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Recommended smooth and mellow soul CDs
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The Philly Sound…

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, along with Thom Bell, defined the sweet, smooth Philadelphia Sound in the early ’70s, producing hit records by the O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass and Billy Paul, among many others. The label was of course Philadelphia International Records...
The sound was much smoother – even slicker – than the deep soul of the late ’60s, but the vocals remained as soulful as any previous form of R&B. Philly soul was primary a producer’s medium, as Gamble & Huff and Thom Bell created the instrumental textures that came to distinguish the genre. The highly produced sound of Philly soul paved the way for the studio constructions of disco and urban contemporary R&B…

The PIR Story…

In tandem with his partner Leon Huff, producer and songwriter Kenny Gamble was the principal architect behind the lush and seductive Philly Soul sound, one of the most popular and influential musical developments of the 1970s. Gamble & Huff first teamed up during the late ’50s while Huff was a member of the harmony group the Romeos, which also included Thom Bell, who would become crucial to Gamble & Huff’s later success. "The 81," a 1964 single by the little-known Candy & the Kisses, was the inaugural Gamble & Huff co-production, and three years later the duo scored their first Top Five pop hit with the Soul Survivors’ "Expressway to Your Heart." They soon recruited Thom Bell as arranger and gradually created their own distinctive sound.

Gamble & Huff’s success on the Atlantic and Chess labels – as well as their own Neptune and Gamble imprints – they contacted Columbia in the hopes of opening a new affiliate company, inspired by the continued success of Berry Gordy and Motown. Columbia agreed, and in 1970 the duo’s Philadelphia International Records was born. Gamble & Huff soon exploded into the national musical consciousness, selling some 10 million records in the span of nine months thanks to monster hits including Billy Paul’s "Me and Mrs. Jones," Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ "If You Don’t Know Me by Now" and the O’Jays’ "Back Stabbers" and "Love Train."

The Gamble & Huff signature was an intoxicating combination of sweeping strings, smoky horns and insistent rhythms and emerged as the definitive soul sound of the early and mid ’70s, also becoming the blueprint for the rise of disco during the latter half of the decade.

The O'Jays

The rest…

Several other acts have also released material on Philadelphia International Records.
– Archie Bell & The Drells
– Jerry Butler
– City Limits
– Don Covay
– The Ebonys
– Force of Nature
– Norman Harris
– Phyllis Hyman
– The Jacksons
– Shirley Jones
– Patti LaBelle
– Monk Montgomery
– Michael Pedicin Jr.
– People’s Choice
– Bobby Rush
– Bunny Sigler
– The Trammps
– Anthony White

Billy Paul

All Music Guide
If you don’t find it here, – forget it!

Blues & Soul
UK-based Soul mag with trading section

Famous Name Changes
Wonder what their real name is?

How band got their names
Steely Dan: A dildo in the William Burroughs novel "Naked Lunch".

Lyrics World
Like to sing in the shower, but can’t quite remember the words?

Sony Music: The Philly Sound

Ultimate Band List
More info, sound samples and links

…and yes, – just what you were looking for!
Misheard Lyrics Archive
Hilarious! " ‘scuse me, while I kiss this guy"
Jean Carn:
Jean Carn – 1976
Happy To Be With You – 1978
When I Find You Love – 1979
Sweet & Wonderful – 1981
Produced by: Gamble & Huff/Dexter Wansel
Label: PIR/Westside UK
Jean Carn can be heard on several of the mid 70’s Buddah albums by drummer/producer Norman Connors. In 1975 she teamed up with Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International Records. Her debut album, Jean Carn was a classy album that merged the best of ’70s soul and jazz with solid songwriting, tight production and instrumental support by MFSB and Instant Funk.
Her second album on PIR Happy to Be With You, was released in 1978 and included the classic "Don’t Let It Go to Your Head".
The 1981 Sweet & Wonderful featured a remake of the Spinners’ "Love Don’t Love Nobody," and a duet with Glenn Jones.
Her final PIR album, 1982’s When I Find You Love, was more of a return to "Jean Carn". Produced by Dexter Wansel and including the smooth "My Love Don’t Come Easy" and the sweepingly romantic "Lonely Girl in a Cold Cold World." Altogether 4 great Philly albums available as "2 on 1" on Westside Records.

