PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL RECORDS-THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY BOX SET.

PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL RECORDS-THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY BOX SET.

One of the most eagerly awaited and much anticipated box sets finally hits the shops on 21st May 2012. In case anyone doesn’t realize what I’m talking about, this is the Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set, a mammoth ten disc box set, released by Harmless Records and compiled by Ralph Tee. This comes hot on the heels of Harmless Records’ previous box set, Philadelphia International Classics-The Tom Moulton Remixes, a four disc box set of thirty-one remixes from the godfather of the remix and twelve inch single. Both box sets are to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of one of the most innovative, influential and successful record labels not just in soul, but music per se, Philadelphia International Records. For anyone like myself who absolutely adores the Philly Sound and the music of Gamble and Huff, this is Philly heaven. It’s like all you Christmases and birthdays rolled into one. With ten discs of music to listen to, many lovers of The Sound of Philadelphia aren’t going to be doing much next Monday but reliving old memories. Obviously, reviewing such a Magnus Opus isn’t easy, given the proliferation of great music, so what I’ll do is take you through the box set, picking out some of the many highlights, while maybe reminding you of some of the hidden gems that may have escaped your musical memory. Looking through the track listing, there so many familiar songs, songs that many people, like me, grew up with, plus a few, that until now had slipped my memory. Not only does this bring back memories, but is testament to the two men who made Philadelphia International Records such a success, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. All to often the word genius is bandied about far too freely, but in the case of Gamble and Huff, they truly were musical geniuses and visionaries. This box set is a tribute to their genius and vision, as well as all the songwriters, arrangers, producers, musicians, including M.F.S.B. their legendary house band, and of course all the artists involved. Without further ado, I’ll explore the music on the Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set, rationing myself to picking just three track from each track to tell you about.

DISC ONE.

Disc One of the Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set, features twenty tracks, with tracks from some of the biggest names on Philadelphia International and some of their biggest hits. This includes The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The Three Degrees and M.F.S.B. That’s not forgetting tracks by The Jacksons during their short spell on Philadelphia International Records, plus tracks by Archie Bell and The Drells, People’s Choice and Instant Funk. My three choices are by three artists who’d play a huge part in the label’s early success.

Obviously, given their success, groups like The O’Jays have several tracks, including Backstabbers, I Love Music, Message In the Music and Darlin,’ Darlin’ Baby. Of this quartet, my favorite is Backstabbers, the title track from their 1972 album. This gave The O’Jays one of their most successful albums and singles during their time on Philadelphia International. The album reached number ten in the US Billboard 200 and number three in the US R&B Charts, while Backstabbers gave the group their first number one US R&B single, reaching number three in the US Billboard 100.

Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes were another of Philadelphia International’s biggest groups, releasing four albums for the label between 1972 and 1975. Bad Luck and the brilliant The Love I Lost, from their 1973 album Black and Blue both feature here. Black and Blue reached number fifty-seven in the US Billboard 200 and number five in the US R&B Charts, while The Love I Lost reached number one in the Us R&B Charts and seven in the US Billboard 100.

Although The Three Degrees only released two albums for Philadelphia International, 1973s The Three Degrees and International, these included some of their greatest music. These include When Will I See You Again, Year of Decision, Take Good Care of Yourself and TSOP, which they recorded with M.F.S.B. with The Three Degrees providing the vocals for this number one US R&B single. Of these four tracks, When Will I See You Again is my favourite, which reached number two in the US Billboard 100 and number four in the US R&B Charts, from 1973s The Three Degrees, which reached number thirty-three in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-eight on the US R&B Charts.

The twenty tracks on Disc One of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set, include tracks from some of the label’s most successful acts, including The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes and The Three Degrees. It reminds you, if you ned reminded just how successful the label was in the early to mid-seventies, with Gamble and Huff, and everyone at Philadelphia International working towards making the label the biggest in the US and the Philly Sound famous worldwide. If the other nine discs are as good as this, then Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set will be a veritable feast of Philly Soul.

