PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL: THE RE-EDITS.
PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL: THE RE-EDITS.
Sometimes, once you’ve heard that a new album will be due out soon, then you can’t wait to get your hands on to review. That’s how I felt about Harmless’ latest compilation, Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits, which I’ve waited to hear for a number of weeks. This is just the latest compilation that will be released during 2012, which is the fortieth anniversary of Philadelphia International Records. As if this latest compilation isn’t enough, then fans of the Philly Sound will soon be able to enjoy a four disc box set entitled Philadelphia International Classics: The Tom Moulton Remixes which is due for release in February 2012 on Harmless. Now if that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, then how a ten, yes ten disc box set which will be released later in 2012. However, getting back to the Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits compilation, this is an interesting concept which I’ll now tell you about.
Now, most similar albums of re-edits or remixes see many of the same familiar names used to either re-edit or remix classic tracks like this. Not here though. Instead, what we have is a number of re-edits from DJs who’ve been fans of the music, and maybe aren’t the highest profile DJs. This is quite refreshing, as on many albums, the usual suspects are dragged out to give their “take” on a track. So what we have here, are twenty-one re-edits from DJs who maybe wouldn’t usually find their music on such an esteemed compilation. To me, this is part of the attraction to the compilation, hearing fresh takes on the music by fans of the music. These DJs come from not quite the four corners of the globe, but pretty close. There are DJs from San Francisco to Sunderland, Brooklyn, Brescia and Bristol, not forgetting Glasgow, Chicago and New York. Truly, it’s a cosmopolitan mix of DJs who contribute to the album. However, four other people who made this compilation possible, are compilers Ian Dewhirst and Jay Negron, as well as Gamble and Huff who brought us this majestic music.
Now before I tell you about the music however, I’ll explain the idea behind a re-edit, and how this differs from a remix. This should allow you an insight into how the various DJs on this compilation came up with the various re-edits. With the re-edits on this compilation, none of the DJs had access to the master tapes or any of the raw parts of the song. This is always the case with re-edits. What happens is that the DJ takes the song, and basically takes pieces out of the track, maybe adds drum beats, sometimes a keyboard line and often a number of effects. Quite often, the DJ will look to extend parts of a song, make it longer, more suitable for the dance-floor. Often, this will mean adding additional drum beats, extending the introduction and extending the best bits of the track. This can build up the dramatic effect of a track and turn it into something much more dynamic and energetic. However, who does the DJ manage to do this? Well there are a number of software editing packages available, with prices suiting every budget. You can get packages that are free, up to packages that run into hundreds of pounds. Although the best packages are quite expensive, if you want to try making your own re-edit, then a free or cheap package will allow you to try this. It’s possible to make your own re-edit using just a basic laptop or desktop and some free or cheap software. Many DJs do re-edits to put into their DJ sets, and this allows them something unique, that may become one of their signature tracks. Having told you about re-edits, what is a remix?
A remix is totally different as the remixer has access to the original master tapes, or nowadays, the computer files. This means the track is divided into different parts, for example, the drums, bass, guitars and vocals. The remixer can choose to use all, some or even just a few. Then, various loops can be added and new parts old replacing parts of the track. Sometimes, this is just a few things added and changed, and sometimes, the track is rebuilt totally. It depends on what the remixer is trying to do.
Usually, the master tapes are played through a mixing desk, and the various sound levels are adjusted, maybe boosting the bass, loosing some high end. Then the remixer starts to add and remove parts of the track. Often, they’ll extend some parts, maybe adding some drumbeats, add effects, maybe filters and panning, ideal for the dance-floor. Often, these remixes are trying to make a track fit a dance-floor, that originally, were never conceived as a dance track. Some remixers like Masters At Work have worked with a number of artists whose music wouldn’t usually be considered dance music. Nowadays, the remix is an important tool for many artists in adding to their “crossover” appeal, and is a lucrative sideline for DJs who are also remixer. Now that I’ve explained the difference between re-edits and remixes, we get to the important part, the music. Just what does, Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits sound like? That’s what I’ll now tell you, highlighting some of the compilations best tracks.
Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits has two discs, separated into two themes. Disc One is entitled Uptempo Good Time Philly, while the second disc is Mellow Slinky Philly. Now, the compilers have decided sensibly, to open Disc One with a bang. To do this, they’ve chosen one of my favorite re-edits from the whole compilation, Morning Star’s 2004 re-edit of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Take Your Loving Back). Originally from Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ platinum certified 1973 album Black and Blue, which reached number one in the US R&B Charts and number nine in the US Billboard 200. When released as a single in 1974, it reached number fifty-eight in the US Billboard 100 and number six in the US R&B Charts. It’s a much longer track than the original, which only lasts three and a half minutes. Here, the track is extended to seven and a half magical and energetic minutes. From the moment the track opens, the re-edit is just full of energy, building and a building and never running out of steam, The principle is take the best bits and extended them. It seems Morning Star have decided that you can’t get enough of a good thing, which in the case of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes and Gamble and Huff, is certainly the case. The result is a dynamic track, laden with energy that’s perfect for any dance-floor.
The only Billy Paul track on Disc One, is Only the Strong Survive, the title track from his 1977 album Only the Strong Survive. This is a very different re-edit, with Jay Negron in his guise as J’Ski providing this track. Unlike the opening track, the track takes a while to unfold, with J’Ski almost teasing the listener, as he seeks to build up the track’s drama. He succeeds in achieving this, and uses filters effectively. They’re used sparingly, whereas sometimes, they can be overused. Even the saxophone solo which in the original is later earlier in the original track is extended and is one of the highlights of the track. Its sultry sound just goes on and on, the dramatically, seems to last forever. This is a very welcome addition, and what I also like about the track is the way the vocal has been rearranged. In the original it’s a track that slowly builds and builds. Here, parts of the vocal are used as a breakdown, and then used to rebuild the track’s drama. Like Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ track, it’s a track that would sound great on any dance-floor, and would be a new and novel way to introduce a new generation of music lovers to Billy Paul’s music.
A Jean Carn track that I’ve always enjoyed is Free Love, and it’s a welcome addition to Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits. This was from Jean’s eponymous album Jean Carn, released in 1976. Free Love was released as a single, reaching number twenty-three in the US R&B Charts. Here, Victor Rosado takes a track that was originally lasted four minutes and transforms it into a seven minute epic, subtly taking the best parts of the track extending them, and carefully using filters. With plenty of lush swirling strings augmented by crisp beats, a great bass line and of course Jean’s sassy vocal sassy vocal sitting atop the arrangement, that even features rocky guitars it’s an excellent re-edit of a classic Philly dance track.
Although The Trammps were formed in 1972, the genesis for the group was back in the sixties and a group called The Volcanoes. Their most successful period was when Earl Young and Norman Harris of M.F.S.B. joined the group. The Trammps contribution to Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits is Save A Place, again re-edited by J’Ski. His re-edit has the same qualities as his Billy Paul re-edit, turning the track into a six and a half minutes Magnus Opus. This track is from The Trammps 1975 album Trammps. Here, the track has a lengthy string laden introduction, which is full of energy, even before the vocal enters. Once it enters, the track gets even better, with the anticipation matching the delivery. You just can’t fail to be drawn into this track, which is hugely catchy and hook laden. J’Ski uses filters again, but does so with subtlety. What makes this such a great track, is that the original track features some really talented musicians, with Earl Young’s drumming and Norman Harris’ guitar playing stunning. Thankfully, J’Ski is able to pay homage to their genius with an excellent re-edit, one of the compilation’s highlights.
One track that I’ve always loved and was really pleased to see on Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits, was McFadden and Whitehead’s Ain’t No Stopping Us Now. Now previously, I’ve heard a number of versions of the track over the years, but this is quite different. Here, this track could divide opinion, as The Noodleman deploys plenty of effects as the track opens, with filters and delay his weapon of choice. He’s seeking to heighten the drama, extending the introduction, letting the anticipation of those joyous vocals enter. With percussion joining his armoury and the drumbeats sounding crunchier, he again uses effects to increase the drama. This works and works well, and will sound quite spectacular in a large club with a large PA. My only concern is that sometimes, effects can be overused and here, the Noodleman treads a fine line. However, after a few listens, I’m pleased to say that I’ve grown to enjoy the track.
