CAROL WILLIAMS-‘LECTRIC LADY.
CAROL WILLIAMS-‘LECTRIC LADY.
In late 1975, Carol Williams became the first Lady of of Salsoul. Carol, one of the original disco divas, became the first female singer to sign for Salsoul. At Salsoul Records, Carol worked with Vince Montana Jr, the man behind the rise and rise of The Salsoul Orchestra. With Vince at her side, Carol Williams disco diva, released two disco classics Love Is You and More. More became the first twelve inch single commercially available worldwide, reaching number four in the Hot Club Play Charts in 1976. The following year, Carol released ‘Lectric Lady, her only album for Salsoul. Mind you, if you’re only going to release one album for the greatest disco label Salsoul, make it one as good as ‘Lectric Lady. On ‘Lectric Lady, Carol Williams with The Salsoul Orchestra created a true Salsoul classic which will be rereleased by BBR Records on 2nd June 2014.
New Jersey born Carol Williams, transformation to becoming the First Lady of Salsoul was almost accidental. Her career started back in the sixties, when she was a member of the female soul trio The Geminis. They released a string of singles on RCA Victor, with 1966s Get It On Home, giving The Geminis their biggest hit. Further singles, including I Hired A Girl and You Put A Hurting On followed, before The Geminis signed to Brunswick. During her time with The Geminis, Carol established herself as a singer and songwriter.
It was during a stint performing on the New Jersey hotel circuit that Carol Williams got the opportunity to become a solo artist. She was performing six nights a week, further honing her skills as a singer, when the opportunity to sign for Salsoul arose. Daverne, Carol’s husband was Wilson Pickett’s bandleader, and his assistant got a call from Salsoul looking for a female vocalist who was similar to Gloria Gaynor. Carol went to the audition and was chosen. When Salsoul heard of Carol’s background in the music industry that was the clincher. Salsoul’s search was over. Carol signed a contract with Salsoul for one album, and soon, a true disco diva would be born.
Now signed to Salsoul, Carol got the opportunity to work with some of the most talented arrangers, producers and musicians. This included producer Vince Montana Jr. and The Salsoul Orchestra. Vince Montana Jr. would play a big part in the success of ‘Lectric Lady. Not only did he produce the album, but played vibes on it and cowrote four tracks. One of these tracks Love Is You which he cowrote with Ron Walker would give Carol one of her biggest hits and best loved tracks. Vince would also go onto become one of Carol’s songwriting partners.
For her Salsoul debut, Carol had the artistic freedom to choose many of the tracks on ‘Lectric Lady. She also cowrote three of the tracks on ‘Lectric Lady and acted as co-publisher of these three tracks. This was an innovative idea, allowing Carol control of the music she cowrote. Of the three tracks she cowrote, two were with Vince Montana Jr, My Time of Need and Come Back, The other track she cowrote wasYou’re So Much A Part of Me, with Jack Perricone, who also cowrote This May Be the Last Time with Paul Vance. With
A total of nine tracks were chosen for ‘Lectric Lady, including a cover version of a track from 1963, More. Originally, the track had been recorded by Kai Winding and featured in the movie Monde Cane. Little did anyone at Salsoul realize that this would become one of Carol’s best known tracks. It was transformed into a stonewall disco classic, at the legendary Sigma Sound Studios.
Accompanying Carol Williams were The Salsoul Orchestra, featuring some of the greatest musicians of the seventies. All the greats played on the album. The Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section and guitarists Bobby Eli, T.J. Tindall and Roland Chambers. Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey and Bunny Sigler played keyboards, Vince Montana Jr, vibes, Larry Washington congas and percussion, flautist Jack Faith plus Don Renaldo’s strings and horns. Adding backing vocals were the legendary Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Barbara Ingram and Evette Benton, along with Deborah McKnight, Ronnie Walker and Carl Helms. With such talented personnel accompanying Carol Williams and Vince Montan Jr. producing ‘Lectric Lady, it should come as no surprise that the album would become a Salsoul classic, and featured two successful singles.
Although ‘Lectric Lady didn’t chart on it release in 1976, the two singles released from the album would not just prove successful. They became Salsoul and disco classics. More reached number ninety-eight in the US R&B Charts, number eight in the Dance Music-Club Play Charts and number four in the Hot Club Play Charts. Love Is You then reached number twenty-nine in the Dance Music-Club Play Charts.
From their release Carol Williams two singles More and Love Is You were favorites of disco lovers worldwide. However, there’s much more to Carol Williams Salsoul debut ‘Lectric Lady than just two tracks, as you’ll realize when I tell you about the music on ‘Lectric Lady.