DISC TWO.

Like Disc One, Disc Two of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set, sees the label’s most successful acts feature more than once. The O’Jays feature four times, while Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes have three tracks. Apart from these tracks, Billy Paul, Lou Rawls, M.F.S.B. The Three Degrees all represent the label’s big hitters, while tracks from The Intruders and People’s Choice are featured. Again, some of the biggest singles Philadelphia International ever released featured, alongside some hidden gems. Here, are my three choices from Disc Two.

Probably, the single most people remember Billy Paul for, is Me and Mrs Jones, a classic track from his 1972 album 360 Degrees of Billy Paul. It was Billy most successful album, reaching number seventeen in the US Billboard 200, while reaching number one in the US R&B Charts. Me and Mrs Jones gave Billy a number one in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B Charts. This track gave Philadelphia International one of their first number one singles.

Lou Rawls, arrived at Philadelphia International in 1976, recording All Things In Time in 1976, which reached number seven in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. When You’ll Never Find Another Like Mine was released it reached number two in the US Billboard 100 and number one in the US R&B charts. This Gamble and Huff penned track, like the album rejuvenated his career, and is one of his finest ever tracks. Incidentally, on Philadelphia International Classics-The Tom Moulton Remixes, there’s a stunning remix of this track. 

My final choice is another Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes track, Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Your Love Back), from their 1973 album Black and Blue. This is Teddy Pendergrass at his best, full of bravado and confidence, on track that reached number fifty-eight in the US Billboard 100 and number six in the US R&B Charts. 

On Disc Two of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set, it’s just one hit single after another, with many of the tracks from the 1972-1976 period. Among the other tracks are The O’Jays’ Love Train, Livin’ For the Weekend and For the Love of Money, while Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes contribute Don’t Leave Me This Way and If You Don’t Know Me By Know. Really, there isn’t one poor track, just quality all the way. Will Disc Three be hits and quality all the way?

DISC THREE.

Unlike the two previous discs, Disc Three of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set concentrates on some of the lesser known, less successful acts. However, this doesn’t mean the quality suffers. It allows the listener to experience the music of The Intruders, Derek and Cyndi, Anthony White, Robert Upchurch and Johnny Williams. In total, there are twenty-three tracks on this disc so choosing a trio isn’t easy.

Robert Upchurch’s The Devi Made Me Do It recently featured on Philadelphia International Classics-The Tom Moulton Remixes. So to hear the original, and compare it with the remix is an interesting exercise. Produced by the legendary Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section of M.F.S.B. and later, Salsoul Orchestra, I’ve always thought that this 1974 single was highly underrated.

Similarly, The Intruders released two albums on Philadelphia International, 1973s Save the Children and 1974s Energy of Love, which have long been albums I’ve felt deserved a wider audience. To Be Happy To Be the Real Thing was a single from their Save the Children album, and hopefully, it’s inclusion might mean people will investigate The Intruders music further.

Johnny Williams’ is another artists who recently featured on Philadelphia International Classics-The Tom Moulton Remixes, with Slow Motion remixed by Tom. Love Don’t Rub Off was the B-side of the single It’s So Wonderful, and is an opportunity to discover just how talented an artist Johnny really was.

While Disc Three of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set isn’t laden with successful hit singles by some of the giants of Philadelphia International, it’s an opportunity to discover some of the singles that weren’t successful, because as anyone who regularly reads this blog will realize, there’s so much great music that wasn’t commercially successful. This disc will allow people to dig deeper, deeper into the back-catalogue of Philadelphia International, resulting in the uncovering some real hidden gems. Will Disc Four be more hidden gems, or music from some familiar friends?

DISC FOUR.

