After releasing Feelin’ Good At the Cadillac Club on Gamble Records in 1968 and Ebony Woman on Neptune in 1970, Billy Paul signed to a newly formed label in Philadelphia. It had been founded by two songwriters, musicians and producers. The label was Philadelphia International Records. Its two founders were Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. Neither Billy Paul, nor Gamble and Huff, had any idea of what would follow, nor the effect both would have on soul music. Billy Paul released Philadelphia International Records’ first album in 1971, This was Going East, which will be rereleased by BBR Records on 31st January 2013.

Just a year later, Billy Paul would become Philadelphia International Records’ first male superstar, when he released his most successful album 360 Degrees of Billy Paul. It contains a song that has become synonymous with Billy Paul Me and Mrs Jones. By then, Philadelphia International Records were releaing some of the most influential, innovative and commercially successful albums of the seventies. Before that, was the album that launched Philadelphia International Records, Going East. However, Billy Paul’s recording career started three years earlier.

Before Billy Paul signed to the newly formed Philadelphia International Records, he released two previous albums. His debut album was 1968s Feelin’ Good At The Cadillac Club, released on Kenny Gamble’s Gamble Records. Two years later, as a new decade dawned, Billy released his sophomore album Ebony Woman. Produced by Gamble and Huff, Ebony Woman reached number 183 in the US Billboard 200 and number twelve in the US R&B Charts. Now that Gamble and Huff had formed a new label, Billy Paul had joined up with Gamble and Huff again. Indeed, Billy Paul would released Philadelphia International Records’ first album Going East.

For Billy Paul’s third album Going East, Gamble and Huff only cowrote one track on Going East, Love Buddies. Bobby Martin, one of Philadelphia International Records’ best arrangers penned I Wish It Were Yesterday and cowrote This Is Your Life with Jimmy Webb. Tyrone Brown, who played bass on Going East, wrote East. The other tracks were cover versions. This included covers of Moh Jakke’s Jesus Boy (You Only Look Like A Man) and Gene McDaniels’ Compared To What. C.C. Courtney and Peter Link penned (If You Let Me Make Love To You Then) Why Can’t I Touch You? Closing Going East was There’s A Small Hotel, penned by another legendary songwriting teamRogers and Hart. The nine tracks that became Going East would be recorded at at Sigma Sound Studios, where all the future Philadelphia International Records’ recordings would take place.

Recording of Going East would take place at Sigma Sound Studios. This would become the venue for all the future Philadelphia International Records’ recordings. Accompanying Billy Paul on Going East were an early lineup of M.F.S.B, Philadelphia International Records’ legendary house-band. M.F.S.B’s lineup included the bassist Tyrone Brown, drummer Norman Harrington and guitarists Norman Harris and Roland Chambers. They were joined by pianist Eddie Green, flautist and saxophonist Tony Williams, Vince Montana on vibes and Robert Cripper on congas. Don Renaldo’s string section and Sam Reed’s horn sections completed the lineup. Producing Going East, were Gamble and Huff. Bobby Martin, Lenny Pakula and Thom Bell arranged the nine tracks on Going East. Once Going East was recorded, Philadelphia International Records were ready to release their very first album.

On the release of Going East in 1971, it entered the US Billboard 200 at 197 and number forty-two in the US R&B Charts. Going East hadn’t proved as successful as his previous album Ebony Woman. However, you have to remember it had been released on a newly founded label. Although three singles were released from Going East, none of them charted. Jesus Boy (You Only Look Like A Man) and Magic Carpet Ride were released in 1971, and This Is Your Life in 1972. 1972 would be the year that Billy Paul’s career took-off, with the critically acclaimed and commercially successful. 360 Degrees of Billy Paul. That was still to come. Before that came Going East, an ambitious, genre defying album,spaning jazz, funk and Philly soul, that I’ll now tell you about.

