PHILLY REGROOVED 3: Third Time’s The Philly Soul Charm

If you appreciate the art of disco and soul remixes, chances are you can’t get enough of Tom Moulton’s work.  After all, he didn’t just perfect the 12-inch remix – he invented it.  Harmless Records has done a lot to keep his legacy alive, reissuing mixes new and old via their amazing Philly International Classics: The Tom Moulton Remixes box and their Philly Regrooved collections.  They’ve added to this legacy once more with a Philly Regrooved 3 – and it’s the best entry in this series thus far.

Philly Regrooved 3 has a new wrinkle that the first two volumes didn’t have: a greater variety of record labels to choose from.  The producers of this set were able to draw from a lot of key labels in the ’70s renaissance of Philly Soul – Atlantic & Atco, Columbia, Buddah – and they have assembled a generous 2-disc set list that mixes well-known hits with deep-catalog classics to create a fully-rounded picture of this sound.

That said, the mixing is what matters here – and Moulton is in strong form on this set.  The first disc shows his flair for amplifying the drama in a song, like when he rebuilds the intro of New York City’s “I’m Doin’ Fine Now” into a tense slow-burner where the fuse is lit by a chicken-scratch rhythm guitar line that fully blossoms into the heroic, orchestral arrangement that fans know well.  Similarly, the grandiose arrangement of Blue Magic’s “Look Me Up” is broken up into a multi-part disco symphony complete with a breakdown and the intro of Melba Moore’s “Standing Right Here” is reworked to have a rollercoaster-style set of peaks and valleys before delving into the song itself.  Another gem on this disc is an excellent extended version of the cult fave “Got To Get You Back” by Sons Of Robin Stone, which milks the maximum drama from its stomping beat and martial horns.

The second disc also offers plenty of delights.  It starts with a jaw-dropper of a mix in Moulton’s take on the William DeVaughn hit “Be Thankful For What You’ve Got”: this song has a stripped-down arrangement for a Philly Soul tune and Moulton stays true to its minimalism, extending its conga-led grooves and meditative organ lines into something subtle yet totally hypnotic.   “Hold Back The Night” by the Trammps is given a mix that teases out its jazzy swing and the Spinners’ “One Of A Kind Love Affair” gets a killer new intro that is pure dancefloor drama, slowly layering the pounding intro rhythm in a tense manner until release is given by a sudden outpouring of the main melody.  Elsewhere, the remix of Bettye Swann’s “Kiss My Love Goodbye plays up its morse-code guitar line and ominous horns to heighten the song’s drama and Loose Change’s “Babe” is reworked in a way that shows off the classy orchestral arrangement to mesmerizing effect.

Better yet, Philly Regrooved 3 features two mixes that make their debut here. “Soul Recession” is a modern track from disco-era Salsoul favorites Double Exposure, who deliver a convincing old-school groove that Moulton pumps up into a nine-minute epic that shows off the dexterity of its players.  However, the killer of the two new inclusions is “The Way You Love Me” by Ron Hall & The Muthafunkaz, which Moulton transforms into a plush 13 minutes-and-change extravaganza that deploys every trick in the book: a hypnotic slow-build intro, soaring strings, even a vibes solo.  Once you hear it, you’d swear it was a forgotten hit from the mid-’70s – and it’s likely to become a new favorite for many fans of vintage soul.

In short, Philly Regrooved 3 is a must for Philly Soul fans as well as anyone who can appreciate a good, classically-styled soul remix.  The track selection is excellent, Moulton’s chops are in fine fettle and the two new tracks push the set’s value over the top.

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