CULT CLASSIC: LOLEATTA HOLLOWAY-CRY TO ME.
Cult Classic: Loleatta Holloway-Cry To Me.
Before being transformed into a disco diva by arranger, guitarist and producer Norman Harris at Salsoul imprint Gold Mind Records, Loleatta Holloway released two albums of Southern Soul for Michael Thevis’ Aware Records. This includes her sophomore album Cry To Me, which was released in 1975.
Loleatta Holloway was born in the Windy City of Chicago, on November the ‘5th’ 1946, and just like Minnie Ripperton and Aretha Franklin her talent was noticeable from an early age. Growing up, music was always part of Loleatta Holloway’s life.
Her first involvement with music was when she joined her mother’s gospel group. Her time with The Holloway Community Gospel Singers was akin to a musical apprenticeship.
That was also the case for another young singer that Loleatta Holloway met whilst singing with her mother’s gospel group. This was a young Aretha Franklin who later, would influence Loleatta Holloway’s vocal style and phrasing.
In 1967, Loleatta Holloway was asked by Albertina Walker to join The Caravans, the gospel group she founded in the fifties. She agreed, and later, that year, The Famous Caravans as they were now billed, released their critically acclaimed album Help Is On The Way. Loleatta Holloway’s recording career was underway.
For the next four years, she was a member of The Caravans and on their 1969 album Think About It takes charge of the lead vocal on two tracks. However, by 1971 Loleatta Holloway was ready to embark on a new chapter in her career.
She acted in the musical revue Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope and formed and toured with her own company Loleatta Holloway and Her Review. By then, she had also met future husband and manager Floyd Smith, who arranged for Loleatta Holloway to record her first secular tracks.
This was a cover of a Gene Chandler song Rainbow 71, which was released on the Apache label in 1971. Later, they leased to Galaxy who were able to distribute the single nationwide. However, the song failed to chart and Loleatta Holloway returned to the studio.
Her next single was Bring It On Up, originally the b-side to Sentimental Reasons. It was around this time that Michael Thevis became aware of Loleatta Holloway, and he signed for his new Atlanta based Aware label.
Now that he had signed Loleatta Holloway, Michael Thevis wasted no time recording her first single for his new label. This was Mother Of Shame, which was released in May 1973, and reached number sixty-three in the US R&B Charts. Although it was only a minor hit, Loleatta Holloway entered the studio with producer Floyd Smith to record her debut secular album.
This was Loleatta, which was recorded at the Sound Pit Studios, in Atlanta, Georgia. The album was produced by Floyd Smith who penned Part Time Lover, Full Time Fool and cowrote Only A Fool with William Johnson. Accompanying Loleatta Holloway as she recorded the ten tracks were The “Homegrown” Rhythm Section. Once the album was completed, it was released later in 1973.
By July 1973, DJs were playing Our Love which was on the B-Side of Mother Of Shame. It eventually reached forty-three in the US R&B charts and game Loleatta Holloway her second hit single.
Buoyed by the success of Our Love, Part Time Lover, Full Time Fool was released as a single. Despite being one of the strongest song on the album and an obvious choice for a single it failed to chart. This was a disappointment for Loleatta Holloway and Floyd Smith who wrote and produced the song.
There was further disappointment when Loleatta was released later in 1973 and failed to chart. That was despite the album receiving positive reviews from the critics that reviewed it.
The album featured a series of vocal masterclasses from Loleatta Holloway who sounded as if she had lived the lyrics. She breathed life, meaning and emotion into the songs on Loleatta and was like actress in a play on the tales of love and love gone wrong. Sadly, very few people heard Loleatta when it was released in 1973 and she hoped that the followup fared better.
Cry To Me.
In the spring of 1974, Loleatta Holloway returned to the studio to record her next single.The song that had been chosen was a Sam Dees’ composition Help Me My Lord. It found Loleatta Holloway strutting her way through the track delivering a vocal powerhouse as she combines Southern Soul and gospel.
Then Loleatta Holloway delivers a defiant vocal that is a mixture of anger and frustration on Frederick Knight’s The World Don’t Owe You Nothin’. It features a funky, soulful arrangement that is the perfect backdrop to this mini soap opera. However, despite being the stronger of the two tracks it was destined for the B-Side.
This decision came back to haunt Aware Records when Help Me My Lord was released as a single and failed to chart. Despite this, Loleatta Holloway returned to the studio to record the rest of her sophomore album Cry To Me.
Another eight tracks were chosen for the album including Sam Dees’ I Know Where You’re Coming From and The Show Must Go On. They were join ed by David Camon’s Cry To Me; Curtis Mayfield’s Just Be True To Me; Johnny Jacobs and Ronnie Walker’s Something About The Way I Feel; A. Jerline Williams and William Johnson’s I Can’t Help Myself and Jo Armstead’s Casanova. The other track was the Loleatta Holloway composition I’ll Be Gone. These tracks were recorded at the Sound Pit Studios, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Just like Loleatta, Cry To Me was produced by Floyd Smith. Accompanying Loleatta Holloway at the Sound Pit were The “Homegrown” Rhythm Section. Just like her debut album they played an important part in the album’s sound.
This includes on the album opener Cry To Me where a piano plays slowly, guitars chime and combine with the rhythm section as Loleatta Holloway delivers a soliloquy. She’s heartbroken and sings about how her relationship is breaking up against an arrangement that is a mixture of power and drama. Strings sweep in while the rhythm section add drama and backing vocalists accompany a powerful, soul-baring vocal. It’s almost impossible not to to get caught up in the emotion and sadness of what’s one of the album’s highlights.
