It’s no secret that Big Break Records, an imprint of Cherry Red Group, has mastered the art of the reissue when it comes to vintage R&B, soul and disco. But the label has expanded its horizons recently with a new series of deluxe 2-CD artist anthologies combining hits, rarities, remixes and key album tracks into one package. Three such titles are available now from the label, dedicated to the sensational Loleatta Holloway, “Shame” diva Evelyn “Champagne” King and the band Skyy.
Though Chicago-born Loleatta Holloway (1946-2011) only released four albums on Salsoul Records’ Gold Mind imprint between 1976 and 1980, the gospel-trained singer with the powerful, passionate voice made her mark by putting the soul in Salsoul. During her tenure at the label, Holloway not only headlined her own albums – with productions from R&B legends Norman Harris (also Gold Mind’s chief) and Bobby Womack as well as her husband Floyd Smith – but her voice graced tracks by The Salsoul Orchestra (the galvanic “Run Away” and “Seconds”) and Bunny Sigler (the romantic “Only You”). Dreamin’: The Loleatta Holloway Anthology (1976-1982) begins with Holloway’s arrival at Salsoul following a brief but pivotal tenure at Atlanta’s Aware Records where she charted with the single “Cry to Me.” Salsoul transitioned Holloway into the disco market, but with Harris primarily at the helm, she never lost sight of her deep soul roots.
The chronologically-assembled Dreamin’ selects highlights from Holloway’s four Gold Mind releases (all of which are available in expanded editions from BBR). From label debut Loleatta, you’ll hear six songs including the defiant roar of Allan Felder, Ron Tyson and Norman Harris’ R&B and Disco chart single “Hit and Run,” arranged and produced by Harris in pull-out-all-the-stops mode. “Dreamin’,” which gives this compilation its title, afforded Holloway spoken monologues to which she committed the same level of fervor as she did singing. T.G. Conway arranged the sassy Philly soul update of a girl group record – with prominent backup vocals – with Holloway confronting another woman with eyes for her man. “Dreamin’” should have gotten Loleatta to the top of the pops, but alas, the track only hit No. 72 on the U.S. Pop chart. Before completing her second LP Queen of the Night, Loleatta joined The Salsoul Orchestra’s leader Vince Montana Jr. for “Run Away,” an effervescent opus that reached No. 3 on the Disco chart with an impossibly catchy hook and a deliciously elaborate production.
Five songs have been reprised from Queen of the Night including the sensual Bunny Sigler duet “Only You” and Walter Gibbons’ 12-inch mix of “Catch Me on the Rebound” showcasing Holloway’s forceful vocal style, and co-writer/producer Harris’ array of liquid guitar licks, swelling strings, funky bass, nonstop percussion and punchy horns. 1979’s self-titled album yields another four cuts here including a funky reworking of Burt Bacharach, Mack David and Luther Dixon’s “Baby It’s You” as a duet with its producer Bobby Womack, and Floyd Smith’s production of the anthem “The Greatest Performance of My Life.” Loleatta’s final Gold Mind platter, 1980’s Love Sensation, earned Holloway a Disco No. 1 with its Dan Hartman-helmed title song, one of four songs from the LP heard here.
Hartman figures prominently on Dreamin’. Not only is “Love Sensation” here in Tom Moulton’s mix, but this is the very first Holloway compendium ever to include “Vertigo/Relight My Fire,” Hartman’s sizzling smash featuring Holloway which also reached No. 1 on the Disco chart in 1979. Other highlights include “Seconds,” a reunion with The Salsoul Orchestra from their 1982 Patrick Adams-produced collection Heat It Up, and Walter Gibbons’ 12-inch remix of “Hit and Run.” Wayne A. Dickson and Malcolm McKenzie have produced this beautiful set (housed in a Super Jewel Box) which features remastering by Nick Robbins, a fine, concise essay by Christian John Wikane and an appreciation from such luminaries as Tom Moulton, Bobby Eli, Bob Esty, Bunny Sigler, Patrick Adams and the late Bobby Womack. Loleatta Holloway might not have reached the pop stardom of her contemporaries – Eli opines in his note that she “should have been just as big or even bigger than Aretha Franklin” – but her scorching brand of soulful disco hasn’t aged a day.
After the jump: the full track listing and order links for Dreamin’, plus the scoop on the releases from Skyy and Evelyn “Champagne” King!
The band Skyy entered the Salsoul sphere in the waning days of disco, blending dance rhythms with funk and rock for seven albums that kept them on the label from 1979 through 1984. Proving adaptable to changing R&B tastes, the versatile Skyy continued to record for Capitol and Atlantic through 1992. Big Break’s new 28-track Skyyhigh: The Skyy Anthology is the first-ever career-spanning overview of the band’s output for all three labels.
