- This article is about the record label. SalSoul is also the name of a Puerto Rican Salsa radio station.
Salsoul Records is a New York City based record label founded by brothers Joe Cayre, Ken Cayre, and Stanley Cayre. From 1974 to 1985, Salsoul released about 300 disco 12-inch singles, and a string of albums. 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.
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. Because of the resurgent interest prompted by Marky Mark and Black Box recordings 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.
The Cayre family had been involved in many entrepreneurial ventures before they stumbled upon manufacturing and distribution of eight track
tapes in the early 1970s, under the Caytronics
label. 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 back 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 discoteques
which gave him the idea to record music specifically for the dance market.
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
Young's insistent use of the Hihat 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).
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 the late Dan Hartman
and later sampled into "Good Vibrations
" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
as well as "Ride On Time
" by Italo-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 music 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.
Early-on, the Cayre Brothers purchased the Bethlehem Jazz catalog for their 8-track tape company, and Salsoul and Bethlehem are now under the same corporate umbrella. Bethlehem's catalog is relatively small, but respected for its unique content of jazz recordings. Interestingly, Bethlehem Music Company seems solely focused on releasing Salsoul, with Bethlehem Jazz recordings being distributed by larger companies such as Rhino Records