The answer to my question is both. It’s a combination of hidden gems and familiar faces that grace Disc Four of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set. Among the familiar faces are The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes and Billy Paul, while Jean Carn, M.F.S.B. and Archie Bell and The Drells all feature. Among the hidden gems are tracks like Bunny Sigler’s Keep Smilin,’ Instant Funk’s So Glad I’m the One and The Futures’ Party Time Men. Truly, it’s an eclectic and compelling collection of music, each track with one thing in common…quality. Here’s my three choices.

Many people will associate The Whole Town’s Laughin’ At Me with Teddy Pendergrass, as he recorded the track for his 1977 debut album Teddy Pendergrass. However, Billy Paul recorded the song first. It appears on his 1973 album War of the Gods, reaching number 110 in the US Billboard 200 and number twelve in the US R&B Charts. The two versions are very different, with Teddy injecting more drama and emotion into the song, while Billy’s version is quicker, but still bathed in sadness and regret. If you get the chance compare both versions, and you’ll see what I mean.

Jean Carn who has two tracks on this disc, the excellent Free Love and my favorite, If You Want To Go Back, is one of the most underrated singers to record for Philadelphia International. Between 1976 and 1979, Jean recorded three albums for Philadelphia International, with her 1976 debut Jean Carn featuring both Free If You Want To Go Back. Two further albums would follow, 1978s Happy To Be With You and 1979s When I Find Love. All are well worth exploring.

The last track I’ve chosen from Disc Four is Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ Keep On Lovin’ You, from their 1975 album Wake Up Everybody, the final album featuring Teddy Pendergrass as lead singer and the last album they recorded for Philadelphia International. Wake Up Everybody saw Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes leave Philadelphia International with an album that reached number nine in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. After this, Teddy would leave to pursue what would be a hugely successful solo career, while Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes never again, reached the same heights commercially.

On Disc Four of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set there’s a nice mix of tracks from the bigger artists like Billy Paul, The O’Jays and Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes and other artists like Jean Carn and Dee Dee Sharp that never hit the commercial heights their music deserved. There’s also tracks from The Futures, Instant Funk and Bunny Sigler which although good tracks, never were huge commercial successes. These are welcome inclusions, as every so often, you hear a track that you’d forgotten about, only to feel the joy of rediscovering it again. What tracks will be rediscovered on Disc Five?

DISC FIVE.

Disc Five of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set is chock full of great music, although not every track was a commercial success. Among the success stories are tracks like The O’Jays’ Used Ta Be My Girl, Billy Paul’s Let ‘Em In and Teddy Pendergrass’ version of The Whole Town’s Laughin’ At Me. However, there’s much more to this disc, with tracks from Dee Dee Sharp, Jean Carn, The Jacksons, The Jones Girls and Archie Bell and The Drells. With so many great tracks, picking three isn’t easy, but here goes.

Of all the tracks on the recent Philadelphia International Classics-The Tom Moulton Remixes box set, one of my favorites was from Archie Bell and The Drells. This was  Where Will You Go To When the Party’s Over, the title track to their 1976 album on Philadelphia International Records. Originally produced by McFadden and Whitehead with Victor Carstarphen, before Tom Moulton turned it into a nine minute epic.

I Bet She Won’t Love You Like I Can by Jean Carn is one of the most beautiful tracks on this disc. Taken from 1978s Happy To Be With You, this track reinforces just how talented a singer Jean is. Whether jazz, soul or tracks for the dance-floor Jean with her five octave vocal can deliver them equally well.

After the success of Lou Rawls first album for Philadelphia International, his second album Unmistakably didn’t fare so well, reaching just number forty-one in the US Billboard 200 and number fourteen on the US R&B Charts. However, on the album was a gorgeous love song, See You When You Git There, which reached number sixty-six in the US Billboard 100 and number eight in the US R&B Charts. This Gamble and Huff penned tracks, is one of the most beautiful Lou recorded during his time on Philadelphia International.