Opening ‘Lectric Lady is Love Is You, the second single released from the album. Earl Young’s pounding drums and Larry Washington’s congas combine before the lushest of strings sweep in accompanied by bursts of rasping horns. They usher in Carol’s tender, heartfelt and beautiful vocal enters. Instantly, you realize an anthemic Salsoul classic is unfolding. With the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section providing the track’s heartbeat, Bobby Eli’s guitar punctuates the arrangement, while the mass of lush strings and rasping horns carry Carol’s vocal along. The Sweethearts of Sigma provide subtle, tender backing vocals, while flourishes of harp and solos from vibes supremo Vince Montana Jr. and a blistering horn solo play their part in the track’s hook-laden sound. However, it’s Carol’s vocal that makes the track. Her vocal is perfect for the track, delivering the lyrics with equal amounts emotion, energy and passion.
Having started ‘Lectric Lady with a classic track, you’d think that following up such a track wouldn’t be easy. Not here. This was Salsoul at the height of their creative powers. Paul Vance and Jack Perricone cowrote This Time May Be The Last Time, an emotive ballad that tugs at the heartstrings. Carol sings the song from the point of the “other woman,” with gentle, cooing backing vocals accompanying her. Slow, sad sounding strings are at the heart of the arrangement, with the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section playing subtly, before dramatically reflecting the passion and pain in Carol’s voice. Bursts of rasping horns and keyboards punctuate the arrangement, as Carol’s voice soars, full of heartache and hurt, with strings ever-present reflecting the emotion in the love she might of lost. During this track, Carol shows that there was much more to her music than disco, proving she was equally at home delivering a heartfelt, emotive soulful ballad.
As More begins, the track literally explodes. A pounding rhythm section, with drummer Earl Young at its helm, combines with blazing horns and cascading strings. Carol’s vocal is a mixture of power and joy, as she struts her way through the track. The Sweethearts of Sigma deliver punchy backing vocals, while swathes of strings dance with delight and horns bray. Ron Baker’s bass helps anchor the track, matching Earl beat for beat as he almost makes his drums speak, while percussion, congas and Vince Montana Jr.’s vibes feature. Key to the track are the strings, backing vocalists and horns. One of the best saxophone solos you’ll hear on a Salsoul album can be heard here. Truly, Carol Williams and The Salsoul Orchestra transform this track, turning it into an anthemic disco track thirty-six years later, is best described as a timeless. It’s joyous, uplifting classic, featuring one of Carol’s best vocals.
The tempo drops on Just Feel, which gives Carol another opportunity to reveal her soulful side. The rhythm section, rasping horns, swathes of lush strings, guitar and vibes combine, creating a dramatic, punchy and beautiful backdrop for Carol’s vocal. Her vocal is tender, impassioned and full of hope, with the Sweethearts of Sigma adding equally, tender and soulful backing vocals. Layers of strings, growling horns and pounding drums set the scene for Carol, as she steps up to deliver a stunning vocal. It’s as if she’s been waiting the moment, anticipating delivering Vince Montana Jr. and Ron Walker’s lyrics. She mixes power and passion with emotion, against a backdrop of cooing backing vocalists, the lushest of strings, growling horns and a punchy rhythm section. It’s a mesmerising performance, filed hope and happiness from a hugely talented and versatile vocalist.
My Time Of Need is the first of three songs Carol cowrote, with this one of two she cowrote with Vince Montana Jr. This song is like a four minute soap-opera, filled with drama and emotion. Carol singing the song from the perspective of a young woman, pregnant, desperate and on her own. Strings cascade, while horns rasp, as percussion and vibes accompany the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section. Together they provide track’s dramatic and moody heartbeat. Carol’s voice is tinged with sadness and hurt, while the Sweethearts of Sigma add judgmental backing vocalists, their vocals are full of shock and surprise. Their back vocals are the finishing touch, contrasting Carol’s desperation, sadness and loneliness. Here, also Carol shows how a talented songwriter and storyteller she, painting vivid pictures in just four minutes.
Come Back is the second track Carol and Vince Montana Jr. cowrote. This is a much quicker, dance-floor friendly track. Pounding drums, breathy backing vocals and flourishes of strings signal the arrival of Carol’s vocal. It’s a mixture of power, passion and hurt, with the Sweethearts of Sigma adding sweeping backing vocals. Meanwhile, horns growl as string dance, as if marching to the rhythm section’s pounding beat. It’s a glorious combination, with Carol’s impassioned, pleading vocal, the finishing touch, swept along above Vince Montana Jr.’s arrangement.