Opening Going East, is East, written by Philly bassist and baritone Tyrone-William Brown. Arranging the track was Lenny Pakula. Straight away, East demonstrates Gamble and Huff’s determination to innovate and push musical boundaries. This is shown with their use of the sound of an airplane taking-off. You’re then taken on a spiritual musical journey. It gives way to Billy’s thoughtful, moving spoken word introduction. As the track begins to reveal its secrets, Billy’s vocal is heartfelt, welling up with emotion. Percussion, keyboards and the rhythm section combine to create a jazzy backdrop. Strings cascade, winds howl and gust while the bass prowls along the arrangement. They join Billy’s fervent vocal, which  is key to the track’s success, along with the spiritual lyrics and Lenny Pakula’s atmospheric and dramatic arrangement.

(If You Let Me Make Love To You Then) Why Can’t I Touch You? is a very different track. It’s much quicker, with a jaunty arrangement, where punchy, rasping horns and sweeping, swirling strings accompanying Billy’s impassioned vocal. Thom Bell’s arrangement is jazz-tinged, but still soulful. Strings dance above his emotive, needy vocal, while the rhythm section provide the track’s heartbeat. Although quite different from the opening track, Billy and M.F.S.B. combine to create a jazz-tinged song that’s still soulful and emotive.

This Is Your Life has a lovely understated arrangement. Just the piano and lush strings accompany Billy. His vocal is thoughtful, augmented by The Sweethearts of Sigma. The entrance of the rhythm section signals the arrangement’s unfolding. Bursts of rasping horns punctuate the arrangement, while the strings sweep slowly. Billy goes on to deliver one of his most impassioned, emotive and beautiful vocals on Going East. This he does against an arrangement that’s understated and beautiful, perfect for Billy’s vocal.

Moh Jakke wrote Jesus Boy (You Only Look Like A Man). Bobby Martin’s arrangement is bathed in drama from the opening bars. Drums and short, sharp bursts of rasping horns combine. Then Lenny Pakula’s Hammond organ and grand strings enters. Billy’s vocal is thoughtful, considered and understated. Ethereal harmonies from The Sweethearts of Sigma accompany him. They soar elegantly and powerfully above the arrangement, with flourishes of quivering strings for company. The arrangement grows in drama and emotion. So too does Billy’s vocal. It takes on a spiritual quality, set against a dramatic, theatrical, Magnus Opus of an arrangement.

Demonstrating the variety of music on Going East is Magic Carpet Ride. This track gave Steppenwolf a number three US single in in 1969. It marks another change in direction. Seamlessly, musical genres melt into one. Eddie Green’s piano gives the arrangement a jazzy sound, before Billy’s vocal is delivered at breakneck speed, mixing soul and jazz. Percussion is at the heart of the arrangement, especially West African shekeres. They join waves of Hammond organ and a cascading flute, as the rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Later, Billy’s vocal becomes a scat. By then he and M.F.S.B. have embarked on a tour of musical genres. Their journey takes in elements of jazz, funk, Philly Soul and African music. It truly is a Magic Carpet Ride, with Billy and M.F.S.B. taking you on a memorable musical adventure.

Bobby Martin, who wrote I Wish It Were Yesterday became one of Philadelphia International Records’ best arrangers. He’d later enjoy a successful career as a producer. His arrangement is stunning. Just flourishes of slow, flamboyant piano join Billy’s deliberate, pensive and heartfelt vocal. The lushest of strings sweep in, tugging at your heartstrings. They also reflecting the sheer emotion in Billy’s deliberate, spacious and impassioned vocal. Norman Harris adds his sparse, jazzy guitar, while an upright bass joins the piano and lush strings. Together, they provide the perfect jazz-drenched backdrop for Billy. This allows him to deliver a truly impassioned, heartfelt and quite beautiful vocal.

