Nothing sums up the sound of 1970s New York like Salsoul Records. With a roster of black and Latino artists, Salsoul rode the first street-fuelled wave of Latin soul, disco and block parties. Founded in 1974 by the Cayre brothers and former Fania artist and Latin soul legend Joe Bataan, the label went on to help popularize the 12″ vinyl format that would eventually lead to the turntablist and DJ cults of today.
A reflection of the period when New York’s large Latin community was starting to make itself visible beyond its own neighbourhoods, the label takes its name from the mash of black soul and traditional Latin music which was known on the street as Salsoul. As they were fans of Philly Soul, the Cayre brothers recruited many of the session musicians that defined that sound and formed them into The Salsoul Orchestra (TSO), employing them as the house band for the label.
The interplay between TSO drummer Earl Young and bassist Ronnie Barker, namely huge pounding basslines, massive kick drums and an insistent hi-hat, is widely credited as creating the blueprint for the disco sound. Over the next ten years the label released more than 300 singles and a clutch of classic albums by artists and made stars of Bataan, Loleatta Holloway, Jocelyn Brown, Double Exposure and more; their records burned the floors at every major club of the period from Studio 54 to The Loft.
Those records include classics like Loleatta Holloway’s ‘Love Sensation’, later updated by Black Box as ‘Ride on Time’ as well as ‘Good Vibrations’ by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, and First Choice anthem ‘Dr Love’. Salsoul Records suffered in the 1980s as disco’s popularity waned, but it has enjoyed renewed interest – more in Europe than the US – since the 1990s, as the label has been championed by house DJs like Joey Negro (Dave Lee) with its signature sound being added to many funky house tracks.
Text Matt Armitage
This article was first published in the April 2008 issue of JUICE