The final track I’ve chosen from Disc One is The O’Jays classic, Message In Our Music. This was the title track from their 1976 album Message In Our Music which reached number three in the US R&B Charts and number twenty in the US Billboard 200, resulting in the second of their albums being certified gold. On its release as single, it gave the group another US R&B number one single, while only reaching number forty-nine in the US Billboard 100. Here a UK DJs edit is chosen, Jimmy the Twin’s and it’s a lovely version of the track, with a prolonged introduction building up to the vocal, while percussion, guitar and strings all play their part in the track. It’s a track that has a Latin a feel and mixes this with bursts of drama later in the track. Like his earlier re-edits, this is another quality re-edit from J’Ski.
Two other tracks that also deserve a brief mention are J’Ski’s re-edit of M.F.S.B.’s Mysteries of the World which combines a lovely lush string laden sound with bursts of funk. J’Ski’s re-edit stays true to the original and with some subtle tweaks and additions, the track is complete and sounds great. Be For Real by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes from their debut album I Miss You, released in 1972 and reached number four in the US R&B Charts and number fifty-three in the US Billboard 200. Here, quick, crunching drumbeats are added to the track, giving it a house sound and feel, especially when the percussion enters. When Teddy’s vamping vocal enters at the start, you realize this is something special that’s unfolding. Thankfully, you’re far from disappointed, and the result is magnificent, indeed it’s a case of Satisfaction Guaranteed.
Having spent some time listening to Disc One of Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits, I’m pleased to report that of the eleven tracks on the disc, there isn’t a bad one. Of the eleven tracks, their re-edited with love and care, resulting in some interesting takes on some of the Philly Sound’s best known and best loved tracks. The only track I wasn’t sure about was the re-edit of McFadden and Whitehead’s classic Ain’t No Stopping Us Now. When I first heard it, I thought that maybe, the effects had been overused. However, after listening to the track, The Noodleman’s re-edit has grown on me. However, he treads a fine line, and could’ve ended up spoiling the original and his re-edit, but thankfully this isn’t the case…just. Apart from that, the other ten tracks feature some great re-edits, but will Disc Two Mellow Slinky Philly keep up the same high standards?
Now Disc Two, of Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits is entitled Mellow Slinky Philly, only has ten tracks on it, and I’ll pick the best tracks from this disc. My first choice is another Jean Carn track, If You Want To Go Back, from her debut album on Philadelphia International Records Jean Carn, released in 1976. When I first heard the Morning Star re-edit, I felt the track had been slowed down slightly at the start. Having checked the beats per minute, both the original and re-edit are 127 beats per minute. Straight away, the introduction is looped several times, building the tension, and highlighting a fantastic introduction. After that, with swathes of strings surrounding Jean’s vocal, and flourishes of piano and bursts of horns accompanying her, this excellent re-edit unfolds. What you hear is a track that when it was released, became a true dance-floor classic, and thirty-five years is given a subtle makeover by Morning Star. The result is a flawless re-edit, one of the compilation’s best tracks.
Like the re-edit of McFadden and Whitehead’s classic Ain’t No Stopping Us Now, it took me a good few listens to grow to enjoy JKriv’s aka Deep and Disco’s Re-Work of The O’Jay’s Darlin, Darlin’ Baby, their number one US R&B single from 1976, that also reached number seventy-two in the US Billboard 100. Again, Darlin, Darlin’ Baby was from The O’Jays 1976 album Message In Our Music.This is one of their best known track, from The O’Jays and reworking a track like this requires great care. Why, well this is a true Philly classic, and re-editing this is a bit like asking a modern artist to rework a Constable or Picasso. However, after a few listens I grew into the track, which sounds great on a high end hi-fi. With crunchy drumbeats, filters and delay used throughout the track, this Philly classic is reworked into something very different. There’s a house feel and sound to the track because of the drums, which also have a spacey sound. The track combines space, effects and drama, and even sees dramatic pauses used during the track. Having grown to really enjoy this track, I wonder how Philly purists will view the track? After all, The O’Jays quite rightly, are like Philly royalty.