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. Over the course of their first three LPs – represented by 14 tracks on the first disc of the new set – Skyy notched hits including “First Time Around” (R&B No. 20, Disco No. 50), “Let’s Turn It Out” (R&B No. 65, Disco No. 50), “Skyyzoo” (R&B No. 32, Disco No. 41) and “Superlove” (R&B No. 31) and even made the pop chart with “High” (No. 102) and “You Got Me Up” (No. 61) – all of which are, of course, represented here.
By the time of 1981’s Skyy Line, the band’s fourth album, most of the Star Wars-inspired sci-fi trappings had been replaced by a cosmopolitan, urban feel, but the open-hearted messages of joy and love remained. Skyy Line gave the eight-person ensemble of producer-arranger-multi-instrumentalist Randy Muller, 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) their 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 eighties R&B scene. Four songs here hail from Skyy Line, including the rare ballad “When You Touch Me.” The all-killer, no-filler anthology continues with further hits at Salsoul like 1982’s “Movin’ Violation” and “Let Love Shine” from 1982’s Skyyjammer, “Bad Boy” and “Show Me the Way” from 1983’s Skyylight, and “Dancin’ to be Dancin’” from 1984’s Salsoul swan song, Inner City. Many of these tracks are presented in the mixes familiar to club dancers by such talents as John Morales and Sergio Munzibai (M&M) and Shep Pettibone.
Following the Salsoul years, Skyy recorded one album at Capitol Records (1986’s The Left Side) and two for Atlantic (1989’s Start of a Romance and 1992’s Nearer to You). Though Nearer to You has proven to be Skyy’s final album to date, one can’t say that the band didn’t go out in the prime. The title track of Start of a Romance took Skyy to pole position on the R&B chart, and “Up and Over (Stronger and Better)” from Nearer to You earned a respectable No. 14 placement.
Producer Wayne Dickson has remastered Skyyhigh, which also features exemplary new notes from Christian John Wikane and discographical annotation for each track. Like Dreamin’, it’s packaged in a Super Jewel Box. Skyy Line is also available in expanded form from BBR.
The label returns to the catalogue of Evelyn “Champagne” King with Action: The Evelyn “Champagne” King Anthology 1977-1986. The Bronx-born, Philadelphia-raised vocalist came from a showbiz family including her uncle Avon Long who had made his Broadway debut in 1936 and continued to perform on the Great White Way through 1977. In a true rags-to-riches tale, King was discovered by producer-musician T. Life when she was just 14 years old, giving a private mini-concert as she mopped the floors of Philly International Records’ bathroom! T. Life, then a staffer at Gamble and Huff’s empire, couldn’t convince his bosses to record the young star-to-be, but once he achieved free agent status, his belief in her paid off with an RCA contract. T. Life and the then-17-year old King couldn’t have regretted the delay in launching her recording career. John Fitch and Reuben Cross’ “Shame,” produced and arranged by T. Life for King’s debut album Smooth Talk, catapulted the young vocalist to the Top 10 of the Pop, R&B and Disco charts. It kicks off BBR’s anthology which details King’s journey through 1986 and the conclusion of her time at RCA.
T. Life tailored Smooth Talk specifically for King, whose impressive voice could be alternately girlish and gritty. Philly pals like Teddy Pendergrass and Dexter Wansel contributed songs to the LP; Wansel’s “The Show is Over” (sampled by Ice Cube on his “You Know How We Do It”) is one of the four Smooth Talk songs reprised here. T. Life returned for King’s second and third albums, Music Box and Call on Me, respectively, and while they failed to match the platinum status of Smooth Talk, they continued King’s winning streak via songs like “Music Box” (No. 14 R&B/No. 75 Pop) and “Let’s Get Funky Tonight” (No. 34 R&B/No. 12 Disco).
1981’s I’m in Love marked a new, funkier direction for King under the auspices of producers Morrie Brown, Willie Lester and Rodney Brown, and Kashif and Paul Laurence. The latter wrote the title song specifically for King, and she was rewarded with a Disco and R&B chart-topper that also went Top 40 Pop. In all, four hit singles (all of which are included here) emerged from the gold album including “Don’t Hide Our Love” with Kashif joining King on vocals. Naturally, the I’m in Love team was back for its follow-up. 1982’s Get Loose even bested its predecessor, becoming a double-platinum smash with four more hits. The Kashif-written and -produced contemporary club anthem “Love Come Down,” heard here in its Long Version, went straight to the top of the Disco and R&B charts and cracked the Top 20 Pop. Evelyn even rapped on the title track which made the R&B chart and is heard here in its 12-inch mix.
