Sun. Dec. 05, 2021

10 essential Philadelphia International Records gems

10 essential Philadelphia International Records classics10 essential Philadelphia International Records gems… The establishment of an identity happened to be the ultimate key word by the end of the 70’s. Be it musically with the arrival of producers settin’ up a distinctive sound. As visually with trends applying to social if not political categories. With the same applying for many independent structures which came to symbolize what a label is supposed to be… An entity synonymous with a certain standard of quality!

Among them and without an oz. of a doubt, Philadelphia International Records. A structure which, during its 15 years of activities, has pretty much contributed to the evolution of music. This with the establishment of the Philly Sound. A distinctive sound synonymous with the best in Disco and Soul vibes as a matter of fact. But also pretty much illustrative of a unique state of mind. A spirit that saw people hailing from different horizons coming together as one, as King Britt explained me back in the day. From the Rednecks on guitars. To Jewish and Italian classically trained musicians on chords and strings. Not to mention the Blacks on rhythm sections…

No need to say how this selection is way from being exhaustive. Nevertheless, you should find thereafter a pretty much illustrative sample of jams which have contributed making P.I.R. one of the most brilliant and enlightening ventures in the establishment of music such as we’ve known since then…

Wishing you’ll enjoy the ride as much as we did, while putting this together for you. With your feedback, and a mention of your favorite song more than welcome…

10 essential Philadelphia International Records gems / Teddy Pendergrass – Love TKO (PIR)
Cecil Womack and Gip Noble, Jr. wrote ‘Love TKO’. It first appeared on David Oliver‘s ‘Here’s To You’ album back in 1980. The song would nevertheless got to higher recognition the same year with Teddy Pendergrass performing it on his ‘TP’ album. The former Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes‘ lead singer scoring one of his biggest successes ever with it.
Countless luminaries have covered it since then. From Regina Belle, to Boz Scaggs. But also Michael McDonald and Seal to name a few. Ahmad Lewis using its melody on a remix of his 1994 song, ‘Back In the Day’. And Xscape sampling it on their remix of ‘Who Can I Run To’ the year after…
10 essential Philadelphia International Records gems / Lou Rawls – You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine (PIR)
The most remembered Philadelphia Sound reachin’ one of its definitive peak times. From his 1976 ‘All Things In Time’ album. An opus that would mark Lou Rawls’s debut on PIR. With ‘You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine’ standing as his biggest success ever…
A man speakin’ of which Frank Sinatra said he had “the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game”. Therefore finding the ideal environment with label heads Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff in charge of its production…
10 essential Philadelphia International Records gems / McFadden & Whitehead – Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now (PIR)
From their eponymous album… PIR famous songwriting and production pair Gene McFadden & John Whitehead makin’ their debut under their own guise back in 1979. Therefore delivering their biggest classic with the positive and inspiring ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’. A jam which perfectly recaptures the way we feel for quality music here on IDMW. Late US radio presenter and recording artist Douglas Wendell Henderson, Sr. (Jocko), eventually gave it a Rap / spoken word answer titled ‘Rhythm Talk’ (also on PIR). Meanwhile, Hispanic NYC outfit Charanga 76 soon after gave it a cover version by the likes of ‘No Nos Pararan’.
‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’ also most likely inspired Italian singer Pino D’Angio the year after. This with the memorable ‘Mi Quale Idea’.
10 essential Philadelphia International Records gems / Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Don’t Leave Me This Way (PIR)
Written by PIR label heads Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff along with Cary Gilbert, this song first appeared back in 1975 as a part of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes‘ ‘Wake Up Everybody’ album with Teddy Pendergrass responsible for the lead vocals. Strangely enough, it didn’t get released as a single Stateside, although it happened to be one of the group’s biggest classics.
It would nevertheless reach further heights as sung by Thelma Houston the year after. (*) It eventually became an unofficial theme song for the AIDS epidemic in the gay male community in the beginning of the 80’s (* Wikipedia).
10 essential Philadelphia International Records gems / The O’Jays – Back Stabbers (PIR)
The second single from their 1972 album of the likes, ‘Back Stabbers’ marked a turning point in the career of The O’Jays. Bringing them an unpreecedented amount of notoriety. Co-written by Leon Huff along with John Whitehead and Gene McFadden, it depicts the attitude of men’s male “friends” who might be smiling to their faces. Meanwhile secretly planning to steal their wives or girlfriends.