Past, Present & The Futures – 1979
The Greetings Of Peace – 1980 

Label: PIR/Westside UK
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
The Futures only two albums on PIR both failed commercially, but are nevertheless definitely worth checking out. The first release included "Part Time Party Time Man," an energetic dancer with a terrific vocal. Both albums are available as "2 on 1" on UK Westside Records.
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Leon Huff: Here To Create Music – 1980
Label: PIR
Produced by: Leon Huff
As half of the legendary Gamble & Huff team and a co-owner of Philadelphia International Records, Leon Huff was among the top soul producer/songwriters of the 1970’s. This is his only solo album and largely an instrumental effort. (Which was out of print for many years before finally being reissued on CD in 1999). On the excellent track "I Ain’t Jivin’, I’m Jammin’", Huff keeps hitting you with everything he’s got on his his funky organ and keyboards. The weakest track is "Your Body Won’t Move If You Can’t Feel The Groove", a disco opener that wastes the talents of Teddy Pendergrass, Eddie Levert and other Philly International artists of 1980.
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Intruders: Cowboys To Girls [Best of] – 1995
Label: PIR/Columbia
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
One of the earliest hitmaking vehicles for Gamble & Huff, the Intruders were a leading R&B act from the mid-’60s to the mid-’70s. They hit in 1966 with "(We’ll Be) United" and the next year with "Together" on Gamble Records. Their breezy "Cowboys to Girls" and "Love Is like a Baseball Game" resulted in plenty of pop crossover action in 1968, and their slick cover of The Dreamlovers hit "When We Get Married" scored in 1970. The quartet enjoyed their last two important R&B hits in 1973, "I’ll Always Love My Mama (Part 1)" and "I Wanna Know Your Name", before switching to Gamble & Huff’s TSOP logo. Cowboys To Girls is a terrific 17-track overview of the Philly soul group’s time on PIR, featuring all their big hits.
Jones Girls:
The Jones Girls – 1979
At Peace With Woman – 1980
Get As Much Love As You Can -1982
Label: PIR/Westside UK
Produced by: Gamble & Huff/Dexter Wansel
Valerie, Shirley, and Brenda Jones spent more than 10 years in the music business before they tasted success. The Jones Girls’ self titled debut for PIR included the million-selling "You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else" along with the snappy, jazz-flavored "This Feelings Killing Me", the sweet "We’re a Melody" and "Who Can I Run To?".
Recorded at Philly’s legendary Sigma Sound in 1980, "At Peace With Woman" was their second album for PIR and features some of the sisters’ best work. "I Just Love the Man" and "Dance Turned Into a Romance," both written by Gamble & Huff, were major hits and the album is among the Jones Girls’ best work.
Get As Much Love As You Can features eight dressy urban soul tracks. An excellent smooth jazzy version of Cynthia Biggs and Dexter Wansel’s "Nights Over Egypt" (feat. Grover Washington) is a catch no urban soul lover can resist.
McFadden & Whitehead: Polishin’ Up Our Act [Best of] – 1999
Label: PIR/Westside UK
Produced by: McFadden & Whitehead
A Philly songwriting, production, and performing duo who were responsible for many of the PIR classics of the 70’s. Their first collaboration came on the Intruders’ "I’ll Always Love My Mama." They later wrote and/or produced such great classics as "Backstabbers" for the O’Jays, "Bad Luck," and "Wake Up Everybody" for Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and "Let’s Groove", "Soul City Walk", and "Strategy for Archie Bell & The Drells. They also scored a number one R&B hit in 1979 as vocalists with the dance classic "Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now". They also did projects outside PIR, writing songs performed by Melba Moore, Gloria Gaynor, Freddie Jackson, Willie Collins, and Beau Williams. Polishin’ Up Our Act is available on UK Westside Records, and contains 12 songs released under their own name, plus the rap version of "Ain’t No Stoppin’" performed by Jocko Henderson in 1980.
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes:
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – 1973
Black & Blue – 1973
To Be True – 1975
Wake Up Everybody – 1975
Label: PIR
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
Starting out in 1954 in Philadelphia as a doo-wop group with Harold Melvin as lead singer, the Blue Notes first recorded for the New York-based Josie label in 1956. But it was not until 1972, when drummer Teddy Pendergrass took over lead vocals and they came under the wing of Gamble & Huff that Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes became consistent chart-makers. Pendergrass’ vocals smoldered with sensuality, and combined with the smooth harmonies that had always been a Blue Note trademark, together with Gamble & Huff’s superior writing and lush productions, the superb TSOP house band recorded classics as "I Miss You", "If You Don’t Know Me By Now", and "The Love I Lost". Pendergrass went solo in 1975 and the Blue Notes’ glory days came to an end.
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes was a fantastic PIR debut for the band, which was actually not ment to be. Most of the songs, including "If You Don’t Know Me By Now," were originally written for the Dells, but the deal fell through. Harold Melvin got the opportunity because his ex-drummer Teddy Pendergrass had a voice similar to Dells lead singer Marvin Junior. Pendergrass did the songs like they were all written for him, and he sounds like he’s about to lose it when he sings "I Miss You". "If You Don’t Know Me By Now" was a huge hit and has probably been included on a zillion soul compilations over the years. It was an even bigger hit for Simply Red in 1989. Another outstanding track is the "Be For Real". Probably one of the finest pieces in R&B history. Altogether a great album that established Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes as a force to be reckoned with.
Lots of goodies on their second album on PIR, Black & Blue. "Satisfaction Guaranteed" and "Is There a Place for Me" are both tight, but the driving force is the excellent "The Love I Lost" . Who was responsible for putting the disaster "Cabaret" on the album, is beyond me.
To Be True features many R&B classics. While Teddy Pendergrass was featured on this album, he did not sing lead on every track. Included are "Where Are All My Friends", "Bad Luck" and "Hope That We Can Be Together Soon", the latter features the smooth vocals of Sharon Paige.
Wake Up Everybody is a personal favorite. The title track, written by the excellent writing team of McFadden/Whitehead/Carstarphen, and the mellow "You Know How to Make Me Feel So Good" are both great! Also "Don’t Leave Me This Way" is a classic in my book (later becoming a disco theme for Thelma Houston). This album was the final chapter of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass.