Having been undecided about which of The Jones Girls’ tracks to choose, then I thought I’d mention two of the three tracks on Disc Two. In total, Shirley, Brenda and Valerie feature on three tracks in total. They’re Dance Turned Into Romance on Disc One, while the pulsating You’re Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else and the classic Nights Over Egypt feature on Disc Two. Of the two tracks, Henry Greenwood contributes a fantastic re-edit of You’re Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else which is from their 1979 self-titled debut album The Jones Girls. When the bass line cuts in as the track opens combining with bursts of synths and crisp drumbeats, the track has an understated yet pulsating sound. It’s as if the track has been pared down, stripped of anything unnecessary. Then, when the vocal enters, Shirley’s vocal sits atop the arrangement which starts to builds up now, and later synths and effects join that brilliant bass line. The track just pulsates along, for nearly eight and a half magnificent minutes, resulting in one of my favorite tracks on the album.
Nights Over Egypt is the other track by The Jones Girls and is from their 1981 album Get As Much Love As You Can and is re-edited by Womack and TOT. This is quite different from other versions I’ve heard. Filters are used to transform the sound, and the drumbeats are pounding, ready to punish your speaker’s bass bins. The vocal only enters after ninety-seconds, but still the rest of the track has effects transforming the sound, and making you anticipate the revealing of the rest of the arrangement. That never happens though, and the way the effects almost guard the arrangement works well. To me, it’s all about anticipation, anticipating something that never quite happens. However, the advantage this has is that it allows you to focus on the glorious vocal from Shirley. Overall, it’s a great version of a classic track.
Another of the Philly ladies to feature is Dee Dee Sharp Gamble, and here, she contributes Easy Money from her 1980 album Dee Dee. This re-edit is by Todd Terje, and sees him slow the track down as the track starts. Then, bursts of synths briefly punctuate the track, before a funky bass line plays vital part in a very different sounding arrangement. Effects are deployed, handclaps used and the drumbeats rearranged, so much so, that just after midway through the track, there’s a mini breakdown, before sound effects or samples are added. However, all this works, as Todd Terje builds up the momentum again, using a combination of handclaps and additional drumbeats, as the momentum slows just before the track’s ending. The result is an interesting twist on old track and one that like me, after a few listens, I’m sure you’ll grow to love it too.
Now there are two other tracks I’d like to mention, the first of which is Billy Paul slice of soul with a social conscience Let the Dollar Circulate, from his 197t album, When Love Is New. This is the Scratch ‘N’ Sniff Extended Re-Rub, where the the drama builds and builds before the vocal enters. Eventually, after two and a half minutes of anticipation, the wait is over, and Billy’s vocal enters. Even then, delay is used sparingly on the vocal. Here, the best bits are taken and extended to make this into an epic track, one that I’ve always loved. The final track that I’d like to mention is Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ Wake Up Everybody, the title track from their platinum certified US R&B number one album Wake Up Everybody, which also reached number nine in the US Billboard 200. When released as a single this track reached number one in the US R&B Charts and number twelve in the US Billboard 100. DJ Apt One’s re-edit is a starts of with Teddy Pendergrass’ voice reverberating against subtle drumbeats and piano, and quickly, is transformed into an uplifting hook laden, slice of soul with a message and a feel-good sound. Gradually, the track unfolds, revealing its brilliance and beauty, and is the perfect way to end the compilation.
After Disc One of Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits proved to be full of quality Philly Soul I wondered whether Disc Two would’ve the same high standard of music on it. I needn’t have worried because after one great track comes another. Indeed, many of my favorites feature on the album so it has been a labor of love for me reviewing Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits. If having read this review you’re still wondering should I or shouldn’t I buy this compilation, all I can say is of course you should. It’s full of some wonderful interpretations of classic Philly Soul songs. Each of the twenty-one re-edits have been done with care and love, from people who are basically fans of this wonderful music, music that’s timeless and very special to many people, including me. I will say that when I first heard of this compilation, I was worried how the tracks would sound, because of the memories they have for me and what they mean to me. However, I needn’t have worried, the twenty-one tracks have been re-edited sensitively, carefully and with love. It’s almost as if the various re-editors are paying homage to the two creative geniuses who made this music wonderful music possible, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. That’s what makes Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits such a great album, one that belongs in the collections of anyone who loves either soul or Philly Soul.
PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL: THE RE-EDITS.