If you follow news on soul music reissues, you might know that Harmless Records will soon release a 10-disc box set that explores the history of Philadelphia International Records as part of the 40th Anniversary reissue series it is doing for this classic label’s work (if you don’t know about it, click here for a great news story on this set at The Second Disc).  Schlockmania has gotten an advance look at this set’s liner notes and if this set sounds as good as these notes look, it’s going to be the must-buy of the season for fans of classic soul.  Read on for excerpts from the introduction to this set’s notes and a few sample entries from its extensive track annotations…

Excerpts from The INTRODUCTION by Ralph Tee:

Never before have Philadelphia International Records been celebrated quite so lavishly than here on this ten CD collection. The occasion is the 40th Anniversary of the iconic green label that from 1971 served the finest, most sophisticated soul music imaginable.

Philadelphia International Records, often abbreviated to PIR, managed to achieve in the 1970s what Motown did in the 1960s, namely, define a decade with a unique blend of black music through bringing together a community of artists, musicians, songwriters, arrangers and producers. At the helm were Kenny Gamble and Leon A. Huff who a decade earlier started out by supporting their musical activities with day jobs. Kenny worked in a hospital, then ran a small record store and helped out at local radio station WDAS. Leon A. Huff worked at a clothes store and did session work as a keyboard player. The dream they shared was to create their own music as a full time business and PIR was the pinnacle of the success they achieved.

The music on this collection is not presented chronologically and is only a taste of the company’s prolific releases, sequenced to feel good. It’s impossible to include everything but hopefully this package offers a substantial reflection of PIR’s tremendous achievements over the years. The collection eases you in with the familiar, digs deep into the early years and takes a journey through the ballads, the dance tracks, rare grooves, jazzier sides and the latter day releases. PIR can legitimately be a 40 year enterprise because the catalogue and the company is still active and trading today and still owned by Kenny Gamble and Leon A. Huff. Songs are frequently covered and recordings sampled by contemporary artists or utilized in music, film, and TV. The doors at the 309 Broad Street offices have never closed. With over a thousand unreleased songs still in the vaults, a brand new album from Leon A. Huff in 2012 and an active Kenny Gamble with an appetite for more, we hope they never do.

The sound of Philadelphia, you can’t beat it.

SAMPLES FROM THE TRACK BY TRACK ANNOTATIONS:

M.F.S.B. feat The Three Degrees

T.S.O.P. (The Sound Of Philadelphia)

Original Single Version 3:17

(K. Gamble/L. Huff)

Warner/Chappell North America Ltd.

P 1975 Sony Music Entertainment.

USSM19910883

“T.S.O.P” stands for and perfectly defines ‘The Sound Of Philadelphia’. It was written as the theme to the US TV show “Soul Train” but couldn’t be called the Soul Train theme as PIR didn’t have permission. It was not initially intended to be a single but the show made it so popular it was inevitable and the song remained the theme for thirty years. This original version features only a few lines by The Three Degrees but was enough to

make it one of their most significant recordings. In 1974 it won a Grammy for “Best R&B Instrumental Performance” and was the first ever ‘disco’ record to make No.1 in America’s national singles chart. The recording was refreshed for “Soul Train” by George Duke in 1987 and again by hip hop’s Dr. Freeze featuring Samson in 1999. There are cover versions by the James Last Orchestra and even less likely, Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

The O’Jays

For The Love Of Money

Original Single Version 3:32

(K. Gamble/L. Huff/A. Jackson)

Universal/MCA Music Ltd.

P 1974 Sony Music Entertainment.

“For The Love Of Money” comes from a line in the Bible, ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil’. The much sampled bass line intro to the record is played by Anthony Jackson, who is credited as inventing the ‘six string bass’. He was spotted with a wah wah pedal at Sigma Sound Studio by owner and engineer Joe Tarsia who ran the bass through a phaser to give the record its distinctive sound.

In America the song has been theme tune to “The Apprentice” since 2004 with Donald Trump generating additional revenue for PIR. The song comes from the platinum selling album “Ship Ahoy”, which reached No.1 on America’s Black Albums charts. The title track about the transportation of Africans in a slave ship was originally written for a movie soundtrack “Shaft In Africa” but was given to The O’Jays instead.

The Jacksons

Living Together

Original Album Version 4:26

(D. Wansel) Warner/Chappell North America Ltd.

P 1976 Sony Music Entertainment.

USSM19915107

Kenny Gamble says he would have liked to have worked more with The Jacksons at PIR, but clearly they were talented individuals with ideas of their own and ultimately he supported them doing their own thing. He told Epic they wanted to write their own songs and the rest is HiStory! Unlike other groups at PIR, The Jacksons were restricted with regard the number of songs they recorded and this limitation put in place by Epic was not the way Gamble & Huff liked to work. They preferred to record a lot more songs for an album that they could use and select the best. This is why there are numerous unreleased recordings on other artists in the PIR vaults and why Kenny Gamble feels their output on The Jacksons could have been better. But from the debut album, Dexter Wansel wrote and produced this uplifting dance track “Living Together”. Re-edits by Julien Love and Dimitri From Paris have recently given the song a whole new lease of life.

Dexter Wansel

Life On Mars

Original Album Version 5:52

(D. Wansel) Warner/Chappell North America Ltd.

P 1976 Philadelphia International Records.

GBBLG7600148

Commencing a CD of PIR’s jazzier side, “Life On Mars” is perhaps THE definitive PIR Jazz-Funk classic. The timing was ideal when Kenny Gamble saw Dexter’s ingenuity as a synthesizer player at the same time as Stevie Wonder was experimenting within the same area. Dexter rose through the PIR ranks as musician, songwriter, arranger, producer and then an artist before becoming the label’s President of A&R. Dexter describes himself as an amateur astronomer and stargazer – he told me that he has a telescope and has spent time looking to the heavens waiting for something to happen!

Lou Rawls

You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine

Original Album Version 4:27

(K. Gamble/L. Huff)

Warner/Chappell North America Ltd.

P 1976 Philadelphia International Records.

GBBLG7600100

Lou Rawls was a Grammy winning recording artist before setting foot in Philadelphia. His first award was in 1967 for “Dead End Street” on his previous label Capitol Records, but by the mid 70s hits were running dry.

Lou was born in Chicago and raised by his grandmother. He went on to perform in jazz clubs and shared a manager with Sam Cooke with whom he narrowly escaped death in a Memphis car crash – in 1958 he was in a coma for five and a half days and lost his memory for three months.

Gamble & Huff rolled out the red carpet for Lou when he arrived at PIR and they wrote specifically to suit a man described as ‘the black Frank Sinatra’. Even the Philly sound went through a transition with a switch from Earl Young to Charles Collins on drums to make it less disco, whilst Leon’s keyboards became more melodic and less boogie orientated. Kenny Gamble maintains that the Philly sound was always more about the songs rather than a particular music style which could change considerably over the years.