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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The O'Jays were formed in 1958 in Canton, OH, where all five original members -- Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bill Isles, and Bobby Massey -- attended McKinley High School. As the Mascots they made their recording debut in 1961 with the single "Miracles". It earned them a fan in the influential Cleveland DJ Eddie O'Jay, who gave them some airplay and career advice; in turn, the group renamed itself the O'Jays in 1963. Isles left the group in 1965 and was not replaced, leaving them a quartet; late in the year, they released their first-ever album, Comin' Through. In 1967, the O'Jays landed their first Top Ten single on the R&B charts, "I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)." Discouraged by the difficulty of following that success, the group members considered throwing in the towel until they met Gamble & Huff -- then working as a production team for the Neptune label -- in 1968. They recorded several successful R&B singles together; however, Neptune folded in 1971, leaving the O'Jays in limbo, and Massey decided to exit the group.
Fortunately, Gamble & Huff formed their own label, Philadelphia International, and made the O'Jays -- now a trio -- one of their first signings. The O'Jays' label debut, Back Stabbers, released in 1972, became a classic landmark of Philly soul, and finally made them stars; the paranoid title track hit the pop Top Five, and the utopian "Love Train" went all the way to number one. It was the beginning of a remarkable run that produced nearly 30 chart singles over the course of the '70s, plus a series of best-selling albums and a bevy of number one hits on the R&B charts. Sadly, William Powell was diagnosed with cancer that year, and although he continued to record with the group for a time (appearing on 1976's Message in Our Music), he was forced to retire from live performing, and passed away on May 26, 1977.
Powell's replacement was Sammy Strain, a 12-year veteran of Little Anthony & the Imperials. The O'Jays regrouped on the albums Travelin' at the Speed of Thought (1977) and So Full of Love (1978), the latter of which produced their final Top Five pop hit, "Use ta Be My Girl." Released in 1979, Identify Yourself began to show signs of wear and tear in the group's successful formula, and often consciously attempted to follow disco trends. Although it sold respectably, it marked the beginning of a decline in the O'Jays' commercial fortunes.
This music takes you straight back to the 70's, where music used to be mellow, and all soul soothing, the essential music of the O'Jays is a must for everyone who loves R&B. Eddie Levert has an outstanding voice, and was only topped by his son, the late Gerald LeVert, who unfortunately moved on. This music is inspirational on a Sunday, seductive on a Saturday night, and even works during the week. This collection offers the highlights of their classic ‘70s hits for Philadelphia International. Like other purveyors of Philly Soul, the trio harmonized impeccably over well-tailored strings and rhythm tracks. What set them apart was the political content of their songs — when lead vocalist Eddie Levert sang about betrayal in “Back Stabbers” or raw need in “For the Love of Money,” he challenged his audience to think as well as groove. Tracks like “Survival” and “Give the People What They Want” are insistent demands for justice amidst the deceptions of the Nixon Era. The flip side to these angry sentiments is offered in “Love Train” and “Put Your Hands Together.” The O’Jays are masterful at balladry as well, melting hearts effortlessly in “Use Ta Be My Girl” and the gospel-rooted “Stairway to Heaven.” Whatever the song, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s production stays crisp and inventive, whether the mood is spiteful (“992 Arguments”) or celebratory (“Message in Our Music”). The Essential O’Jays is just that: mandatory listening for anyone with a taste for soul.