Mysteries Of The World – 1980
Love Is The Message [Best of] – 1995
Label: TSOP/Columbia
Produced by: Dexter Wansel
The PIR in-house band was playing on many hits produced by Gamble & Huff in the ’70s. They were a blend of string, horn, and rhythm players. Including bassist Larry Moore, keyboardist Lenny Pakula, guitarists Norman Harris, James Herb Smith, and Roland Chambers, drummer Earl Young, and percussionists/drummers Miguel Fuentes and Quinton Joseph. Gamble, Huff, Don Renaldo, Dexter Wansel, and Vince Montana all took turns conducting the orchestra. While backing the O’Jays, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, the Intruders, and many others, MFSB also cut several LPs as performers from 1973 through 1980. "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" , with the Three Degrees, was Soul Train’s theme song in 1974 and also topped the R&B and pop charts. They earned another hit in 1975 with "T.L.C. (Tender Lovin’ Care)". The title track of their final LP, Mysteries of the World, was a big hit in England in 1980 even though the disco boom that had supported the rise of MFSB. was on its way out the door. Their stylish sound was in need of a makeover to keep up with the times, and this was accomplished by allowing Dexter Wansel, the producer/writer behind a string of jazzy solo albums to take charge. The result was the quite stylish and jazzy.
Love Is The Message – Best Of is a comprehensive 16-track collection that features all of MFSB’s big hits – "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" , "Love is the Message" , "Sexy" – plus a selection of highlights from the group’s records, thereby resulting in a nearly definitive overview of the Philly soul/disco group’s career.