The eighteen tracks that make up Disc Five of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set contain a combination of beautiful love songs from Lou Rawls, Billy Paul, Teddy Pendergrass, Jean Carn and The O’Jays, plus some more uptempo tracks from The Jones Girls, Bunny Sigler and Archie Bell and The Drells. There’s something for everyone here, whether it’s fast or slow you like your music, or sad or seductive you prefer your love songs. These tracks are written by some of the most talented songwriters of the time, including Gamble and Huff. Let’s just hope Disc Six is just as good.

DISC SIX.

On Disc Six of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set, there are three tracks from Teddy Pendergrass, whose solo career was now well underway. Meanwhile, Jerry Butler was the latest big name to join Philadelphia International, featuring here alongside The Philadelphia All Stars, The Jones Girls, Billy Paul and M.F.S.B. That’s not forgetting another track from The O’Jays, plus Dexter Wansel who was now a solo artist. It seems by Disc Six, time were a changing at Philadelphia International, which makes picking three tracks even harder.

Having left Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass’ solo career took off straight away. His debut solo album Teddy Pendergrass reached number seventeen in the US Billboard 200 and number five in the US R&B Charts. One of the best tracks from the album was The More I Get, The More I Want, co-written by McFadden and Whitehead with Victor Carstarphen. Strangely, this track, which features a dramatic vamp from Teddy, wasn’t released as a single. That’s why I’m so pleased to have this track included here.

Although many people remember The Jones Girls mostly for Nights Over Egypt, there’s much more to their music. You’re Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else is one of their best tracks, released in 1979 as a single and taken from debut album The Jones Girls. This is one of the highlights from this album, which features some great music.

The Philadelphia All Stars’ Let’s Clean Up the Ghetto was inspired by Gamble and Huff seeing the mess in New York during the garbage strike. Released in 1977 as a single, featuring some of the label’s biggest stars, the single was a huge success. Later, an album Let’s Clean Up the Ghetto was released, featuring tracks by Billy Paul, The Three Degree and The O’Jays, proved equally successful. However, like so many Gamble and Huff penned tracks, there’s a message in the music.

Apart from the tracks I’ve chosen, Teddy has three other classic tracks on Disc Six Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set. These are the dismissive, I Don’t Love You Anymore, You Can’t Hide From Yourself and When Somebody Loves You Back. However, there’s more to this disc than Teddy Pendergrass, with hidden gems from Lou Rawls, like the questioning What’s the Matter With the World and Not the Staying Kind. Meanwhile, Jerry Butler’s laid-back (I’m Just Thinking Of) Cooling Out and Billy Paul’s Only the Strong Survive both feature. Add to that, tracks from The O’Jays and The Jacksons, and the quality of music on Disc Six, is what we’ve come to expect from this box set. Will Disc Seven be the same?

DISC SEVEN.

Like Disc Three, Disc Seven of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set takes an opportunity to introduce listeners to some lesser known tracks, plus tracks from artists that didn’t find the success their talent deserved. This includes tracks from Phyllis Hyman, Patti La Belle, Dexter Wansel and Leon Huff as a solo artist. Of the bigger names, Billy Paul, The O’Jays and M.F.S.B. all feature, on what’s an eclectic collection of tracks, which contains a number of hidden gems and musical golden nuggets. Here are my three choices from Disc Seven.

During his time with Philadelphia International, Dexter Walsel had been a songwriter with his songwriting partner Cynthia Biggs, and had arranged, produced on played on many albums. 1976 saw him release his debut album Life On Mars a fusion of funk, soul and disco. Two tracks from this compelling, innovative and influential album feature here, Theme From the Planets and my favorite, Life On Mars. If you’ve never heard this album, it’s one to look out for.

M.F.S.B. played a huge part in the success of Philadelphia International, because of the talented group of musicians that made up M.F.S.B. They released eight albums between 1973 and 1980, with 1980s Mysteries of the World their final album. The title track of Mysteries of the World features here, and demonstrates just how talented a group M.F.S.B. were, even though this was M.F.S.B. Mk II, due to many of the original group leaving to form the Salsoul Orchestra in 1976. To hear the best of the original M.F.S.B., buy their early albums.

