Groundbreaking soul, funk and disco moments from the supremely seminal Philadelphia records hit-factory of producers Gamble & Huff, Dexter Wansel, McFadden & Whitehead, and Teddy Prendergrass to name but a few.
This compilation includes well-known faves such as The Jones Girls ‘Nights Over Egypt’ and McFadden & Whiteheads ‘Aint No Stopping Us..’ but is skewed towards to the lesser-heard but still as fantastically produced and recorded cuts such as ‘Get Down, Get Funky’ by Teddy Pendergrass, and the excellent ‘I’ll Never Forget..’ by Dexter Wansel.
Essential Philly soul grooves.
In the introductory liner notes, written by Tony Rounce (‘Blues & Soul’ Magazine), the success of the PIR label is associated with the rise of the 12″ single, and the stated aim of this collection is to cover “PIR’s golden era of 12 inch remixing”, from 1976 to 1983.
Opening with the ever popular McFadden & Whitehead ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now‘ (1979) (featured here in the full 10.45 mins mix) the auspices appear good, although this is a record that has featured on a great many other compilations and, as a result, it might be considered ‘over exposed’. Edwin Birdsong’s ‘Phiss-Phizz‘ (1979) has a low slung groove that suggests what might happen if ‘Fashion’ period Bowie met with Eddie Grant’s short vocal interjections, whilst Jerry Butler’s ‘I’m Just Thinking About Cooling Out‘ (1978) is a pleasant old fashioned track that possibly would yield a greater impact as a shorter single or album version. ‘Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto‘ (1977) is interesting – an instrumental mix or re-edit might work wonders – as a window to the social concerns of the period. The Jones Girls are widely known for ‘Nights Over Egypt‘ (1981) (also included) and here they can also be heard in ‘You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else‘ (1979), a fine record but looking to Funk and Soul rather than the commercial Disco aesthetic. Dexter Wansel was an accomplished musician, widely recognised for his excursions in Jazz-Funk, but here sounds uncomfortable in an apparent attempt for commercial success. Rare Groove fans may warm to The Future’s ‘Ain’t No Time Fa Nuthin” (1978), which owes a great deal to Earth, Wind & Fire. Jean Carn’s ‘Don’t Let It Go To Your Head‘ (1976) is a classic record, but (like the McFadden & Whitehead track) is available on other collections.
Jocko’s ‘The Rocketship‘ (1979), according to Rounce, contain “elements of both Electro and New Jack Swing”, and it is a curious sounding track that combines rock and jazz with a scatting nonsense vocal that might be part of Hip Hop’s heritage. Is the track actually any good? Have a listen and decide for yourself! Billy Paul’s ‘It’s Critical‘ (1979) opens with a beautiful piano flourish before launching in to a record very much of the period, with some nice horns and sounding (almost) like something the Mizzell Brothers might have liked. Disc One ends with Edwin Birdson’s ‘Freaky Deaky Sities‘ (sic) (1979), a record screaming for a re-edit to really bring out the strength of the production, which would work particularly in a ‘House’ context.
Disc Two begins with Frantique’s ‘Strut Your Funky Stuff‘ (1979), another obvious attempt to mimic mainstream Disco. Jean Carn’s ‘Was That All It Was‘ (1979) is another classic, and fans of UK DJ Norman Jay (MBE) will have heard this countless times. Other highlights include Edwin Birdsong’s ‘Goldmine‘ (1979) (think of a syncopated Herbie Hancock / The Headhunters with vocal accompaniment!) and the O’Jays ‘Put Our Heads Together‘ (1983).
Τhose expanded sides are much more interesting: most of them are brilliantly produced grooves more funky than disco, full of tricks way before their time, paving the way for the future forms of black music, kind of proto R&B, rap or world fusion funk.