Flourishes of percussion and harp, are augmented by Jack Faith’s flute and Bobby Eli’s guitar, before Danger Sign reveals its secrets. Carol’s vocal is tinged with regret as the rhythm section, sizzling guitars and swathes of strings accompany her. Her heartbroken vocal is a mixture of despair, drama and regret, matched by Vince Montana Jr.’s arrangement. Ron Baker’s pounding bass, bursts of harp and flute plus moody horns play their part in an arrangement that reflects that sadness and regret in Carol’s vocal, as do Don Renaldo’s strings.
Rattlesnake is something of a hidden gem from Carol Williams. It features a sassy, strutting, power vocal from Carol. The Salsoul Orchestra certainly don’t let the side down. A pounding rhythm section, percussion, cascading strings and blazing horns accompany jazz-tinged guitar as Carol Williams disco diva takes centre-stage. Punchy, soaring backing vocals from the Sweethearts of Sigma accompany Carol, as The Salsoul Orchestra kick loose. Here, the mix of a mesmerizing mixture of growling horns, dancing strings and a pounding rhythm section shows them at their very best. It’s a peerless performance from The Salsoul Orchestra, the Sweethearts of Sigma and Carol Williams. She struts her way through the track delivering an impassioned, powerful and sassy vocal.
Closing ‘Lectric Lady is You’re So Much A Part Of Me, which Carol and Jack Perricone cowrote. There’s an almost wistful sound to the track, as horns rasp while strings sweep and swirl. A dramatic burst of Earl Young’s drums signals the arrival of Carol’s beautiful, heartfelt vocal. It floats along amidst the lushest of strings, while horns growl as percussion, vibes and the rhythm section accompany Carol. Soulful backing vocals from the Sweethearts of Sigma augment Carol’s vocal. Sadly, too soon, one of the most beautiful tracks on ‘Lectric Lady close and so does Carol Williams’ career at Salsoul.
Truly, Carol Williams debut album for Salsoul, ‘Lectric Lady is a true gem. It’s been a pleasure reviewing ‘Lectric Lady. To me it represents everything that’s good about music in the seventies. Here was a hugely talented vocalist, equally comfortable in her role as disco diva or singing soulful ballads. Carol was also a talented songwriter, who cowrote a trio of tracks My Time of Need, Come Back and You’re So Much A Part of Me. She also proved a shrewd and innovative businesswoman, deciding to co-publish the three tracks she cowrote, allowing her control of her music. On the nine tracks that comprise ‘Lectric Lady, Carol breathes life and meaning into each of the tracks, transforming herself from disco diva and soul singer seamlessly. Although ‘Lectric Lady wasn’t a commercial success, two of the tracks would become stonewall disco classics, More and Love Is You. These tracks gave Carol the two biggest hits of her career. Since then, they’ve become disco classics, with Love Is You being sampled by Spiller on If This Ain’t Love. Although Carol’s voice played a huge part in the sound and success of ‘Lectric Lady, so did The Salsoul Orchestra and The Sweethearts of Sigma.
The Salsoul Orchestra featured some of the most talented musicians not just of the seventies, but in the history of music. However, The Salsoul Orchestra were much more than musicians, but arrangers, producers and songwriters. On ‘Lectric Lady their combined talents were put to good use. They played real instruments, without a sampler, sequencer or drum machine in sight. Similarly, on ‘Lectric Lady musicians like Vince Montana Jr. proved he was a talented songwriter. He wrote three songs, two with Carol and Love Is You which with Ron Walker. This was way before artists “borrowed” samples from other tracks. Instead they wrote their own material. Vince Montana Jr. and Baker, Harris, Young proved to be talented songwriters, arrangers and producers. With such a coming together of musical talents, it’s no wonder that ‘Lectric Lady is such a stunning album. Really, there’s not a bad track on ‘Lectric Lady. Sadly, ‘Lectric Lady would be Caroi Williams’ only album for Salsoul Records.
Not long after ‘Lectric Lady was released, Carol Williams and Salsoul parted company. Carol didn’t want to become known as just a disco diva. She felt she’d much more to offer. ‘Lectric Lady shows that Carol is just as comfortable singing soulful ballads. However, if you’re only going to release one album for Salsoul, make it as good as ‘Lectric Lady. Truly, ‘Lectric Lady is a Salsoul classic, as are its two singles More and Love Is You. ‘Lectric Lady belongs in the collection of anyone who loves disco, soul or Salsoul. Once you’ve heard Carol Williams’ ‘Lectric Lady, you’ll Come Back for More. Standout Tracks: Love Is You, More, Come Back and You’re So Much A Part Of Me.
CAROL WILLIAMS-‘LECTRIC LADY.