Patti La Belle released three albums for Philadelphia International between 1981 and 1985. Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be) was a track from Patti’s second album for Philadelphia International I’m In Love Again, the follow-up to 1981s The Spirit’s In It. Patti released her final album on Philadelphia International, 1985s Patti. These three albums are underrated albums from the former member of Labelle.

The music on Disc Seven of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set is an interesting insight into some of the people who recorded for Philadelphia International, but didn’t find the success they’d hoped for. This includes Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Monk Montgomery and Michael Pedicin Jr., who released just one album for Philadelphia International, 1979s Michael Pedicin Jr. On this disc, Leon Huff demonstrates just how talented a keyboard player he is, on two tracks from 1980 Tight Money and I Ain’t Jivin,’ I’m Jammin.’ Along with tracks from Billy Paul, The O’Jays and Dexter Wansel, Disc seven has a few welcome surprises for listeners. What surprises awaits on Disc Eight.

DISC EIGHT.

On Disc Eight of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set there are a mixture of tracks from the label’s biggest stars, new arrivals and artists who didn’t find the success they’d hoped for. Teddy Pendergrass and The Jones Girls have three tracks each on this disc, while The O’Jays’ Brandy and Billy Paul’s Sooner or Later both feature. Along with tracks from songwriters, arrangers and producer McFadden and Whitehead and Dexter Wansel are two tracks from new arrivals The Stylistics. That’s not forgetting tracks from Silk and The Futures. With quality like this, choosing just three tracks isn’t easy, but here are my choices.

Turn Off the Lights was a bedroom ballad from Teddy Penderrass’ 1979 platinum selling album Teddy, which reached number five in the US Billboard 200 and number five in the US R&B Charts. When Turn Off the Lights was released as a single, it reached number forty-eight in the US Billboard 100 and number two in the US R&B Charts. This track demonstrates just how great Teddy was at delivering seductive and soulful bedroom ballads.

Although Billy Paul’s 1977 album Only the Strong Survive wasn’t a huge commercial success, it featured some great music. One of these tracks was Sooner Or Later, a beautiful mid-tempo track, featuring a questioning, emotive vocal from Billy.  After this, Billy only released one more album for Philadelphia International, First Class. However, Billy’s back-catalogue is one well worth exploring.

During their time with Philadelphia International, McFadden and Whitehead wrote, arranged and produced many tracks. Then, between 1979 and 1983, they released three albums, including 1979s McFadden and Whitehead, which featured their huge hit single Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now. Another single from the album was I’ve Been Pushed Aside, which they produced with Jerry Cohen. This track demonstrates that McFadden and Whitehead were not just talented songwriters, arrangers and producers, but also talented singers as well.

Really, trying to choose three tracks wasn’t easy. It was difficult enough just choosing one track from Teddy. However, Billy Paul’s track demonstrates just how talented a singer he was, although his later albums didn’t match the success of 360 Degrees of Billy Paul. McFadden and Whitehead had decided it was time to take centre-stage, and did so with style on I’ve Been Pushed Aside. Apart from these three tracks, The Jones Girls contributed three great tracks, while The Stylistics were in the process of trying to rejuvenate their career with Gamble and Huff’s help. Another welcome addition is The O’Jays beautiful single Brandy, while Dexter Wansel continues his solo career. Add to this tracks by Patti La Belle and Jean Carn, and Disc Eight of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set a veritable feast of Philly soul. Can Disc Nine be as good?

DISC NINE.

When you look at the track listing for Disc Nine of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set, you realize that there’s no let up in the quality. Tracks from Billy Paul, McFadden and Whitehead, The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, The Jones Girls and Jean Carn see to this. One welcome addition is the hugely catchy Strut Your Funky Stuff by Frantique, which many people will remember fondly. With tracks like The Jones Girls’ Nights Over Egypt, Teddy’s Love TKO and McFadden and Whitehead’s joyous Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now, Disc Nine is seventeen slices of scintillating Philly soul, of which I’ll choose just three.