O'Jays - The Essential 1 (flac 469mb)
01 Lonely Drifter 2:25
02 Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette) 2:45
03 Stand In For Love (Live Version) 3:44
04 I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today) 3:04
05 There's Someone (Waiting Back Home) 2:30
06 One Night Affair 2:19
07 Deeper (In Love With You) 2:41
08 Back Stabbers 3:05
09 992 Arguments 2:22
10 Love Train 2:59
11 Time To Get Down 2:54
12 Put Your Hands Together 4:08
13 Sunshine (Part 1) 3:45
14 You Got Your Hooks In Me 5:34
15 Now That We Found Love 4:42
16 For The Love Of Money 7:21
17 Give The People What They Want 4:12
18 Survival 3:44
19 Let Me Make Love To You 3:40
20 I Love Music 6:50
O'Jays - The Essential 1 (ogg 176mb)
O'Jays - The Essential 2 (flac 486mb)
01 Livin' For The Weekend 6:38
02 Stairway To Heaven 6:17
03 Family Reunion 6:57
04 Ship Ahoy (2008 Single Version) 4:15
05 Message In Our Music 6:05
06 Darlin' Darlin' Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love) 4:12
07 The Big Gangster 3:18
08 Use Ta Be My Girl 3:20
09 Brandy (I Really Miss You) 4:13
10 Cry Together 5:35
11 Forever Mine 6:08
12 Sing A Happy Song 5:02
13 Lovin' You 5:20
14 Wind Beneath My Wings 5:39
15 Emotionally Yours (Gospel Version) 5:38
O'Jays - The Essential 2 (ogg 185mb)
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Harold Melvin was one of the driving forces behind Philadelphia soul, leading his group the Blue Notes to the top of the charts during their stint on Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia International label. Despite Melvin's billing out front, the Blue Notes' focal point was lead singer and onetime drummer Teddy Pendergrass, whose surging baritone graced the Blue Notes' recordings during their glory years of 1972-1975 and gave them a truly distinctive sound. Their output ranged from sweeping, extended proto-disco dance tracks to silky, smoldering ballads, all wrapped up in Gamble and Huff's lushly orchestrated production. When Pendergrass left for a solo career, Melvin & the Blue Notes' commercial fortunes largely reverted to the pre-Pendergrass days (of which there were quite a few), although they did continue to record for a time. They never really disbanded, and by the time Melvin passed away in 1997, he'd been leading the Blue Notes for over four decades.
A fantastic debut by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes that wasn't meant to be. Most of these songs, including "If You Don't Know Me By Now," were originally written for the Dells, but the deal fell through. Harold Melvin got the opportunity because his ex-drummer Teddy Pendergrass had a voice similar to Dells lead singer Marvin Junior. The way Pendergrass tore into these songs, nobody remotely suspected that these love dramas were written for anybody but Teddy. He sounds like he's about to lose it when he sings "I Miss You" as he pleads with his ex-love about how he has changed. The poignant "If You Don't Know Me By Now" sold a million for the Blue Notes and did even better years later for Simply Red. "Be For Real" is one of the finest recorded pieces in R&B history; it's not a song, it's a pleader where a guy admonishes his woman for looking down on people. They dusted off "Let Me Into Your World" for the Blue Notes; this one was not written for the Dells, as Gamble & Huff had recorded it a few years earlier with the O'Jays for Neptune Records. A hard-hitting package that established Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes as a force to be reckoned with.
Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes - I Miss You (flac 342mb)
01 I Miss You 8:28
02 Ebony Woman 3:41
03 Yesterday I Had The Blues 7:25
04 If You Don't Know Me By Now 3:27
05 Be For Real 4:31
06 Let Me Into Your World 2:40
07 Let It Be You 3:33
08 I Miss You (Part I - Single Version) 3:20
09 Yesterday I Had The Blues (Single Version) 3:54
10 Be For Real (Single Version) 3:24
11 If You Don't Know Me By Now (Live In San Francisco, 1973) 4:08
Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes - I Miss You (ogg 120mb)
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Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' second album found the group continuing to ride its early peak, featuring the hit "The Love I Lost" (in a six-minute version longer than the one that made the pop Top Ten) and an additional Top Ten R&B hit in "Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Take Your Love Back)." The album and its "The Love I Lost" single also became milestones for Gamble & Huff productions and Philadelphia soul in general for introducing the dance groove that became so integral to disco. But while the two hits and "Is There a Place for Me" were forceful uptempo tracks, they were balanced by a good number of effective ballads, the only misstep (and a most curious one) being the decision to lead off the album with a cover of "Cabaret." The 2010 CD reissue adds the "Pt. 1" single versions of "The Love I Lost" and "I'm Weak for You" as bonus tracks, and, more importantly, very interesting liner notes spotlighting detailed recollections by MFSB guitarist Bobby Eli.
Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes - Black and Blue (flac 311mb)
01 Cabaret 1:45
02 The Love I Lost 6:26
03 It All Depends On You 4:52
04 Concentrate On Me 3:13
05 Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Take Your Love Back) 3:32
06 Is There A Place For Me 7:00
07 I'm Weak For You 6:54
08 I'm Coming Home Tomorrow 6:16
09 The Love I Lost (Part I - Single Version) 3:35
10 I'm Weak For You (Part I - Single Version) 3:23
Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes - Black and Blue (ogg 107mb)
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