Compared To What continues the jazzy theme to much of Going East. Just the rhythm section and stabs of Hammond organ combine with Eddie Green’s piano. Billy’s vocal has a similar jazzy style. Bursts of punchy, blazing horns and cascading flute accompany him. Then, this early lineup of M.F.S.B. get a chance to kick loose. They relish this opportunity, doing so with aplomb. Not only does this all them showcase their talent, but their versatility. This would be put to good use over the next decade or so. Billy matches M.F.S.B. every step of the way. He mixes power and passion, just as seamlessly as he fuses soul and jazz, demonstrating his versatility, talent and his ability to bring lyrics to life.

Love Buddies was the only Gamble and Huff penned track on Going East. However, quality as anyone knows, is more important than quantity. With the sultriest of saxophone and Vince Montana’s vibes combining with the piano, Billy’s vocal is full of emotion. Heartfelt and impassioned is a fitting description. There’s a jazzy sound to Bobby Martin’s arrangement. Slow, lush strings add to, and reflect the emotion in Billy’s vocal. Not only does Billy deliver one of his best vocals on Going East, but Love Buddies is one of the highlights of the album. This would become the first of many Gamble and Huff compositions Billy Paul, breathed life and meaning, plus emotion and passion into.

Closing Going East is There’s A Small Hotel, written by Rogers and Hart. It’s the perfect track to close Going East. Billy’s deliver combines elements of soul and jazz. The understated arrangement allows Billy’s vocal to take centre-stage. His vocal is a combination of subtlety, emotion, passion and controlled power. Just an understated combination of slow, lush strings, Norman Harris pensive guitar and Eddie Green’s piano combine. They provides the perfect accompaniment for Billy’s tender, grateful vocal. Together, Billy and M.F.S.B. reinvent a classic track, bringing new meaning and beauty to Rogers and Hart’s song.

Although Going East was Billy Paul’s first album for Philadelphia International Records, he’d previously released two other albums and worked with Kenneth Gamble before.  So Billy Paul was an experienced artist. This is reflected in the nine tracks that make up Going East. It’s a mature, highly accomplished and polished album. This polished sound became associated with Gamble and Huff and the Philly Sound. Similarly, Billy Paul and Gamble and Huff would continue to fuse musical genres. 

The music on Going East is a fusion of jazz and soul. Having said that, there’s more jazz than soul of Going East. Despite that, there’s no shortage of soul on Going East. Even when Billy’s delivery is jazz-tinged, there’s still a soulfulness to his delivery. During the nine tracks on Going East, Billy’s vocal is ranges from laden with emotion, through heartfelt, impassioned, fervent, inspired and fiery. Very few vocalists could breath life and meaning into a track like Billy Paul. Regardless of whether it was jazz or soul, Billy Paul always brought life and meaning to the lyrics.

Of the nine tracks on Going East, Gamble and Huff only wrote Love Buddies. It was one of the highlights of Going East, bettered only by I Wish It Were Yesterday, which Bobby Martin wrote. This shows that Bobby Martin wasn’t just a hugely talented arranger and producer, but songwriter too. The track that opens Going East, East was also written by another Philadelphia musician, Tyrone-William Brown and is one of the most moving and powerful tracks on the album, with a similar power as The O’Jays Ship Ahoy. Overall, the music on Going East points towards the future sound of Billy Paul, Gamble and Huff and the Philly Sound. Similarly, the musicians that played on the album demonstrate the talent, versatility and sound that M.F.S.B. would become famous for. All this makes Billy Billy’s third album Going East, such an important album in the history of Philadelphia International Records.

A year after Going East, which will be rereleased by BBR Records on 31st January 2013, was released, Billy Paul would go on to release his most successful album. This was 360 Degrees of Billy Paul. It included Me and Mrs Jones, the song that would become synonymous with Billy Paul. However, the album that preceded 360 Degrees of Billy Paul, Going East, is an equally important album. After all, Billy Paul’s third album Going East, launched a legendary label Philadelphia International Records and its first male superstar..Billy Paul. Standout Tracks: East, I Wish It Were Yesterday, Compared To What and Love Buddies.




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