Philadelphia International Records (PIR) was an American record label based in Philadelphia. It was founded in 1971 by the writer-producer duo, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, along with their long time collaborator Thom Bell. It was famous for showcasing the Philadelphia soul music genre (also known as Philly soul) that was founded on the gospel, doo-wop, and soul music of the time. This Philly Soul sound later became a prominent and distinct era within R&B itself. During the 1970s the label released a string of worldwide hits which emphasized lavish orchestral instrumentation, heavy bass, and driving percussion.
Some of their most popular and best selling acts included Patti LaBelle, The O'Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, MFSB, Billy Paul, and Lou Rawls. Between 1971 and the early 80s, the label sold over 170 gold and platinum records ..... N'joy
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Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, the founders of Philadelphia International Records, met in 1964 while they were both playing as session musicians for various labels, including Philadelphia based Cameo-Parkway Records, whose building would later become home to Philadelphia International Records recording studio. In 1965, Huff joined Gamble's band, The Romeos, a popular moniker at the time, by replacing future Philadelphia International Records producer and arranger Thom Bell on piano. Kenny Gamble and The Romeos had seen little success up to that point playing for their label, Arctic Records, and split up soon after.
When the Romeos disbanded, Gamble and Huff went on to start one of the first iterations of Philadelphia International Records (which they named Excel and Gamble) after a visit to Motown Records in Detroit, to scope out the Motown setup. The success of their biggest signing, The Intruders, brought attention to Gamble and Huff, which allowed them to create Neptune Records in 1969. Neptune Records, a more ambitious project for the duo, was financed by Chess Records Group, and allowed them to sign later Philadelphia International Records artists The O'Jays and The Three Degrees. When Chess Records Group's management changed hands in 1969, Neptune Records folded. With the collapse of Neptune Records, Gamble and Huff transferred their signed artists onto a new project, Philadelphia International Records. Looking to attract new black acts to their label, but without the in-house know-how, Columbia Records was convinced to sign an exclusive production contract with Gamble and Huff's new Philadelphia International Records. The label was set up in connection with Mighty Three/Assorted Music, the music publishing company run by Gamble, Huff and another Philadelphia producer, Thom Bell, to showcase their songs.
The label's major hits included: "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" by MFSB, featuring The Three Degrees, 1974 (which was later used as one of the theme tunes for the TV dance-music show Soul Train); "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" by McFadden & Whitehead (writers and producers with the label), 1979; "Back Stabbers" and "Love Train" by The O'Jays, 1972/3; "If You Don't Know Me By Now" and "The Love I Lost" by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, 1972/3; "Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul, 1972; "When Will I See You Again" by The Three Degrees, 1974; and "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" by Lou Rawls, 1976.
Most of the music released by the label was recorded and produced at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, with chief engineer (later studio owner) Joe Tarsia recording many of the sessions. More than 30 resident studio musicians, known collectively as MFSB "Mother Father Sister Brother", were based at this studio and backed up most of these recordings. Some of these musicians also acted as arrangers, writers or producers for Philadelphia International as well as for other labels recording in the city. They included Bobby Martin, Norman Harris, Thom Bell, Ronnie Baker, Vince Montana and later, Jack Faith and John Usry.
Gamble and Huff worked as independent producers with a series of artists in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Jerry Butler, Wilson Pickett and Dusty Springfield. They also produced The Jacksons' first two albums for Epic/CBS after the group had left Motown in 1976. The first, titled The Jacksons featured the platinum-selling single "Enjoy Yourself", and a second album, Goin' Places followed in 1977. Although on CBS subsidiary Epic, both albums and the singles also carried a Philadelphia International logo.
In 1965, Gamble and Huff started an independent label, Excel Records. It was soon renamed Gamble Records and in 1972, was folded into Philadelphia International as a subsidiary. In 1974, the subsidiary's name was changed to TSOP Records, from the aforementioned 1974 hit single, "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)". Artists for Excel/Gamble/TSOP included Dee Dee Sharp, and Archie Bell & the Drells. Later signings to the Philly International roster in the 1980s and 1990s, included Patti Labelle, The Stylistics, Phyllis Hyman, and The Dells.
Between 1973 and 1975, Gamble and Huff also distributed a boutique label called Golden Fleece, set up by musicians Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker and Earl Young, which released the second album by The Trammps. G & H also had a short-lived subsidiary called Thunder Records. Created by Thom Bell, it only had two singles from Derek & Cyndi (You Bring Out the Best in Me/I'll Do the Impossible for You) who were produced by Bell, and Fatback Band member Michael Walker whose single (I Got the Notion, You Got the Motion) was produced by The Spinners' member Philippe Wynne.