A theme admittedly inspired by the Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong penned ‘Smiling Faces Sometimes’ a year before for The Undisputed Truth on Motown. ‘Back Stabbers’ has itself inspired countless artists. From MFSB who gave it an extended instrumental cover version in 1973. To Tina Turner in 1979. TLC eventually sampled it on ‘Case Of The Fake People’, from their 1994 ‘CrazySexyCool’ album. Not to mention Neo-Soul singer Angie Stone who gave it an interpolation on ‘Wish I Didn’t Miss You’ back in 2001 [More…]

10 essential Philadelphia International Records gems / Billy Paul – Me & Mrs Jones (PIR)
Backed with ‘Your Song’, a cover version of Elton John‘s classic of the likes, ‘Me & Mrs Jones’ is most likely Billy Paul‘s biggest classic ever. A song which Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff co-wrote with Cary Gilbert. ‘Me & Mrs Jones is taken from Billy Paul‘s 1972 ‘360 Degrees Of Billy Paul’ album.
It would be his one and only #1 hit, depicting an extramarital affair between a man and his lover, Mrs. Jones. (*) In the Hot 100, it replaced ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’ by The Temptations and was replaced by Carly Simon‘s ‘You’re So Vain’ (* Wikipedia).Canadian crooner Michael Bublé gave it a cover version back in 2007.  Meanwhile releasing it as the second single from his ‘Call Me Irresponsible’ album on 143/Reprise Records.
10 essential Philadelphia International Records gems / The Intruders – I’ll Always Love My Mamma (PIR)
Although not as famous as The O’Jays or Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, The Intruders nevertheless played a key role in the saga of the PIR label. The first group which Gamble & Huff ever produced as a matter of fact… Their success together helped convince Columbia to grant the latter the money to launch Philadelphia International Records.
One probably most remember them for ‘I’ll Always Love My Mama’. A Mother’s Day anthem, which Gamble & Huff co-wrote along with McFadden & Whitehead. It is said to have to have found its inspiration in the story of Kenny Gamble‘s mother, Ruby, who died in 2012. ‘I’ll Always Love My Mama’ is also one of the last successes of the group who disbanded in 1975.
10 essential Philadelphia International Records gems / The Jones Girls – Nights Over Egypt (PIR)
A trio of sisters hailing from Detroit, MI, The Jones Girls got their first record deal with GM back in 1968 before joining PIR. They first made their reputation as backup singers. Meanwhile jammin’ with Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass, Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross among others.
They would score their biggest success back in 1979 with producers Gamble & Huff on ‘You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else’. Although on tends to more associate them with the Dexter Wansel 1981 produced ‘Nights Over Egypt’. A gem which British Acid Jazz band Incognito eventually covered 18 years after…
10 essential Philadelphia International Records gems / MFSB – K-Jee (PIR)
If ever an act was to be considered as the epicenter of the Philadelphia Sound, then this would be without a single doubt MFSB. Standing for Mother Father Sister Brother, MFSB was a 30 + piece band outfit. An assembly of recording session musicians who were most likely regulars at the famous Sigma Sound Studio. Put together by PIR label heads Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff… They acted as the house band for their label, and embody what’s remembered as the Philly sound. A sound that took the world by storm in the early 70’s. This with groups such as The O’Jays, Blue Magic and The Spinners among others.

Under their own banner, MFSB are responsible for some of the most significant instrumental gems one can think of. From ‘TSOP’, their biggest classic ever. To ‘Love Is The Message’ (featuring The Three Degrees). Not to mention their cover version of The Nite-Liters‘ ‘K-Jee’ which features in a key scene in the film, ‘Saturday Night Fever’.
Due to a disagreement with Gamble & Huff over finances, several members of the group moved on to Salsoul Records, where they formed The Salsoul Orchestra. Meanwhile others began performing as The Ritchie Family orchestra, and John Davis & The Monster Orchestra [More…]

10 essential Philadelphia International Records gems / The Trammps – Love Epidemic (Golden Fleece/PIR)
(Disco) Music would probably not be what it is without the unvaluable contribution of Philadelphia-based drummer Earl Young. A man who, by his songwriting and arranging talent (along with team partners Norman Harris and Ron Baker), has been for more in the recognition of the Philadelphia Sound. Eventually seen as the inventor of the Disco style of Rock drumming. Young has contributed to countless jams from the 70’s, as a member of The Trammps. But also along with MFSB and The Salsoul Orchestra. Not to mention the transcient Atlanta Disco Band
We catch him back on this 1973 released seminal gem by the likes of The Trammps featuring MFSB. With Jimmy Ellis takin’ the lead in his unmistakable singing style.

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