NOTHING BUT A HOUSE PARTY: THE BIRTH OF THE PHILLY SOUND 1967-71.

Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71.

Kent Soul.

During the seventies, Philadelphia rose to become America’s soul capital. This began in 1971, when Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff founded Philadelphia International Records, which became home to some of the finest purveyors of the Philly Sound, including Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The O’Jays and The Three Degrees. These groups were produced by two of the architects of the Philly Sound, Gamble and Huff. Meanwhile, another architect of the Philly Sound was producing The Delfonics, The Stylistics and The Detroit Spinners. This was Thom Bell, who along with Gamble and Huff became known as the Mighty Three. They made much of the music that defined the slick, sophisticated and innovative sound of Philly Sound. However, the Philly Sound wasn’t created by just three men.

That was for from the case. There are many arrangers, backing vocalists, musicians, producers and songwriters who played their part in the creating the Philly Sound. They’re often the forgotten heroes of the Philly Sound. This includes arranger, producer and songwriter Bobby Martin and backing vocalists the Sweethearts of Sigma. Then there’s arranger, producer, songwriter and musician Vince Montana Jr and the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, who were the go-to rhythm section during the late-sixties and seventies. They were part of MFSB, which was Philadelphia International Records’ house band between 1971 and 1976, and played on many of the label’s most successful recordings. MFSB helped to define the Philly Sound, but like Bobby Martin, Vince Montana Jr, Baker, Harris, Young and the Sweethearts of Sigma often, don’t receive the credit they deserve.

These forgotten heroes of Philly Sound are often overlooked by journalists, with the Mighty Three receiving all the credit and kudos. However, without all these arrangers, backing vocalists, musicians and producers, the Philly Sound wouldn’t have developed and transformed Philadelphia into the soul capital of America. However, this didn’t happen overnight.

Instead, the Philly Sound developed from the late-sixties right through to 1971, when Gamble and Huff formed Philadelphia International Records. This period is celebrated on Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. It features twenty-four songs that feature many of the forgotten heroes of the Philly Sound.

This includes many of the musicians that would become members of MFSB, including Baker, Harris, Young and Vince Montana Jr. They accompany the artists and bands on Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71. Several of these songs were arranged by Bobby Martin;  while all of the songs were recorded at Sigma Sound Studios, which was owned by engineer Joe Tarsia. He recorded nearly every Philly Sound single and album at his Sigma Sound Studios. However, he’s yet another of another forgotten heroes of the Philly Sound. 

All these forgotten heroes of the Philly Sound were already making their mark in the Philadelphia music scene way before the city became the soul capital of America. They were accompanying the Show Stoppers, The Delfonics, Jerry Butler, Honey and The Bees, Cliff Nobles, Barbara Mason, The Intruders, Freddie Scott, Len Barry and Peaches and Herb. They’re among the twenty-four artists who feature on Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71.

Opening Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71 is the Show Stoppers’ Ain’t Nothing But A House Party. It was penned by Del Sharh and Joseph Thomas, with Bruce Charles taking charge of production. The single was released in 1967, on the Beacon label. It’s an irresistible, dance-floor filler from the City of Brotherly Love. 

By 1967, The Delfonics had been working with Thom Bell for a year. He had produced their 1966 debut single He Don’t Really Love You. A year later, Thom Bell had written You’ve Been Untrue with lead vocalist Thom Hart. It was arranged and produced by Thom Bell, and released on the Philly based Cameo label. From the opening bars of You’ve Been Untrue, it’s obvious that this is a Thom Bell production. Little things like the French horn and the strings are a giveaway. Already, Thom Bell’s trademark sound was taking shape on this heart-wrenching ballad. It’s a tale of betrayal that features a hurt-filled vocal from William Hart.

Jerry Butler’s career had begun in 1968, and ten years later, he was working with Gamble and Huff. The three men had written Never Give You Up, which was arranged by Bobby Martin and produced by Gamble and Huff. It was released on Mercury in 1968, and reached number twenty in the US Billboard 100 and four on the US R&B charts. That was no surprise, given the quality of a single that features many future members of MFSB. This includes Vince Montana Jr, whose vibes can be heard on this soul-baring ballad from the Ice-Man, Jerry Butler.

Cliff Nobles released the explosive, horn-driven Love Is All Right on the Phil LA label in 1969. Having burst into life, a carefully crafted, dance-floor friendly song unfolds. It was penned and produced by Jesse James, and arranged by Bobby Martin. Sadly, DJs ignored Love Is All Right on its release, and preferred the B-Side The Horse. It’s the backing track to Love Is All Right and ironically, and didn’t even feature Cliff Nobles. However, nearly forty years later, and Love Is All Right is a welcome addition to Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71, and is a reminder of one of Cliff Nobles’ finest singles.

As the seventies dawned, Lou Jackson wrote Peace To You Brother with Morris Bailey Jr. It was produced by Roscoe Murphy, Jr and released on Spring Records in 1971. Peace To You Brother is a timeless anthem that features an impassioned and powerful vocal from Lou Jackson. Sadly, Peace To You Brother failed to chart, and was the one that got away for Lou Jackson, whose a truly talented singer and songwriter.