The Show Must Go On was written by Sam Dees who originally recorded this ballad. Loleatta Holloway delivers a hurt-filled soliloquy against Floyd Smith’s arrangement. By the time the vocal enters, the rhythm section, sweeping strings horns, gospel-tinged backing vocalists, vibes and even applause accompany a defiant, dramatic soul-baring vocal.
I Know Where You’re Coming From is a song about a relationship breakup with a twist in the tale. Loleatta Holloway delivers a soliloquy as a guitar chimes and a bass cuts through the arrangement. Meanwhile, soaring backing vocals join Loleatta Holloway as she reassures her friend: “I Know Where You’re Coming From” before singing: “why don’t you take my hand and be my man” on this timeless slice of sassy Southern Soul.
There’s a sense of drama to the ballad Just Be True To Me. It features an arrangement where strings sweep and horns rasp as the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Meanwhile, Loleatta Holloway delivers a heartfelt and impassioned vocal that becomes needy and hopeful when she sings: “Just Be True To Me” on this beautiful ballad.
The tempo rises slightly on Something About The Way I Feel as the rhythm section, horns and vibes set the scene for an impassioned vocal. Loleatta Holloway reflects about the past and what she’s been through with her partner. She’s accompanied by backing vocalists that prove to be the perfect foil as the song swings and she gives thanks for the love she’s found, what she has and “the way I feel.” It’s a beautiful paean where the future disco diva paints pictures with the lyrics.
I’ll Be Gone is another ballad and the only song on the album written by Loleatta Holloway. She warns on this tale of love gone wrong that: “I can’t let you keep on hurting me for I’ll Be Gone.” Her vocal is bristling with emotion and hurt as the rhythm section add a degree of drama and are joined by a crystalline guitar, vibes plus sweeping and pizzicato strings. They provide the perfect backdrop as Loleatta Holloway delivers an ultimatum to her cheating, no good man.
Dramatic describes the introduction to I Can’t Help Myself before it sets the scene for Loleatta Holloway’s vocal. There’s a degree of confusion in her voice as she’s fallen for the wrong guy. “I never thought I could fall in love with a guy like you, although I know you could never be true, I find myself wanting to live with ‘cos I love you, I can’t help myself.” Meanwhile, backing vocals soar above the arrangement and coo, as drums pound, a guitar chimes, strings sweep and horns rasp. It’s one of the best arrangements on the album and the perfect accompaniment for the vocal.
Stabs of horns, backing vocalists and the rhythm section combine to create a dramatic backdrop before Loleatta Holloway unleashes a powerful, emotive vocal on Casanova. She tells her parter “Casanova your playing days are over.” Meanwhile, the backing vocalists sing “it’s over, it’s over baby” as strings sweep and swirl and the drama builds during this four minute soap open. It’s one of the eight tracks recorded at the Sound Pit and is without doubt one of the highlight Cry To Me.
With the rest of the album completed, Cry To Me was scheduled for release later in 1975. Loleatta Holloway must have been hoping that it would fare better than her debut album.
Things were looking good when Cry To Me was released as a single in January 1975 and reached sixty-eight in the US Billboard 100 and ten in the US R&B charts.
In June 1975, I Know I Where You’re Coming From was released as a single and stalled at sixty-nine in the US R&B charts. It was a case of one step forward and two steps back for Loleatta Holloway.
She released her sophomore album Cry To Me later in 1975 and although it was well received by critics but like her debut failed to trouble the charts. The problem was this future Southern Soul classic hadn’t been promoted properly. However, this time there was a reason for the lack of promotion.
All wasn’t well at Aware and the label was teetering on the brink. Despite this, Casanova was released as a single but failed to find the audience it deserved. Not long after this, Aware and the rest of Michael Thevis’ empire folded.
All the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records were left high and dry. They were left without a label and some of the artists were also owed royalties, which in some cases, was a significant sum of money. These artists had no idea what the future held for them.
In the case of Loleatta Holloway she was signed to Salsoul imprint Gold Mind Records by Norman Harris. This was the start of a new chapter Loleatta Holloway who was transformed into a disco diva at her new label.
This was very different to the two albums of Southern Soul Loleatta Holloway had recorded at Aware. Sadly, neither Loleatta nor Cry To Me was a commercial success when they were released. It was only much later that the two albums started to find a wider audience.
Cry To Me is the best of the two albums and is almost flawless. Ironically, the weakest track on the album is the lead single Help Me My Lord. The rest of the songs on the album are tailor made for Loleatta Holloway and play to her strengths. She delivers vocals that veer between dramatic, emotive, heartfelt, impassioned and soul-baring to defiant, hopeful and sassy as she struts her way through the lyrics about love and love gone wrong. Other times, the vocals are needy and hopeful as Loleatta Holloway brings the lyrics to life. Especially when accompanied by Floyd Smith’s timeless arrangements. They add to the drama and theatre of the songs on Cry To Me and are play their part in the sound and success of the album.
Sadly, Aware was the wrong label for Loleatta Holloway and the two albums weren’t promoted properly. Especially Cry To Me which was released just before Michael Thevis’ house of cards collapsed. This was a great shame and meant that very few people got to hear Cry To Me. For Loleatta Holloway it was a case of what might have been?
Forty-five years later, and Loleatta Holloway’s music is more popular than ever. Although she’s better known as a disco diva the two albums she recorded for Aware are belatedly receiving the recognition they deserves and this includes Loleatta Holloway’s Southern Soul classic Cry To Me.
Cult Classic: Loleatta Holloway-Cry To Me.