McFadden and Whitehead’s  Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now another track from their 1979 album McFadden and Whitehead. This single gave them the biggest hit single of their solo career. Written and produced by McFadden and Whitehead with Jerry Cohen and arranged by Jack Faith this is just seven brilliant, hook-laden and joyous music.

As I said earlier, The Jones Girls will forever be remembered for their 1981 hit single Nights Over Egypt. This is from their 1981 Get As Much Love As You Can album, co-written by Dexter Wansel and Cynthia Biggs, while Dexter arranged and produced the track. Featuring the vocals of Valerie, Shirley and Breda Jones, this is a true classic from The Jones Girls.

Of all the songs Billy Paul ever recorded, Bring the Family Back is one of my favorites. This is a track from 1979s First Class, Billy’s final album for Philadelphia International. it’s a track with a social conscience, featuring an impassioned vocal from Billy set against an uplifting and stunning arrangement from John L. Usry Jr. Add to this Phil Terry and Frank Smith’s accomplished production, and you’ve the recipe for a track that’s quite brilliant, making First Class a fitting farewell to Philadelphia International from Billy Paul.

Only choosing three tracks from Disc Nine of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set is problematic. This means not mentioning tracks like Love TKO from Teddy, Jean Carn’s Bet Your Lucky Star and Was That All It Was, Dee Dee Sharp’s I Love You Anyway and Frantique’s Strut Your Funky Stuff. However, many tracks choose themselves, given their importance in different times in the  Philadelphia International story. The Jones Girls’ Nights Over Egypt was released at a time when heavyweights like Three Degree and Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes had all left the label. Artists like Patti La Belle, Jean Carn, Lou Rawls and Dee Dee Sharp were now the future, tasked with providing Philadelphia International with hits. However, recreating these artists earlier success wasn’t easy, given times and tastes had changed. Who will provide the hits on Disc Ten of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set?

DISC TEN.

The tenth and final disc of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set features a collection of tracks from both newcomers to the label and old friends. These newcomers include The Dells and Shirley Jones, formerly of The Jones Girls, and now a solo artist. Add to this recent arrivals like The Stylistics, Patti La Belle and Phyllis Hyman, and the only familiar faces were Dee Dee Sharp, Teddy Pendergrass and The O’Jays. Times had again changed, but had the quality of music? After choosing three tracks I’ll tell you.

One of Dee Dee Sharp’s most memorable and successful tracks was Easy Money, from her 1980 album Dee Dee. It reached number one in the US Dance Club Play Charts in 1981, a year after Dee Dee quit music, to begin a psychology degree. Now over thirty years later, Easy Money is still heard in clubs, with its timeless sound featuring Dee Dee’s sassy, confident vocal.

By the time The Stylistics signed for Philadelphia International in 1979, their career was at a crossroads. They found themselves without a record contract, until Gamble and Huff signed them. Their first album for their new label was Hurry Up This Way Again, which reached number eleven in the US R&B Charts. Hurry Up This Again Again was released as a single, reaching number eighteen in the US R&B Charts. Although this wasn’t anywhere like their earlier successes, this track and album, was a welcome return to form for The Stylistics.

My final choice from Disc Ten and the Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set is a track by a man who brought so much success to the label, Teddy Pendergrass. Heaven Only Knows was the title-track from Teddy’s final album for Philadelphia International, reaching number fifty-nine in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B Charts. This was the first album Teddy recorded after his tragic accident in 1982, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. Although it didn’t match the success of his earlier, it features some great music, and is testament to Teddy’s determination to carry on his singing career.