By the mid 1980s, Philadelphia International Records ended their distribution deal with Columbia, who they had worked with since their inception. The label was soon after picked up by Capitol/EMI records. They continued to make hits, including Shirley Jones' "Do You Get Enough Love," but their most successful years were behind them. Philadelphia International now largely concentrates on licensing its music catalog worldwide and has issued few new recordings since the mid-80s, when Gamble and Huff wound down their studio work together.
In 1989, Gamble and Huff were awarded their first Grammy Award. Simply Red's cover of "If You Don't Know Me By Now," written by Gamble and Huff, won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song. 10 years later in 1999, Gamble and Huff were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Grammy from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. In 2008, the duo were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the non-performer category, joining their band the O'Jays who were inducted in 2005.
In August 2011, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the company, Philadelphia International Records launched TSOP Soul Radio, an online radio station that allows fans from all around the world the chance to tune in and listen to music and interviews from the legendary Gamble and Huff catalog. Gamble and Huff have written over 3000 songs throughout their careers, making them two of the most efficient and productive songwriters of all time. They continue to write songs together from their homes in South Philadelphia.
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As disco rose to prominence in the 1970s, MFSB played a crucial role in its development by contrasting earthy R&B rhythms with the cosmopolitan sleekness of an orchestra. By 1978, their once-innovative sound had become the status quo, and this is proven by Gamble Huff Orchestra; while never anything less than professional, this album lacks the grit and infectious hooks of MFSB's earlier outings. The band slickly moves through its paces, and the orchestral touches sound as lovely as ever, but the key elements of inspiration and personality are missing. For proof, check out the album's pair of cover versions: "Use ta Be My Guy" and "Wishing on a Star" sound as professional as any disco band of the day, but are unfortunately also completely devoid of personality. Also, Gamble Huff Orchestra finds MFSB's sound leaning more towards easy listening than R&B, a prime example being the album closer "Redwood Beach," a song that has the elegance of MFSB (tasteful strings, tinkling piano) without any of the soulfulness or R&B content. These complaints aside, the album does contain some worthwhile moments: "Dance With Me Tonight" blends a potent bass-oriented groove with a sprightly string arrangement, and "Is It Something I Said" approaches the punch of early hits with its one-two punch of a forceful horn arrangement and a churning bass groove. However, these strong moments can't overcome the blandness that characterizes Gamble Huff Orchestra. Ultimately, this professional but uninspired album can only be recommended to hardcore MFSB fanatics.
MFSB - Gamble Huff Orchestra (flac 260mb)
01 Dance With Me Tonight 5:08
02 To Be In Love 5:47
03 Let's Party Down 5:56
04 Wishing On A Star 5:39
05 Use Ta Be My Guy 5:15
06 The Way I Feel Today 4:35
07 Is It Something I Said 3:58
08 Redwood Beach 4:13
MFSB - Gamble Huff Orchestra (ogg 97mb)
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By 1980, 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 like Life on Mars, to take the reins. The result was the stylish and jazzy Mysteries of the World. While this album is as mellow as the rest of the latter-period MFSB recordings, it never forgets the group's soul music underpinnings. For example, "Manhattan Skyline" fortifies its easygoing melody with a percolating, hard thumping bassline and some well timed blasts of horns. "Mysteries of the World" also keeps the new, softer style of MFSB from drifting into easy listening blandness by playing up the jazz underpinnings of the group's sound. For proof, look no further than the title track, which wraps an array of exploratory keyboard riffs around a busy bassline. Elsewhere, the album adds surprising little twists to keep things fresh: "Old San Juan" builds its mellow soul groove around an atypical flamenco guitar hook, and "In the Shadow" works an otherworldly synthesizer line into its bossa nova groove. The end result is an album that manages to bring a new freshness to their sound without completely severing ties with its old style. Mysteries of the World may be a little too soft and jazzy for funk fans accustomed to the likes of "Love Is the Message" and "T.S.O.P.," but it remains a fine album of jazz-inflected instrumentals that is likely to please anyone who likes soul music at its most elegant.
MFSB - Mysteries Of The World (flac 242mb)
01 Manhattan Skyline 4:27
02 Mysteries Of The World 5:27
03 Tell Me Why 3:57
04 Metamorphosis 5:16
05 Fortune Teller 6:08
06 Old San Juan 4:27
07 Thank You Miss Scott 4:14
08 In The Shadow 3:37
MFSB - Mysteries Of The World (ogg 89mb)
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Soul Jazz's releases tend to be groove-oriented, putting a premium on funky, rhythmic grooves -- all the better to sample you with, my dear. Consequently, their loving reissues of obscurities are aimed at third- or fourth-generation listeners mining these recordings for sounds, not people who were there at the time, or collectors looking for great forgotten songs and singles. That's not to discount the material on their recordings, for record collectors, compilations like Philadelphia Roots are interesting, since they present largely unknown cuts from a familiar style. Are there any lost treasures? Not really, nothing here deserved to be as well-known as the best and biggest Philly soul singles, but they do have the sound, and they often have the groove, which is why anybody would buy this record -- it sounds like a famous sound, only with unknown songs and grooves, some of which are pretty engaging. Not all of it, though, and it's only for specialists -- but for those specialists, this is a collection that will not disappoint. (And if you find this disappointing, well, you've realized that you're not a specialist.)