Backstabbers  – 1972
Ship Ahoy – 1973
Family Reunion – 1975
So Full Of Love – 1978
When Will I See You Again – 1982

Label: PIR
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
Together We Are One – 2004
Label: Capitol
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
Perhaps the reigning vocal group of the ’70s and ’80s, the O’Jays started out as the Triumphs in 1958. The original lineup was Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey, and Bill Isles. They recorded as the Mascots in 1961 and were renamed by Cleveland disc jockey Eddie O’Jay. Isles departed in 1965 and Massey left in 1971 to become a producer, making the group a trio and signing up with PIR in 1972. The rest is histo
Although you could lean toward Ship Ahoy, it would be hard to argue with the general assessment that Back Stabbers is the O’Jays’ greatest album. Certainly, no other single in 1973 was as definitive as "Love Train" , one of their greatest tracks. "Back Stabbers" isn’t far behind it; the message, harmonies, Eddie Levert’s lead, and the group’s refrains are all testimonies to soul’s glory, and Gamble & Huff were in peak form.
The "other" O’Jays album masterpiece, Ship Ahoy, combined shattering message tracks and stunning love songs in a fashion matched only by Curtis Mayfield’s finest material. From the album cover showing a slave ship to the memorable title song and incredible "For the Love of Money" , Gamble and Huff addressed every social ill from envy to racism and greed. Eddie Leve
rt’s leads were consistently magnificent, as were the harmonies, production and arrangements. "Put Your Hands Together" and "You Got Your Hooks In Me" would be good album cuts, but on Ship Ahoy they were merely icing on the cake. Ship Ahoy is also available in MultiChannel SACD format.
In the 1970s, PIR could seemingly do no wrong where the O’Jays were concerned. They recorded one gem after another under Gamble & Huff’s direction, and Family Reunion was no exception. Nothing on this CD has the angry bite of "Back Stabbers", "Don’t Call Me Brother" or "Rich Get Richer" and the mood is upbeat and optimistic on everything from the uplifting "Unity" to the ballad "Stairway to Heaven" (not the Led Zeppelin song) to the party anthem "Livin’ for the Weekend". With the intoxicating "I Love Music" , the O’Jays stressed the soul side of disco and provided one of the most appealing hits of the disco era. From start to finish, Family Reunion was a valuable addition to a catalogue that already had its share of treasures.
None of the albums the O’Jays recorded for PIR in the 1970s were weak or disappointing, although some were stronger than others. So Full of Love isn’t quite essential, and isn’t in a class with Back Stabbers, Ship Ahoy or Family Reunion. But the platinum album does have a lot of great songs on it, including the major hit "Use Ta Be My Girl" and the heartfelt ballads "Cry Together" and "Brandy". The captivating "This Time Baby" was a hit for soul/disco diva Jackie Moore in 1979. A funk treasure that should have been a major hit was the intense "Strokety Stroke." Once again, the O’Jays worked with Philly’s best – not only Gamble & Huff, but also Thom Bell and Bunny Sigler.
The O’Jays didn’t have any big crossover hits or R&B chart-toppers with When Will I See You Again, but it was still a fine effort. The production and arrangements were outstanding, the harmonies and leads well done, and there were several fine songs, especially the excellent "Put Our Heads Together" arranged and produced by Keni Burke and written by Gamble and Burke.
Together We Are One consists of tracks originally recorded in the late ’70s and ’80s by Gamble & Huff that were not used on O’Jays albums of the time. Now resurrected, the tracks have been updated with new overdubs including vocal performances by O’Jays members Eddie Levert and Walter Williams. The title song is an excellent Linda Creed penned ballad. The rest is maybe not masterpieces from the vaults, but certainly welcomed by those of us who never get enough of the O’Jays PIR years.