In March 1969, Brenda and The Tabulations released That’s The Price You Have To Pay on the Dionn label. It was composed by lead singer Brenda Payton with Jerry Jones one of The Tabulations. Thom Bell and Bobby Martin arranged and conducted That’s The Price You Have To Pay which was produced by Gamble and Huff. It’s a wistful and soulful ballad, which features the Philly Sound taking shape.

Moses Smith’s Keep On Striving is another song that sees the nascent Philly Sound take shape. It was penned by Moses Smith, arranged by Sam Reed and produced by Gilda Woods. Keep On Striving was released on Cotillion in 1970, and is a heartfelt and hopeful Philly Soul ballad that features the Philly Sound almost fully formed.

For Barbara Mason, the release of her final single on Jimmy Bishop’s Arctic label, You Better Stop It was the end of an era. Arctic had been her home for the last few years. However, the seventies marked the start of a new chapter in her career. She would release a string of albums and enjoying several hit singles like Bed and Board and From His Woman To You. Before that, she released her final single on Jimmy Bishop’s Arctic label, You Better Stop It. It was penned by Barbara Mason and produced by Jimmy Bishop. He’s responsible for a string-drenched arrangement, which is the perfect foil for Barbara Mason’s hurt-filled vocal.

The Intruders were the very group to give songwriting and production team Gamble and Huff a hit single with (We’ll Be) United in 1967. Two years later, in 1969, The Intruders released Old Love on the Gamble label. On the B-Side was Every Day Is A Holiday was penned and produced by Gamble and Huff. It’s a hook-laden dance-floor filler.

Following their success with Jerry Butler, Gamble and Huff were soon being asked to record labels to produce other artists. Especially artists whose career needed a boost. This was how Gamble and Huff came to write and produce Freddie Scott’s 1968 single for Shout, (You) Got What I Need. It’s a slick single with a commercial sound that should’ve appealed to DJs and record buyers. Sadly, (You) Got What I Need failed to chart, and Gamble and Huff failed to rejuvenate Freddie Scott’s career.

In October 1968, Peaches and Herb released Let’s Make A Promise on the Date label. It was written by Thom Bell, Kenneth Gamble and Mikki Farrow and arranged by Bobby Martin and Thom Bell. Taking care of production were Gamble and Huff, who don’t spare the hooks on this catchy, soulful and dance-floor friendly single.

Sometimes, a song is way too good to be consigned to a B-Side. That was the case with I’m On My Way, which was the B-Side Winfield Parker’s 1968 single for Spring, SOS (Stop Her On Sight). It had already given Edwin Starr a hit in 1966, and Winfield Parker hoped that history would repeat itself. However, he overlooked the potential of I’m On My Way. This was a Jesse James and Jimmy Bishop composition, that had been arranged by Bobby Martin and Dee Dee Gamble, with Jimmy Bishop taking charge of production. They’re responsible for an irresistible, uptempo track where Dee Dee Gamble’s backing vocals are the perfect foil to Winfield Parker’s powerful, defiant vocal.

Closing Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71 is The Ethics Standing In The Darkness. It was penned by Norman Harris  of Baker, Harris, Young and MFSB. Norman Harris and Thom Bell arranged Standing In The Darkness which was produced Selassie Productions Inc. Standing In The Darkness was released on Vent Records in 1970, and features a fully fledged Philly Sound single. It’s a tantalising taste of the music that would come out of Philly during the seventies.

Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71 documents how the Philly Sound took shape over a four-year period. The fully fledged Philly Sound was very different from the lightweight singles released on Cameo Parkway early in the seventies. By 1970, Philly Soul had come of age and its slick, sophisticated and innovative sound would transform Philadelphia into America’s soul capital. 

Suddenly, soul music was one of Philly’s biggest exports.The Philly Sound wasn’t just popular in America, and found an audience much further afield. Record buyers were won over by  Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The O’Jays,The Three Degrees, The Delfonics, The Stylistics, The Detroit Spinners and Blue Magic, which were some of the finest purveyors of the Philly Sound. These groups were responsible for some of the best, and most successful music that came out of Philly during the seventies. Much of that music was produced by the Mighty Three of Thom Bell and Gamble and Huff. However, many other people played a part in the success of the Philly Sound. 

This includes Bobby Martin, Vince Montana Jr, Baker, Harris, Young of MFSB, the Sweethearts of Sigma and Joe Tarsia. Sadly, they often don’t receive the credit they deserve. However, they had played an important part in the Philly music scene since the late-sixties. Many of these forgotten heroes of the Philly Sound play their part in the music that features on Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71. It’s a lovingly curated compilation that is a must-have for anyone with even a passing interest in the Philly Sound. Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71 features the Philly Sound taking shape, and by the end of the compilation it was fully formed, and ready to take the world by storm. 

Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71.

 

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