Various - Philadelphia Roots (flac 184mb)
01 People's Choice - I Likes To Do It 3:00
02 Cliff Nobles & Co - The Horse 2:44
03 The Fantastic Johnny C. - Waitin' For The Rain 3:39
04 Brothers Of Hope - I'm Gonna Make You Love Me 2:45
05 Brenda & The Tabulations - California Soul 2:32
06 Corner Boys And Friends - Take It Easy Soul Brother 2:16
07 People's Choice - Let Me Do My Things 2:38
08 Brenda & The Tabulations - Hey Boy 1:52
09 Bunny Sigler - Great Big Liar 2:36
10 Alfreda Brockington - Your Love Has Got Me Chained And Bound 2:34
11 Panic Buttons - O Wow 2:30
12 John Ellison - Lost The Will To Live 3:01
13 The Philly Sound - Waitin' For The Rain 3:32
14 Bunny And Cindy - Sure Didn't Take Long 2:20
15 People's Choice - Big Ladies Man 2:33
16 Soul Brothers Six - You Gotta Come A Little Closer 2:44
17 Music Makers - United 2:30
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Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia, released by Sony Legacy in 2008, provided an excellent and deep overview of the Philadelphia International catalog, as well as Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff's outside work as songwriters and producers. The 40th Anniversary Box Set, released in 2012 by the U.K. label Harmless, sticks to PIR but goes ten discs deep. Naturally, there is a significant amount of overlap; 29 of the 71 songs featured on Love Train, including every big PIR single, appear here. In addition to featuring all the popular classics -- "Me and Mrs. Jones," "Wake Up Everybody," "T.S.O.P.," "Love Is the Message," "Love Train," "Back Stabbers," "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," "Only You," and on and on -- the box showcases the label's stylistic breadth. There was neither one Philly sound nor one PIR sound. Picking five songs at random from five different artists will likely demonstrate the label's range from perfectly shaped soul-pop to progressive and experimental rhythm & blues, as well as its relevance beyond the '70s. Billy Paul's rollicking and explosive take on "Compared to What" (1971), Yellow Sunshine's eponymous Santana/War-like funk-rock hybrid "Yellow Sunshine" (1973), Dexter Wansel's jazz-funk floor burner "Life on Mars" (1976), the Jones Girls' transportive "Nights Over Egypt" (1981), and Phyllis Hyman's plush "Ain't You Had Enough Love" (1986) have their own placement as significant events in the PIR time line. (One minor quibble, possibly explained by a licensing issue: Edwin Birdsong's "Cola Bottle Baby" or "Phiss-Phizz" should be here.) This is a slick black box, albeit one prone to dulled and whitened corners, with a thick booklet stuffed with photos, liner notes, and detailed track information. There are meticulous singles and albums discographies, too. It's a lavish treat for anyone with serious interest in the label, and it should manage to stun hardcore PIR fans as well. No one has done such a loving job with the entirety of the label's catalog.
Philadelphia International Records - 40th Ann. 01 (flac 496mb)
01 MFSB - Zack's Fanfare #2 1:04
02 MFSB - K-Jee 4:12
03 MFSB Feat. The Three Degrees - T.S.O.P. (The Sound Of Philadelphia) 3:17
04 The O'Jays - Message In Our Music 3:21
05 MFSB - Sexy 3:10
06 Archie Bell & The Drells - Let's Groove Pt.1 3:03
07 The O'Jays Back Stabbers 3:03
08 Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes - The Love I Lost 3:33
09 The Three Degrees - When Will I See You Again 2:58
10 The O'Jays - I Love Music 6:52
11 The Intruders - I'll Always Love My Mama 2:41
12 The Three Degrees - Year Of Decision 2:38
13 Archie Bell & The Drells - The Soul City Walk 3:09
14 Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes - Bad Luck 6:24
15 People's Choice - Do It Any Way You Wanna 3:15
16 Instant Funk - Philly Jump 5:07
17 The Three Degrees - Take Good Care Of Yourself 3:03
18 MFSB - Love Is The Message 6:36
19 The Jacksons - Show You The Way To Go 3:28
20 The O'Jays - Darlin' Darlin' Baby 4:19
Philadelphia International Records - 40th Ann. 01 (ogg 178mb)
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