Soul royalty lined up for a chance to work with King, including Andre Cymone and the team of Leon and Foster Sylvers, on 1983’s Face to Face. In the true eighties tradition of multiple producers on one project, 1984’s So Romantic boasted productions by Glen Ballard, David “Hawk” Wolinski and the synth-pop/electro-funk duo known as The System. Five selections on this new set come from the diverse album. King’s final RCA album proved to be 1985’s A Long Time Coming, its title derived from the Sam Cooke song “A Change is Gonna Come” which T. Life had heard King singing all those years ago in the bathroom. Three tracks from that project close out Action, including two productions by Allen George and Fred McFarlane and one more from Wolinski.
King finished the eighties with two albums for EMI before entering semi-retirement from the recording studio; she has since re-emerged in 1995 and 2007. Action (attractively packaged in a digipak) features the most extensive booklet of any of these three titles; its 24 pages include a comprehensive essay from Wikane and track-by-track liner notes with comments from King, T Life, Kashif and others. Nick Robbins has remastered, with additional mastering from producer Dickson and original master tape transfers by Mark Wilder and Sean Brennan at Sony’s Battery Studios in New York. The 31 tracks on Evelyn "Champagne" King' s lavish Action showcase some of, well, the bubbliest dance-pop, funk, R&B, disco and soul you’re likely to find.
All three titles are available now from Cherry Red’s Big Break Records imprint and can be ordered below!
Loleatta Holloway, Dreamin’: The Loleatta Holloway Anthology 1976-1982 (Big Break CDBBRD 0181, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
- Worn Out Broken Heart
- Hit and Run
- We’re Getting Stronger Together (The Longer We Stay Together) (12” Version)
- Ripped Off
- What Now
- Run Away – The Salsoul Orchestra featuring Loleatta Holloway
- Only You – Loleatta Holloway and Bunny Sigler
- Catch Me on the Rebound (12” Version)
- I May Not Be There When You Want Me (But I’m Right on Time) (12” Version)
- Mama Don’t, Papa Won’t
- I’m in Love
- That’s What You Said (12” Version)
- The Greatest Performance of My Life (12” Version)
- Baby It’s You – Loleatta Holloway featuring Bobby Womack
- All About the Paper
- Vertigo/Relight My Fire (12” Version) – Dan Hartman featuring Loleatta Holloway
- Love Sensation (12” Version)
- Short End of the Stick
- I’ve Been Loving You Too Long
- Two Became a Crowd
CD 1, Tracks 1-6 from Loleatta, Gold Mind GZS-7500, 1976; remix of Track 4 from Gold Mind single 12G-4006
CD 1, Track 7 from Magic Journey, Salsoul SZS-5515, 1977
CD 1, Tracks 8-12 from Queen of the Night, Gold Mind GA-9501, 1978; remix of Track 9 from Gold Mind single GG-402, and remix of Track 10 from Gold Mind single GG-4015
CD 2, Tracks 1-4 from Loleatta Holloway, Gold Mind GA-5904, 1979; remix of Tracks 1-2 from Gold Mind single GG-503
CD 2, Track 5 from Relight My Fire, Blue Sky JZ 36302, 1979
CD 2, Tracks 6-9 from Love Sensation, Salsoul GA-9506, 1980; remix of Track 6 from Gold Mind single GG-505
CD 2, Track 10 from Heat It Up, Salsoul SA-8552, 1982
CD 2, Track 11 from Gold Mind single 12G-4006
Skyy, Skyyhigh: The Skyy Anthology (1979-1992) (Big Break CDBBRD 0194, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
- First Time Around (12” Version)
- Let’s Turn It Out
- The Groove is Bad
- Disco Dancin’
- Fallin’ in Love Again
- Skyyzoo (12” Version)
- Love Plane
- You Got Me Up
- Here’s to You
- Take It Easy
- For the First Time
- No Music
- Call Me
- Let’s Celebrate (12” Version)
- When You Touch Me
- Get Into the Beat
- Movin’ Violation
- Let Love Shine (12” Version)
- Bad Boy (12” Version)
- Show Me the Way (12” Version)
- Dancin’ to Be Dancin’ (12” Version)
- Because of You (12” M&M Mix)
- Givin’ It (To You) (12” Special Mix)
- Start of a Romance
- Real Love