While Disc Ten of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set, may not feature some of the big names of earlier discs, there’s still plenty of great music to discover. Many of these tracks may be new to you, including tracks from Shirley Jones’ solo career, plus tracks from old groups like The Dells and The Stylistics both trying to rejuvenate their careers on Philadelphia International. However, Teddy Pendergrass and Dee Dee Sharp, both contribute two of the best tracks. By 1980 Dee would be gone and so would Teddy in 1983, eleven years after Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes released their debut album I Miss You in 1972. However, Throughout this period, as Disc Ten of Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set demonstrates, Philadelphia International never stopped looking for new and old talent to join the label.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the ten discs that make up the Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set. It’s been like a trip down memory lane, with the music that provided the soundtrack to my growing up. Listening to the music on the ten discs was a pleasure, given the quality of music that each disc features. What I like about this box set, is it’s not just the biggest hits of Philadelphia International. Quite the opposite, there’s tracks from albums, B-sides, tracks by artists which weren’t hits and plenty of hidden gems. Of course, all the big hits are here, with The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Billy Paul, The Three Degrees and Teddy Pendergrass all having several songs spread over the ten discs. Many of these tracks are like old friends, so familiar they are. Still they can still stop you in your tracks, and make you listen to the lyrics and the arrangements, as you wallow in their beauty and genius. Much of that genius came from two men, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, two musical visionaries, who together, but sometimes with other people, wrote, arranged and produced some of the most memorable tracks of the Philly Sound. Part of their genius was their ability to choose the right people to work with Philadelphia International. Together, Gamble and Huff assembled some of the greatest musicians, songwriters, arrangers and producers of the time. Musicians like Baker, Harris, Young, the rhythm section of M.F.S.B., songwriters, arrangers and producers like McFadden and Whitehead, Victor Carstarphen, Jack Faith, Bobby Martin, John L. Usry Jr. and not forgetting Dexter Wansel. All of these musicians, songwriters, arrangers and producers gathered together by Gamble and Huff contributed towards making the Philly Sound famous worldwide. Even forty years later, the Philly Sound is  loved by many people worldwide, who will forever have a special place in their heart for the music, and that’s why so many people will enjoy Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set. Even someone with only a passing interest in Philly Soul should buy this brilliant box set, given the veritable feast of fantastic music you’ll find within the ten discs on Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set. 

PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL RECORDS-THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY BOX SET.

Philadelphia International: 40th Annivsary Box Set

Philadelphia International: 40th Annivsary Box Set

4 Comments

  1. Mel

    Thank you for the review!!!

    • Hi Mel,

      Glad you liked the review. Keep checking each day, there’s some great stuff coming soon.

      Best Wishes,
      Derek Anderson.

  2. Tony

    Hi Derek,
    So glad I came across your music blog. I liked the review on the P.I.R. 40th Anniversary Box Set. I was really hoping Ralph Tee would have included some deep album cuts like Lou Rawls’ Lover’s Holiday, Time Will Take Care of Everything, Jerry Butler’s (We’ve Got) This Feeling, Billy Paul’s I Wantcha Baby, The O’Jays’ I Just Want To Satisfy You, Give My Love To The Ladies, Help (Somebody Please), Patti Labellle’s Where I Wanna Be. I could go on. Also there were certains songs that should’ve been in the full album versions.

    I’m glad I can read your reviews on cd’s. Keep it coming!

    Tony

    • Hi Tony,

      Thanks for your comments. The P.I.R. 40th Anniversary Box Set certainly is a truly comprehensive box set. As you point out, there are so many great album tracks that could’ve been included. One song I would’ve loved to see on the box set was Billy Paul’s Bring the Family Back. With P.I.R. they had so many great songwriters contributing songs to albums. It would be possible to create several volumes of great album tracks. Maybe the various record companies will release something creative, more leftfield to celebrate the 40th anniversary of P.I.R., because as you know, they were a label that were much more than a singles labels. Thanks again for your comments.

      Best Wishes,
      Derek.

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