IT wouldn't take a genius to notice that Loleatta Holloway's delectable US hit, "Cry To Me", is simply one of my favourite sounds of all time. That stunning rap intro that then leads into a gentle ballad before building into a powerful climatic crescendo — and then drops you right back into that rap before building into another frenetic but more restrained ending. Happily, on the strength of Loleatta's just-released album, the lady looks set to stay on top now that she's there.
Believe it or not, this is not our first feature on Loleatta because she was featured in those bygone days of B&S 71 when her very first hit, "Bring It On Up" was just beginning to cause some noise on this side of the Atlantic.
Born in Chicago on November 3, 1946, Loleatta comes from an orthodox gospel background (you only have to listen to her statuesque voice to know that!) and in her very early teens sang with a choir that her mother was a founder member of. The lady then progressed to sing with the famed gospel group, the Caravans. This was something of an anti-climax for Loleatta because prior to that she had sung with the Holloway Community Singers and they frequently numbered 200 for big concerts. Nevertheless, the Caravans was a definite progression and soon after, she landed a lead part in the Chicago showing of the Broadway show, "Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope".
It was during this period that Loleatta met 'the man who has been most responsible for my success' — her producer, Floyd Smith. Floyd signed Loleatta to his own Apache label and recorded her on an updating of a Curtis Mayfield song that had been an earlier hit for yet another Chicago superstar, Gene Chandler. The record was, of course, "Rainbow '71" and it became an overnight smash in Chicago and Floyd ended up selling the master and Loleatta's recording contract to Fantasy Records because they were able to offer a far better nationwide distribution. Incidentally, the record — though an American hit — was not considered commercial for the British market (probably correct, too!) and so United Artists, who then handled Fantasy in the UK, settled on the flipside "Bring It On Up".
Unhappily, nothing more happened for Loleatta or Floyd during their relationship with Fantasy and they were allowed to quietly slip into oblivion until Floyd joined the emerging GRC group of labels in Atlantic some two years ago. Naturally, Floyd took his talented lady with him and she debuted on the Aware label late in '73 with a moving ballad entitled "Mother Of Shame". As you can gather from the title, the song was somewhat controversial but it carried Loleatta to the top of the R&B charts all across America. It also prompted the company to release the first of her two albums on Aware. Simply entitled "Loleatta", it features, of course, "Mother Of Shame" plus some well known songs — "Can I Change My Mind" and Syl Johnson's "We Did It" being the best known two — plus some original material. The album really wasn't a smash hit but it provided Loleatta with a vehicle to progress her career with.
Shortly after the release of the album, Loleatta was back in the studio and it was during this session that she recorded "Cry To Me". "Sam Dees wrote it and Floyd picked it right away," our lady enthuses, "but the company felt it was too long and too slow to happen as a single. But I persevered with it because I always had faith in the song. Ok, so maybe it would have been even more successful if it had been shorter but I just love to rapp. In fact, I sometimes enjoy it more than singing if the dialogue is good — hey, I just enjoy good conversation! In fact, I do a lot of talking with the audience on my shows but it's not like say Millie Jackson. As much as I love her, she's far more harsh than I am. She's kind of more women's lib you could say although if you don't listen too closely you could be forgiven for saying we're from the same school."
Hot on the heels of the hit single comes the hit album. Naturally enough it's called "Cry To Me" and, like her first set, it's an interesting package of songs. Perhaps the nearest cut to "Cry To Me" is the similarly slanted "I'll Be Gone", which she wrote herself. She does a fine version of another old Curtis Mayfield/Gene Chandler combination, "Just Be True" plus Ruby Andrews' hit, "Casanova". Sam Dees penned five of the ten songs included and you'll find a fine handling of Sam's own recent American hit, "The Show Must Go On" in there. Sam also wrote "Mother Of Shame" by the way.
As we said at the beginning, the album is strong enough to ensure Loleatta Holloway of continued success and it's particularly satisfying to see her brand of our music receiving so much well-earned acclaim.