GOLDEN GATE GROOVE: THE SOUND OF PHILADELPHIA IN SAN FRANCISCO-1973.

GOLDEN GATE GROOVE: THE SOUND OF PHILADELPHIA IN SAN FRANCISCO-1973.

There was only one occasion that Philadelphia International Records’ biggest names shared a stage. That was in September 1973, when Gamble and Huff took Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The O’Jays, The Three Degrees, Billy Paul and M.F.S.B. to the CBS annual convention in San Francisco. This concert took place at the Fairmont Hotel, allowing Gamble and Huff to showcase what had become known as Philly Soul. Thankfully, that concert was recorded, and in 2012, was released by Sony Records as Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia In San Francisco-1973.

Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia In San Francisco-1973 features thirteen tracks, and acts as a reminder just how charismatic and talented Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The O’Jays, The Three Degrees and Billy Paul were. Accompanying each of these artist are Philadelphia International Records’ legendary house-band M.F.SB, featuring the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, guitarist Bobby “Electronic” Eli, percussionist Larry Washington and vibes virtuoso Vince Montana Jr. On Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia In San Francisco-1973  they demonstrate just why they were the greatest house-band of the seventies. M.F.S.B. then show reinforce why they were one of Philadelphia International Records’ most successful artists on Freddie’s Dead and T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia). Forget Motown, Fame or Hi Records’ house-bands, M.F.S.B. were the greatest house-band of that time. Indeed, forget the music any other soul label was producing during the seventies, Philadelphia International Records’ was the most successful and critically acclaimed. Peerless best describes Philadelphia International Records. You’ll realize that when I tell you about Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia In San Francisco-1973.

Thunderous applause gives way to Don Cornelius, the presenter of Soul Train who was the MC at the Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco that September night in 1973. Against a hugely enthusiastic backdrop, Don introduced the stars of Philadelphia International Records. First up was Philadelphia International Records’ legendary house-band M.F.S.B.

M.F.S.B. open the the CBS Annual Convention with Freddie’s Dead, a track from their 1973 sophomore album M.F.S.B. This is a cover of a Curtis Mayfield track, which was originally arranged by Bobby Martin and produced by Gamble and Huff. On M.F.S.B’s release in 1973, it reached number 131 in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty in the US R&B Charts. Freddie’s Dead with its fusion of jazz, funk and Philly Soul, demonstrated M.F.S.B’s versatility and that they were much more than a house-band.

By September 1973, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes had released two albums, 1972s I Miss You and 1973s Black and Blue. Having added Teddy Pendergrass as lead singer, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ fortunes were transformed. I Miss You reached number fifty-three in the US Billboard 200 and number four in the US R&B charts, while Black and Blue reached number fifty-seven in the US Billboard 200 and number five in the US R&B charts. This resulted in Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes becoming one of Philadelphia International Records’ most successful groups. At the Fairmont Hotel, the unleashed a medley of three of their best known singles, including the two US R&B number one If You Don’t Know Me By Now and The Love I Lost. They close their mini-set with an eleven-minute rendition of I Miss You which is drenched in emotion and features a vocal tour de force from Teddy Pendergrass.

Following Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes couldn’t have been easy, but The Three Degrees were given the job of doing so. Their two-song set features songs from their 1973 album The Three Degrees, which reached number thirty-three in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-eight in the US R&B Charts. It opens with I Don’t Know, which was the third single from their 1973 album The Three Degrees. I Don’t Know only reached number eighteen in the US R&B Charts. Amazingly, the Gamble and Huff penned and produced Dirty Ol’ Man was never released as a single. Considering it features The Three Degrees at their feistiest and sassiest, that’s a missed opportunity.

T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia was a collaboration between M.F.S.B. and The Three Degrees. M.F.S.B. had provided the backdrop for the vocals of The Three Degrees. The results was a number one in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B Charts. On Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia In San Francisco-1973 M.F.S.B. peerlessly and seamlessly fuse elements of jazz, funk and Philly Soul.

Next up at the Fairmont Hotel was Billy Paul, who delivers two songs. As if wanting to build up the tension, Billy starts with East, a track from his 1971 album Going East, which  reached number 197 in the US Billboard 200 charts and number forty-two in the US R&B Charts. Then Billy delivers what was the biggest hit of his career so far. This Philly Soul classic, Me and Mrs Jones helped transform Philadelphia International Records’ fortunes during 1972. It reached number one in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B Charts. Spurred on by the success of Me and Mrs Jones, 360 Degrees of Billy Paul reached number one in the US R&B Charts and number seventeen in the US Billboard 200. Here, Billy delivers a beautiful and emotive rendition of a timeless classic, that’s become synonymous with him.

In 1973, most successful group on the nascent Philadelphia International Records was The O’Jays. They closed Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia In San Francisco-1973 with a quartet of songs from their 1972 album Backstabbers. It reached number ten in the US R&B Charts and number three in the US R&B Charts, resulting in Backstabbers being certified gold. The O’Jays start their four song medley with their classic single Backstabbers, which reached number three in the US R&B Charts and number one in the US R&B Charts. Next comes When The Worlds At Peace and then Sunshine. Closing their mini-set is the uplifting and joyous Philly Soul classic Love Train, which reached number one in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B Charts. These four songs are proof, if any was needed, why The O’Jays were one of the most successful Philly Soul groups in September 1973.

Nearly forty years after the CBS Annual Convention at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, it’s remarkable that this was the only time the stars of Philadelphia International Records shared a stage. By not sending their artists on package tours which they could’ve promoted, Philadelphia International Records missed out on lucrative income streams. This could’ve also resulted in a widening of Philadelphia International Records fan-base. Compare this to Motown, who since the sixties, had been sending artists out on tours together. Not only did this broaden their fan-base, but resulted in increased record sales. Having said that, I can see the rationale behind Gamble and Huff not sending their artists out on package tours 

Being on tour would’ve meant artists couldn’t record albums, which were lucrative. Then there was the cost of sending artists on tour with such a large band as M.F.S.B. It was akin to sending an orchestra on the road. Not only was there a band in the traditional sense, but string, horn and woodwind sections, plus backing vocalist. So you can see why in many ways, sending the artists that appear on Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia In San Francisco-1973 would’ve been problematic.

That’s why we should be thankful that the legendary concert in September 1973, at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel was recorded for posterity on Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia In San Francisco-1973. Featuring Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The O’Jays, The Three Degrees, Billy Paul and M.F.S.B, Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia In San Francisco-1973 is reminder of some of the legendary artists and who musicians who played their part in providing a timeless, soulful soundtrack to the seventies. Standout Tracks: M.F.S.B. Freddie’s Dead, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes The Love I Lost, Billy Paul Me and Mrs Jones and The O’Jays Backstabbers.

GOLDEN GATE GROOVE: THE SOUND OF PHILADELPHIA IN SAN FRANCISCO-1973.

 

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