- Up and Over (Stronger and Better)
CD 1, Tracks 1-5 from Skyy, Salsoul SA-8517, 1979; remix of Track 1 from Salsoul single SG-215; version of Track 2 from Salsoul single SG-308
CD 1, Tracks 6-9 from Skyyway, Salsoul SA-8532, 1980; version of Track 6 from Salsoul promo single SG-323-DJ, remix of Track 7 from Salsoul SG-329
CD 1, Tracks 10-14 from Skyyport, Salsoul SA-8537, 1981; remix of Track 10 from Salsoul promo single SG-339-DJ, and version of Track 11 from Salsoul promo single SG-344-DJ
CD 2, Tracks 1-4 from Skyy Line, Salsoul SA-8548, 1981; version of Track 1 from Salsoul single SG-356, remix of Track 2 from Salsoul single SG-364
CD 2, Tracks 5-6 from Skyyjammer, Salsoul SA-8555, 1982; version of Track 5 from Salsoul single SG-380 and remix of Track 6 from Salsoul single SG-389
CD 2, Tracks 7-8 from Skyylight, Salsoul SA-8562, 1983; remix of Track 7 from Salsoul single SG-402 and remix of Track 8 from Salsoul single SG-408
CD 2, Tracks 9-10 from Inner City, Salsoul SA-8568, 1984; remix of Track 9 from Salsoul single SG-430 and remix of Track 10 from John Morales – The M&M Mixes: NYC Underground Anthems, BBE 129CLP/CCD, 2009
CD 2, Track 11 from From the Left Side, Capitol ST-12448, 1986; remix from Capitol V-15226
CD 2, Tracks 12-13 from Start of a Romance, Atlantic 81853, 1989
CD 2, Track 14 from Nearer to You, Atlantic 82328, 1992
Evelyn “Champagne” King, Action: The Evelyn “Champagne” King Anthology 1977-1986 (Big Break CDBBRXD 0198, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
- Shame (12” Version)
- I Don’t Know If It’s Right (12” Version)
- Till I Come Off the Road
- The Show Is Over
- Music Box (12” Version)
- Out There (Single Version)
- Sweet Delight
- Let’s Get Funky Tonight (12” Version)
- Call on Me
- Your Kind of Loving
- I’m in Love (12” Version)
- Don’t Hide Our Love
- If You Want My Lovin’
- What Are You Waiting For
- Spirit of the Dancer
- Love Come Down (12” Version)
- Betcha She Don’t Love You
- I Can’t Stand It
- Back to Love
- Get Loose (12” Version)
- Action (12” Version)
- Shake Down (12” Version)
- Teenager (Single Version)
- Just for the Night
- I’m So Romantic
- Out of Control (12” Version)
- Give Me One Reason
- Till Midnight (Single Version)
- Your Personal Touch
- High Horse (Single Version)
- Slow Down (Single Version)
CD 1, Tracks 1-4 from Smooth Talk, RCA APL1-3466, 1977; remix of Track 1 from RCA PD-11213, remix of Track 2 from RCA PD-11215
CD 1, Tracks 5-6 from Music Box, RCA AFL1-3033, 1979; remix of Track 5 from RCA PD-11587, edit of Track 6 from RCA PB-11680
CD 1, Track 7 from Sweet Delight, planned for RCA AFL1-3543, 1980
CD 1, Tracks 8-10 from Call On Me, RCA AFL1-3543, 1980; remix of Track 8 from RCA PD-12090
CD 1, Tracks 11-15 from I’m In Love, RCA AFL1-3962, 1981; remix of Track 11 from RCA PD-12244, remix of Track 15 from RCA PD-13018
CD 2, Tracks 1-5 from Get Loose, RCA AFL1-4337, 1982; remix of Track 1 from RCA PD-13274, remix of Track 5 from RCA PD-13462
CD 2, Tracks 6-8 from Face to Face, RCA AFL1-4725, 1983; remix of Track 6 from RCA PD-13683, remix of Track 7 from RCA PD-13749 and remix of Track 8 from RCA PB-13825
CD 2, Tracks 9-13 from So Romantic, RCA AFL1-5308, 1984; remix of Track 9 from RCA PW-13915, remix of Track 11 from RCA PW-13981, and remix of Track 13 from RCA PB-14048
CD 2, Tracks 14-16 from A Long Time Coming, RCA AFL1-7015, 1985; version of Track 14 from RCA PW-14202, version of Track 15 from RCA PB-14308 and version of Track 16 from RCA PB-14373
Chief Brody says
Listening to Disc 1 as I type. Although I'm far from a diehard LH fan, I do enjoy her early, Southern soul recordings. I'm not as familiar with her disco-era material, but it sounds great so far. Very interesting arrangements. I do wish, though, that BBR would not stack the two discs in what is essentially an SACD case. Would it have busted the budget to put them in a standard two-CD flip case?