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The Salsoul Orchestra

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Biography

The music world's prime disco big band during the late '70s, the Salsoul Orchestra recorded several of the tightest, chunkiest disco themes of the 1970s, both on its own productions and as the backing group for several prime vocalists. Organized by Vincent Montana, Jr. in 1974, the band was an experiment in fusing funk, Philly soul, and Latin music together in a highly danceable discofied style with plenty of room for solos by individual members. With arrangers, conductors, and whole sections of instruments (including up to 18 violinists) contributing to the sound, the Salsoul Orchestra routinely included up to 50 members. Though the Salsoul sound became passé in the wake of disco music's explosion and rapid commercialization during the late '70s, Salsoul was a heavy influence on house music in the 1980s and even the return of disco-inspired electronica during the following decade. The beginnings of the Salsoul Orchestra (and Salsoul Records) lie with nominal head Vincent Montana, Jr. A longtime jazz vibraphonist, bandleader, and session man with Philly soul groups like Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, the O'Jays, and the Spinners, Montana dreamed of constructing a large studio orchestra which could fuse polished soul and brassy funk with Latin percussion and live strings. In 1974, he was introduced to local entrepreneurs Joe, Ken, and Stan Cayre (who ran a local Latin music label) by Afro-Cuban pianist Joe Bataan. With their blessing (and financing), Montana spent months recruiting dozens of musicians from the streets and studios of New York -- including more than a half-dozen percussionists alone. The collective recorded three tracks, which impressed Bataan and the Cayres so much that they decided to form a new label -- named Salsoul for its connotations of salsa and soul -- to release a full-length LP. One of the original Salsoul Orchestra recordings, "The Salsoul Hustle," was released in mid-1975 and it placed well on the charts. Salsoul's second single, "Tangerine" (an unlikely cover of a Jimmy Dorsey tune), hit the Top 20 in early 1976 and pushed the eponymous Salsoul Orchestra LP to number 14 on the album charts. Follow-up singles like "You're Just the Right Size" and "Nice and Nasty" did moderately well on the charts but soon a glut of similar-sounding material began to flood the market, cheap imitations of the amazing instrumentation of Salsoul Orchestra members -- guitarist and producer Norman Harris, bassist Ronald Baker, drummer Earl Young, arranger Don Renaldo, percussionist Larry Washington, and vocalists Jocelyn Brown, Phyllis Rhodes, Ronni Tyson, Philip Hurt, and Carl Helm. Many Salsoul contributors played on the biggest and best disco tracks of the era, including Trammps, Grace Jones, the Whispers, Loleatta Holloway, and First Choice. Salsoul's third LP, the slightly amusing Christmas Jollies, displayed a predilection towards the growing disco novelty trend. The slip was hardly improved upon with 1977's Cuchi-Cuchi (which teamed the Orchestra with Charo) or 1978's Up the Yellow Brick Road (a takeoff on The Wiz). After disintegrating the Salsoul Orchestra in the early '80s, Vince Montana led the studio group Montana and recorded with several pop stars of the '80s as well as dance inheritors of the '90s like Mondo Grosso and Nuyorican Soul. Though Salsoul records had long been out of print, several were brought back in the mid-'90s, as well as a prescient two-disc retrospective titled Anthology. ~ John Bush
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
    Popularity
  2.   There's Someone Who's Knocking
  3.   Nice & Nasty
  4.   Chicago Bus Stop
  5.   Tangerine
  6.   Salsoul Hustle
  7.   You're Just the Right Size
  8.   Salsoul Rainbow
  9.   Magic Bird of Fire
  10.   It's Good for the Soul
  11.   Getaway
  12.   Runaway by Loleatta Holloway
  13.   Deck the Halls
  14.   Joy to the World
  15.   Love Break
  16.   Joyful Spirit
  17.   Christmas Time
  18.   Don't Beat Around the Bush
  19.   Sun After Rain
  20.   God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  21.   The Salsoul Christmas Suite
  22.   Do It to the Music by Charo
  23.   Comin' At Cha
  24.   My Number's Up
  25.   New Year's Medley: Auld Lang Salsoul/I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover/Alabama Jubilee
  26.   I'll Keep You Warm
  27.   Seconds by Loleatta Holloway
  28.   Get Happy
  29.   Nice 'N' Naasty
  30.   Ritzy Mambo
  31.   Salsoul 3001
  32.   It Don't Have to Be Funky
  33.   212 North 12th St.
  34.   Burning Spear
  35.   Just the Right Size
  36.   Silent Night featuring Michael Aharon
  37.   Sleigh Ride
  38.   New Year's Medley: Auld Lang Salsoul/I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf ...
  39.   Christmas Medley: Joy to the World/Deck the Halls/O Come All Ye ...
  40.   The Little Drummer Boy
  41.   How High
  42.   Ooh I Love It (Love Break)
  43.   Merry Christmas All
  44.   Take Some Time out for Love
  45.   Alpha Centuri
  46.   Short Shorts
  47.   Journey to Phoebus
  48.   New Year's/Americana Suite
  49.   It's a New Day
  50.   You Make Me Feel Brand New
  51.   Dance with Somebody's Body
  52.   Columbia: The Space Shuttle
  53.   Have a Good Time
  54.   Jack & Jill (Original Re-Edit Acappella Version)
  55.   Standing and Waiting on Love
  56.   Closing Theme
  57.   Standing and Waiting
  58.   Tale of Three Cities
  59.   Runaway by Loleatta Holloway
  60.   We've Only Just Begun/Feelings
  61.   Street Sense
  62.   Somebody to Love
  63.   Zambesi
  64.   Theme from Montreal Olympics, 1976 (Farewell Song and Ballet of ...)
  65.   Guantanamera
  66.   Sun After the Rain
  67.   Nice N' Naasty
  68.   Your're All I Want For Christmas
  69.   Heat It Up
  70.   Resorts International
  71.   212 N. 12th
  72.   Christmas Medley: Joy to the World/Deck the Halls/O Come All Ye Faithful/Jingle Bells
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