Feb 18, 2017

RhoDeo 1707 Grooves


Today's artists was a pool of more than thirty studio musicians based at Philadelphia’s famed Sigma Sound Studios. They worked closely with the production team of Gamble and Huff and producer/arranger Thom Bell, and backed up such groups as Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, The O'Jays, The Stylistics, The Spinners, Wilson Pickett, and Billy Paul. In 1972, they began recording as a named act for the Philadelphia International label. "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" also known as the Soul Train theme was their first and most successful single.   ..... N'joy

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Best known for recording the hit theme to Soul Train, MFSB were the pre-eminent instrumental outfit of Philadelphia soul, backing numerous Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff productions while recording regularly on their own throughout the '70s. The group's name stood for Mother Father Sister Brother, and prior to their formation in 1971 as the house band at Gamble and Huff's Sigma Sound studios, some of the core personnel had been working together as early as 1968. Guitarists Norman Harris and Bobby Eli, bassist Ronnie Baker, and drummer Earl Young had an uncredited dance hit with "The Horse," the instrumental flip side of singer Cliff Nobles' "Love Is All Right." As the Horse dance craze swept Philadelphia, the group also backed singers the Fantastic Johnny C and (as the James Boys) Jesse James, while also issuing singles as the Music Makers and Family.

With the rise of the lush, orchestrated Philly soul sound at the dawn of the '70s, business was booming at Gamble and Huff's Philadelphia International, and there was plenty of session work to be had. Harris, Eli, Baker, and Young formed an important part of the label's regular studio group; other prominent musicians included guitarists Roland Chambers and James Herb Smith, bassist Larry Moore, drummers/percussionists Karl Chambers, Miguel Fuentes, Quinton Joseph, and Larry Washington, saxophonist Zach Zachary, organist/keyboardist Lenny Pakula, and vibraphonist Vince Montana, plus a rotating cast of strings, horns, and other personnel that depended on availability and were often directed by Don Renaldo. MFSB provided backing on a bevy of Philadelphia International hits, most prominently for the O'Jays and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, as well as other Philly soulsters like the Stylistics and the Spinners. They began cutting their own sessions in 1973, releasing a self-titled debut full of extended, sometimes jazzy soul grooves.

Later in 1973, TV host Don Cornelius approached Gamble about writing an original theme for his newly nationally syndicated dance show Soul Train. Gamble convened MFSB in the studio with arranger Bobby Martin and supporting vocal group the Three Degrees, and the theme song that grew out of the session proved hugely popular when it debuted on the show. Gamble pushed Cornelius to release it as a single, and when it finally appeared in early 1974 under the title "T.S.O.P." ("The Sound of Philadelphia"), it rocketed to the top of both the pop and R&B charts; it also won a Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental. The accompanying MFSB album, Love Is the Message, was a gold-selling Top Ten hit (and a number one R&B album); moreover, the title track became an underground hit on the New York disco scene several years later. The group's next album, 1975's Universal Love, produced another R&B hit in "T.L.C. (Tender Lovin' Care)," and moved MFSB further into the emerging disco movement with tracks like "Sexy" and "Let's Go Disco."

MFSB recorded five more albums for Philadelphia International over the remainder of the '70s, becoming a full-fledged disco group when they began working heavily with arranger/producer Dexter Wansel in 1978. The previous year, they contributed a cover of the Nite-Liters' "K-Jee" to the mammoth-selling Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, but the late '70s brought mostly diminished commercial returns. The title track of MFSB's final album, 1980's Mysteries of the World, was a hit in the U.K., but with the heyday of both Philly soul and disco slipping away, the group disbanded in 1981.

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MFSB's debut album was more of a soul-funk mix than the kind of disco for which the band would become known with their "T.S.O.P." hit. There's less of a thumping rhythm and a greater inclination to lengthy, occasionally jazzy instrumental grooves, as on the seven-minute cover of "Freddie's Dead" that opens the set. The group also made a fair instrumental workout of Sly Stone's "Family Affair," and put the flute in the lead for much of the arrangement of "Back Stabbers." It's pretty well-crafted instrumental soul that's not quite super-slick, though your attention might eventually wander if you're not using it as dance fodder. The lush pop inclinations that would form part of the bed of their later work (both as MFSB and backing numerous Philly soul artists) come more to the fore on some other tracks, particularly the grandiose "Poinciana," though even that breaks up the soaring violins with some tasty jazz-blues piano and guitar. The 2002 CD reissue on Epic/Legacy adds a live version of "T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)" (which is not, incidentally, otherwise represented on the album), with the Three Degrees on vocals.

