Philly Soul, Pt. 2
The Sound of Philadelphia is the sound of home to me. I grew up in Philly in the 70s and 80s, when it was almost impossible not to hear "The Love I Lost," wafting over my family's back fence, or "If You Don't Know Me By Now" blasting from passing car windows. But I also have a very specific connection to this music. My father, Larry Gold, started out as a cellist in MFSB, the house band of the Philly Sound. When I was old enough to be cognizant, I realized he'd been writing string and horn arrangements for Teddy Pendergrass and McFadden & Whitehead, sitting at our Yamaha upright with his friend Jerry Cohen, the brilliant keyboard player &mdash and co-writer of "Ain't No Stoppin 'Us Now."
Songwriters, producers and soul music impresarios Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell had been working together long before founding their Mighty Three Music in 1973. They'd known each other since they were teenagers, singing and playing together in the Romeos, a prototypical '60s R&B band. With little more than a song in their hearts and local garmento Ben Krass as investor, the Three began producing local acts such as the Soul Survivors ("Expressway to Your Heart"), as well as older stars looking for a comeback (Jerry Butler, Wilson Pickett). By the time Gamble and Huff signed their groundbreaking deal with Columbia in 1971, their Philadelphia International Records (PIR), was already a sure thing artistically. But their vision was even bigger: the men wanted to retain both creative and financial control of their company &mdash something that no black-owned label had ever been able to do. Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff ended up not only changing soul music; they changed the face of the record industry.
I wasn't around for the creation of most of this music (bedtimes, not actually being a musician, etc.). So I had to get to know these songs the same way everyone else does, by listening to them, over and over, falling in love with Eddie Levert's earth-quaking voice, or Thom Bell's lush harmonies. I urge you to use this list as a starting point in your exploration of the Philly International catalogue. There are way too many great records available here to easily pick a dozen.