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Salsoul Records is a New York City based record label founded by brothers Joseph Cayre, Kenneth Cayre, and Stanley Cayre (the Cayre brothers). Salsoul released about 300 disco 12-inch singles, and a string of albums. The label started in business in 1974, went defunct in 1985 and relaunched in 1992. Artists such as Instant Funk, Loleatta Holloway, Carol Williams, Jocelyn Brown, Double Exposure, First Choice, Joe Bataan, the Salsoul Orchestra (led by Vincent Montana Jr), Inner Life, Skyy, and Charo were at one time part of their roster.
The Cayre family had been involved in many entrepreneurial ventures before they stumbled upon manufacturing and distribution of 8-track tapes, which included Bethlehem Records, in the early 1970s. They had purchased some catalogs of Mexican music (mostly in the Mericana genre) to distribute, and inadvertently infringed the copyrights of CBS Records and RCA Records by selling them in the United States. They mended fences with the major labels, and even acquired a sole license for North American distribution for some of CBS Latino catalog. This led to recording sessions that involved Bataan that were distributed by CBS. When the major label was unable to further market the music profitably, the rights reverted to the Cayres and they were up and running in the record business proper. According to Ken Cayre, it was his exposure to the blossoming of early discothèques which gave him the idea to record music specifically for the dance market.
Salsoul released the first commercially available 12-inch single, Double Exposure's Ten Percent, in 1976. Salsoul Records also manufactured and distributed Gold Mind Records' output. Salsoul was affected by The disco backlash of 1979, but it was one of the few labels to survive after the death of disco. It continued to release new material until 1984 when the Cayre brothers shut down their recorded music operations to concentrate on the home video business (such as GoodTimes Entertainment).
In 1992, Salsoul Records revived as Salsoul New Generation Records (also known as Double J Records). Because of the resurgent interest prompted by Loleatta Holloway's "Love Sensation", Black Box's "Ride On Time" & Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch's "Good Vibrations" in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the label's catalogue has been digitally remastered. It is notably more popular in Europe and the United Kingdom than in the United States.
However, a year later, it changed its name to Bethlehem Music Company, but it often uses Salsoul as an imprint. Today, Bethlehem Music Company focuses on releasing Salsoul & Bethlehem Jazz recordings.
The Name Salsoul
The label's name was conceived by artist Joe Bataan, who recorded some of the earliest sessions for the Cayre brothers (predating the label's formation). "Salsoul" was street lingo for the musical culture of urban Latinos who were absorbing African-American popular music and infusing into their own culture, as well as vice versa. Bataan had chosen the name for an LP he made for the Cayre brothers.
The Philly Soul sound
As he admired the sound of the rhythm and blues that would come to be known as Philly soul, Ken Cayre hunted down the genre's best session musicians. In particular, he started working with the key players behind Gamble and Huff's Philadelphia International Records label and its predecessor/creative core: Gamble and Huff productions. Gamble and Huff were in dispute with their key musicians over business matters, and Salsoul quickly put them under contract. Among these Philly soul artists tapped for Salsoul were Vince Montana (orchestral arrangements and vibes), Norman Harris (lead and rhythm guitar, arrangements, songwriting and production), Ronnie Baker (bass guitar, arrangement and production), Earl Young (drums and percussion), Bunny Sigler and others. Baker and Young are now widely credited with crystallizing the sound and structure of a disco record.
Young's insistent use of the hi-hat cymbal made it easy for DJs to mix records in noisy clubs, as the high frequency of the cymbal stood out over the background noise and could be easily heard in the headphones of the DJ. Baker would plant his key bass notes on top of the kick drum of Young, making for a solid and thunderous bass sound. His widely-imitated signature style is best heard on the record Love is the Message by MFSB.
The Cayres also chose to record at the top-notch Sigma Sound studios in Philadelphia (one of the earliest facilities to install 24-track equipment and in possession of one of the most admired "live rooms" for accommodating small orchestras). This is why it is virtually impossible for the untrained ear to tell an MFSB recording from a Salsoul Orchestra recording (the key players, arrangers, and recording facility were the same). Many of the remixes and singles were mixed or recorded by Bob Blank at his Blank Tapes Studios in New York, using the then-new technology of automated mixing.
Baker, Harris and Young had the girl group First Choice under contract, and brought them along to Salsoul. Led by Rochelle Fleming, the group had moderate success on the Philly Groove label with Armed and Extremely Dangerous (which Salsoul acquired and would re-release amongst its classic catalogue in the 1990s - leading to the misconception that it was a Salsoul recording). For Salsoul, First Choice would record a string of classic disco anthems, most notably "Dr. Love" and "Let No Man Put Asunder", which still remains fashionable with urban DJs even twenty years after it was issued as a dance remix.
"Love Sensation" and Salsoul's Revival
Loleatta Holloway's "Love Sensation", was produced by Dan Hartman and later sampled into "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch as well as "Ride On Time" by House pioneers Black Box. Black Box at first were reviled by fans of vintage Salsoul and Ms. Holloway herself, but after legal matters were settled, many lauded the Italian DJ group for exposing an entire new generation to the Salsoul Sound. It is doubtful the "second coming of Salsoul" in the 1990s would have ever occurred if not for Black Box's initial "borrowing" of Ms. Holloway's studio vamp. After an initial "white label" period (a now-common "trial release" for a dance recording that is often unhindered by legal clearance for any samples it contains), Black Box had legally acquired the license to Mr. Hartman's composition and the use of the Salsoul recording. Ms. Holloway's work has since been sampled frequently, and the ownership of publishing rights for other recordings, most notably "Dreaming", has also been disputed.
Disco received little in the way of serious historical study and documentation until the mid-1990s, when those studying the explosion of house music began to seriously documents its roots. An early champion for the elevation of Salsoul's reputation was English DJ, producer, artist, and label executive Dave Lee (aka Joey Negro), who himself had released several "borrowed" compositions under the moniker MDEMM (an ecstasy reference) beginning in late 1988: well ahead of Marky Mark and Black Box (late 1989 and 1990 respectively). He has since acquired the reputation of "chief historian of Salsoul" (though this title officially belongs to Tom Moulton, who has the equivalent corporate position at Salsoul). Joey Negro has since remixed and contributed to the production of several re-issues from their back catalog.