Archive for May 8th, 2013
Following last year’s releases from The Salsoul Orchestra, First Choice, Instant Funk and Double Exposure, Big Break Records continues its exploration of the Salsoul Records catalogue with two new reissues from Skyy and Candido. These discs can be said to offer another side of the Salsoul legacy as neither are locked into the Philly grooves of Vince Montana or Baker-Harris-Young. Instead, they show just how far the New York label could push the dance/R&B envelope in the waning days of disco.
1981’s Skyy Line gave the eight-person ensemble Skyy its first (and only) Top 40 hit with the intoxicating cry to “Call Me.” The track also went to No. 1 R&B and No. 3 Disco, solidifying Skyy’s place on the scene. Born from the ashes of the band Brass Construction, Skyy released its first album – and first for Salsoul – in 1979. The members of Skyy were said to be emissaries of the planet Yen Zalia. Though their home planet had been destroyed by war, they came to Earth to spread their message of love. By the time of Skyy Line, the band’s fourth album, most of the sci-fi trappings had been replaced by a cosmopolitan, urban feel, but the open-hearted messages of joy and love remained.
Solomon Roberts, Jr. (vocals/guitars/producer), Anibal Sierra (guitars/keyboards), Gerald Lebon (bass), Larry Greenberg (keyboards), Tommy McConnell (drums) and sisters Denise, Bonnie and Delores Dunning (vocals) joined with co-producer/arranger/instrumentalist Randy Muller for Skyy Line. “Call Me,” written by Muller and sung with insouciance by Denise, was the breakout hit. It has its protagonist rather blatantly stealing another gal’s guy, but Denise’s performance and the band’s tight backing – propelled by a riff that recalls early Stevie Wonder (think “For Once in My Life”) – proved delectable. It’s far from the only such offering on Skyy Line, though. The McConnell-penned opening salvo of “Let’s Celebrate” had just the right blend of a slick bass line, grounded drum beat, burbling electronics and swaggering vocals for the early 1980s.
Elsewhere, Skyy shows off its stylistic versatility. There’s a bit of a Rick James feel on Muller’s “Girl in Blue,” while Roberts’ “Jam the Box” takes the funk one uninhibited step further. (Talk about democracy among the songwriting credits! Delores has the lead vocal on the album’s most unexpected highlight, Roberts’ sensual, elegantly arranged ballad “When You Touch Me.” There’s even a reggae detour for Roberts and Lebon’s “Gonna Get It On” before the band wraps up the brisk, 7-song, 34-minute album with a bow for Muller’s dancefloor invitation “Get Into the Beat.” The closing track feels like a bit of a disco throwback (“Get up off your seat! Get up on your feet! Get into the beat!”) with some CHIC influence in Roberts’ rock guitar flourishes.
BBR’s reissue adds a brace of bonus tracks – the single and 12-inch mixes of “Call Me” and follow-up “Let’s Celebrate” – as well as a strong and incisive new essay from Christian John Wikane. (For those keeping score, “When You Touch Me,” the original B-side of “Call Me,” was also issued as a single A-side with the B-side of “Girl in Blue.” “Gonna Get It On” accompanied the A-side “Let’s Celebrate.”) These bonus tracks are different than those appended to the 2003 Unidisc CD. That disc included the Tom McConnell and Francois Kevorkian remixes of “Celebrate” along with an instrumental dub mix. Nick Robbins has remastered for BBR, and everything adds up to the definitive reissue of this early-eighties R&B classic.
After the jump: Cuban percussionist Candido Camero is Dancin’ and Prancin’! Plus order links and track listings for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »