, seamlessly flitting between gut-wrenching Southern Soul singer to strutting, sassy disco diva. This is a remarkable transformation and shows the two sides of Loleatta Holloway’s music. Although Loleatta Holloway stayed the same, her band and production team was very different. With Vince Montana Jr gone and Baker, Harris, Young absent from Loleatta Holloway, it wasn’t the Salsoul A-team that played on Loleatta Holloway. It documents just how much and quickly the times were changing at Salsoul. Vince’s vibes and the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section would’ve really lifted Loleatta Holloway to the next level. Loleatta Holloway is a great album, but one that could’ve been outstanding with Vince and Norman Harris producing the album. 

Having said that, producer Floyd Smith is responsible for some of the best tracks. He’s a talented producer, who seems to understand how to get the best out of Loleatta. Arguably, Bobby Womack and Patrick Moten who produce two tracks, are responsible for the weakest track Baby It’s You. Only the sheer force of her talent and personality rescues the track. Maybe Bobby Womack was the wrong man for the job, and an in-house writer and producer should’ve contributed the two tracks Bobby wrote and produced. Having three separate producers is all very well, if they’re each contributing something worthwhile. However, by the time Loleatta Holloway was released, things were changing at Salsoul and changing fast.

So, Loleatta Holloway, Loleatta’s third Salsoul album features a few familiar faces, but legends aplenty are absent. One thing didn’t change though, Loleatta Holloway. The seven vocals on Loleatta Holloway, her third Salsoul album, see Loleatta flit seamlessly between Southern Soul and disco, and like her two previous albums, feature some quality music from the undisputed Queen of Disco Loleatta Holloway. Standout Tracks: The Greatest Performance of My Life, All About the Paper, That’s What You Said and There’ll Come a Time.


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