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Billy Paul:
360 Degrees Of Billy Paul – 1972
Let ‘Em In – 1976
Only The Strong Survive –  1977
First Class – 1979

Label: PIR
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
Billy Paul had a good run in the ’70s as an R&B vocalist, though he’d been recording since the ’50s. He and had an extensive jazz background and worked with Dinah Washington, Miles Davis, and Roberta Flack, as well as Charlie Parker, before forming a trio and recording for Jubilee. He signed with PIR in 1971, and scored his biggest hit with "Me & Mrs. Jones" in 1972, topping both the R&B and pop charts. He remained on Philadelphia International until the mid-’80s. and most of his recordings on PIR reeked of class.
Paul’s first album for PIR was Going East. A straight, club jazz album and sales were slow. On his second album, 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul, Gamble & Huff gave him much stronger material. He sounds believable and frustrated belting "Me & Mrs. Jones" , a classic that many can relate to. A version of Elton John’s "Your Song" introduced Elton to fans of soul music. "Am I Black Enough for You"  fit in with the times of Black consciousness, a social message moved along by a perky bongo, a clavinet dominated beat, and well-spaced brassy horn.
Let ‘Em In was originally released in 1976 and features a great Philly version of a great Paul McCartney song. Otherwise this is not one of Billy’s best releases, but his vocalizing is so unique that you can’t go wrong purchasing anything by him on PIR.
Only The Strong Survive features a slightly disco, but great version of the classic Jerry Butler song. The sax solo towards the end is great. Also a Philly version of the Michael McDonald/Doobie Brothers song "Takin’ it to the Streets".
Billy’s in great voice on First Class, his last PIR album. He is probably happiest singing in intimate, smoky night clubs and Gamble & Huff managed to create a similar atmosphere in the studio for this. Let ‘Em In, Only The Strong and First Class are all available as "3 on 2" on UK Westside Records.
Teddy Pendergrass:  The Philly Years [Best of]- 1994
Label: PIR/Repertoire Records
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
This compilation is loaded with every significant track Theodore Pendergrass recorded at Philadelphia International Records. 32 unedited killers! "I Don’t Love You Anymore", "Crazy About Your Love", "The Whole Town’s Laughing at Me", "Close the Door", "Come Go With Me", "Turn Off the Lights", "Do Me", "Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose", "Shout and Scream", "The More I Get the More I Want", "Is It Still Good to Ya" (a duet with Stephanie Mills), "Love TKO," and "You’re My Latest, My Greatest Inspiration", – all pure Philly class, and digitally remastered. What else could you possibly want?
Lou Rawls: The Philly Years [Best of] – 1994
Label: PIR/Repertoire Records
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
When Chicago-born Lou Rawls croons a soulful love song, his deep-hued pipes rumble with passion. Rawls joined forces with Gamble & Huff in 1976. He emerged with the silky "You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," a gigantic R&B and pop smash tailor-made for sweeping across the classiest dance floors. The disco era was long gone now, but Rawls maintains elegantly. He’s still as cool as cool can be. This double CD-set contains most of the tracks he did on PIR. Again, – all pure Philly class, and digitally remastered.
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Dee Dee Sharp:
Happy ‘Bout the Whole Thing – 1976
What Color Is Love – 1977
Dee Dee – 1980