MFSB - MFSB    (flac  233mb)

01 Freddie's Dead 7:13
02 Family Affair 4:23
03 Something For Nothing 3:00
04 Back Stabbers 6:32
05 Lay In Low 3:45
06 Poinciana 5:54
07 T.S.O.P. (The Sound Of Philadelphia) (Live) 3:53

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Most prominently featuring "Love Is the Message" and "T.S.O.P.," this 1975 album by MFSB serves as a landmark LP for Philadelphia's mid-'70s soul movement. While "T.S.O.P." became a giant hit for the group at the time of its release, forever being associated with the television show Soul Train, "Love Is the Message" would go on to be an enormous underground hit in New York's late-'70s disco scene, championed by influential DJs such as Larry Levan (becoming an anthem at Levan's Paradise Garage). In addition, the album also features the orchestra's take on "Touch Me in the Morning," a song popularized by Diana Ross that was another proto-disco classic. The other tracks here -- "Cheaper to Keep Her," "My One and Only Love," and "Bitter Sweet" -- are also wonderful tracks exemplifying the group's uplifting, massive sound but aren't nearly as timeless as the three aforementioned songs. Sony's Love Is the Message: The Best of MFSB is still the best and most readily available showcase for this group's influential accomplishments as a proto-disco group, while this album is arguably their strongest non-compilation release and one of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's shining moments.

MFSB - Love Is The Message   (flac  360mb)

01 Zack's Fanfare 0:23
02 Love Is The Message 6:36
03 Cheaper To Keep Her 6:53
04 My One And Only Love 4:33
05 TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) 3:43
06 Zack's Fanfare (I Hear Music) 0:50
07 Touch Me In The Morning 6:22
08 Bitter Sweet 5:29
09 Love Is The Message (Single Version) 2:38
10 TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) (A Tom Moulton Mix) 5:44
11 Love Is The Message (A Tom Moulton Mix) 11:24

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MFSB was the legendary multicultural house band for the label Philadelphia International. Debuting as an act in 1973, the band released seminal early-disco tracks like "TSOP," "Love Is the Message," and the ballad "Something For Nothing." Although this effort didn't reach the heights of its predecessor, Love Is the Message, Universal Love has the band exhibiting even more skill as a hitmaking enterprise. As with the earlier hits, seven out of the eight tracks on Universal Love were arranged by Bobby Martin, who always got a classic sound out of any Philly production. The tracks "Sexy" and "T.L.C. (Tender Lovin' Care)" both effortlessly employ intonations of big band that came from the horn charts and Zach Zachery's tenor sax solos. At this point the gloss and rhythm style of the MFSB players, primarily the sound of bassist Ron Baker and drummer Earl Young, helped to initiate disco. Although they were no doubt influential, the songs "MFSB" and the hard-driving "Let's Go Disco" have an inimitable production. MFSB was no doubt known as a dance outfit, but this effort also displays its skill with ballads. The last track, the reflective "My Mood," with a vibes solo from Vince Montana, all but sums up what made this particular incarnation of the band arguably the best. Although it often doesn't make the list of Philadelphia International classics, Universal Love perfectly captures the grace of MFSB and the Philly sound.

MFSB - Universal Love   (flac 248mb)

01 Sexy 3:33
02 MFSB 3:42
03 Human Machine 3:52
04 Love Has No Time Or Place 6:18
05 T.L.C. (Tender Lovin' Care) 3:41
06 Let's Go Disco 4:14
07 K-Jee 4:15
08 My Mood 4:10

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While they didn't exactly set the world on fire, they DID leave the listener with no doubt as to just how talented the musicians that made up MFSB were and that they could tackle everything from Disco to Funk to Soul to MOR-Pop with grace, class and musical virtuosity. This album captures the magic of the Philadelphia Soul sound at a time when it had truly reached its apex.

MFSB - Philadelphia Freedom  (flac 288mb)

01 Zach's Fanfare #2 1:03
02 Get Down With The Philly Sound 4:29
03 Philadelphia Freedom 6:00
04 South Philly 4:28
05 Ferry Avenue 4:01
06 Interlude 1 0:52
07 When Your Love Is Gone 4:11
08 Morning Tears 5:15
09 Brothers And Sisters 3:50
00 Smile Happy 5:52
10 The Zip 3:51

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1 comment:

Chris said...

Please Rho, re-up. Thanks!