Label: PIR/Westside UK
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
This mid-’70s Philly sound outing has pop leanings that infiltrate the disco so important to Sharp’s husband, Kenneth Gamble’s dance music empire. The familiar sounds Sharp creates, are a perfect marriage with the Philly sound.
On Happy ‘Bout The Whole Thing, Dee Dee’s cover of the Stan Vincent classic "O-o-h Child" is just excellent, and her co-write with Mendell on "Real Hard Day" is strong, music that any of today’s R&B divas could send up the charts. The album has been reissued on CD in Japan, but is now deleted.
Both What Color Is Love and Dee Dee are excellent Philly albums. The latter maybe a tad disco influenced, but nevertheless worth checking out. You’ll get both as "2 on 1" on UK Westside Records.
Dee Dee Sharp: Happy 'Bout the Whole Thing
Hurry Up This Way Again – 1980

Closer Than Close – 1981
1982 – 1982

Label: TSOP/Westside UK
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
After the Spinners and the O’Jays, the Stylistics were the leading Philly soul group produced by Thom Bell. During the early ’70s, the band had 12 straight Top 10 hits, including "Betcha By Golly, Wow", "I’m Stone in Love With You", "Break Up to Make Up" and "You Make Me Feel Brand New." Of all their peers, the Stylistics were one of the smoothest and sweetest soul groups of their era. They didn’t always get hits when they were with Gamble & Huff, but their albums sure sounded great. They signed to TSOP in in 1980 and released three albums on the label, all available as "3 on 2" on UK Westside Records.
Three Degrees: When Will I See You Again [Best of] – 1996
Label: PIR/Columbia
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
Starting out in 1963, The Three degrees were discovered by producer and songwriter Richard Barrett. In 1973, Barrett worked a deal with Gamble & Huff’s PIR label and the single was "Dirty Ol’ Man" , a disco hit. A short time later, Don Cornelius, producer and host of TV’s Soul Train, approached Gamble & Huff about coming up with a new theme song for his hit syndicated show. After some airings, public demand forced the TV show’s theme to be released as a single. "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" by MFSB featuring the Three Degrees went gold hitting #1 R&B and holding the #1 pop for two weeks in 1974. Another great MFSB/Three Degrees single was "Love Is the Message". In the summer of 1974, the single "When Will I See You Again", went platinum, selling over two million copies. Their PIR debut album, The Three Degrees, was released at the end of 1974. This 14 track compilation includes most of the Gamble & Huff songs.
Dexter Wansel:  The Very Best Of – 1999
Label: PIR/Snapper UK
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
Keyboardist/arranger/producer/recording artist Dexter Wansel can be heard throughout the PIR catalog. His frequent songwriting partners were Cynthia Biggs, Bunny Sigler, and T. Life. A synth pioneer, Wansel’s first LP arranging assignment was several tracks on Carl Carlton’s 1975 album I Wanna Be With You, produced by Bunny Sigler. Dexter Wansel deserves classification in two genres: rock and jazz. He jumps from bag to bag, style-wise, and you never know what to expect. These 32 songs chronicle his recording career on two discs. Disc one begins futuristic, incorporating jazz and urban and some funky vibes. Disc two encompasses jazz, funk, disco, urban, pop, and reggae. Jean Carn, Terri "Brandi" Wells, and Herb Smith contributes vocals on some tracks.
Gamble & Huff: The Story of Brotherly Love 1966-1976 – 1997
[3 CD Box set]

Label: PIR/Columbia
Produced by: Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff ++
Great tribute to the excellent 70’s Philly Soul. 48 tracks with classic production work by Gamble & Huff and featuring O’Jays, Harold Melvin, Archie Bell, Jean Carn, Intruders, MFSB, Billy Paul, and The Jones Girls and more. Spanning three discs, this is a stunning chronicle of the Gamble & Huff team at their peak, featuring all of their biggest hits, plus a generous selection of neglected gems. For some tastes, the three discs may be a bit too much of a good thing – but for a definitive overview of Gamble & Huff’s accomplishments, this can’t be beat!
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[ Gunnar Homdrum, Marbella, Spain © 2004 -2005 ]