DIMITRI FROM PARIS-GET DOWN WITH THE PHILLY SOUND.

DIMITRI FROM PARIS-GET DOWN WITH THE PHILLY SOUND.

For anyone who like me who is a huge fan of Philadelphia International Records, 2012 is going to be year to enjoy. A number of compilations, box sets and live albums are being released to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff founding Philadelphia International Records in 1971. The first album released by Gamble and Huff’s new label was Billy Paul’s debut album Going East in October 1971. In 1972, forty years ago, Philadelphia International Records released a trio of stunning albums, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes I Miss You, The O’Jays Back Stabbers and Billy Paul’s second album 360 Degrees of Billy Paul. Quickly, Philadelphia International Records became one of the most important and influential record labels in music, giving birth to the Philly Sound. Since then, many people, myself included, have fallen in love with the Philly Sound. For me, it’s been a lifelong love affair, that’s seen me buy countless albums, box sets and compilations. With so many albums and compilations to choose from, I’ve written a number of articles on the best albums and compilations telling you about the best ones available. This is the latest installment of this series, where I’ll tell you about another great Philly Sound compilation, but one with a twist, Get Down With the Philly Sound compiled by Dimitri From Paris, a double album released on BBE Music in May 2010.

Although the album is entitled Get Down With the Philly Sound, it’s important to mention that not all the tracks on the album were released on the Philadelphia International Records label. The reason for this is quite simple. When Dimitri From Paris was growing up, like so many people, he loved disco music and noticed that he could hear a similar sound to Gamble and Huff’s Philly Sound on other labels. Back then, twelve inch singles and even some albums, didn’t tell you who played on a track or album. What Dimitri and probably many people didn’t realize, is that the same musicians that played on Philadelphia International Records, also played on tracks on labels like Salsoul, Motown, SAM and Atlantic Records. This included musicians like the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section who played on so many of the Philly Sound tracks. Bassist Ronnie Baker, guitarist Norman Harris and drummer Earl Young were the legendary rhythm section that played on albums by The O’Jays, Billy Paul, The Detroit Spinners and Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes to name but a few. They were joined by among others, guitarist Bobby Eli, organist Lenny Pakula, Don Renaldo’s string and horn section and vibes player Vince Montana Jr. Not only did these musicians play on Philadelphia International Records recordings as M.F.S.B. but recorded a number of successful albums. Later, they left Philadelphia International Records to become the Salsoul Orchestra, where they played on some of the greatest records of the disco era. This is why the same unique sound kept being heard by Dimitri From Paris on the twelve inch singles he was listening to. So, the music on Get Down With the Philly Sound isn’t all from Philadelphia International Records, but is from several labels. However, what tracks feature on Get Down With the Philly Sound? That’s what I’ll now tell you.

DISC ONE.

On Disco One of Get Down With the Philly there are six tracks from the Philadelphia International label, with Teddy Pendergrass featuring on four of them. Two of the tracks are from his 1977 debut album Teddy Pendergrass, while the other three come from his time as lead singer with Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. The other track is from The Jacksons, who signed to Philadelphia International after Michael became a solo artist. Of the other seven tracks, there’s a real Philadelphia International connection, with both Earl Young and Norman Harris of M.F.S.B. members of The Trammps. Their classic track The Night the Lights Went Out features on Get Down With the Philly Sound. Next, I’ll tell you about the tracks that feature on Disc One, starting with the man who features five times, Teddy Pendergrass.

On Get Down With the Philly Sound Teddy Pendergrass opens the album and features on four of the tracks. Teddy’s first contribution is You Can’t Hide From Yourself, from his debut solo album Teddy Pendergrass, released in June 1977. It reached number seventeen in the US Billboard 200 and number five in the US R&B Charts resulting in the album being certified platinum. You Can’t Hide From Yourself was co-written by Gamble and Huff and released as a single in 1977, reaching number seven in the US Dance Charts. It’s an uptempo track, laden with energy and drama, featuring swirling strings, blazing horns and punchy drums. Add to that Teddy’s joyous, sometimes vamping vocal accompanied by female backing vocalists and you realize that this track is more than a little special. Why it didn’t do better on it’s release as a single has always puzzled me. 

Another track from Teddy’s debut album is The More I Get, The More I Want. This is very different sounding track to You Can’t Hide From Yourself, but like that track, is perfectly suited for the dance-floor. Not only that, but it has a proto-house sound, allowing listeners to see how the Philly Sound and disco music directly influenced house music. It’s a slightly quicker track, at 125 beats per minute with a stunning arrangement where M.F.S.B. demonstrate their importance contributing a funk drenched bass, rasping horns, percussion, chiming guitars and sweeping strings. M.F.S.B. accompany Teddy as he delivers the vocal with a combination of charisma, power and passion. This results in a catchy, joyous and ultimately timeless track, one that demonstrates just how talented Teddy Pendergrass was as a singer. 

Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes contribute a trio of tracks to Get Down With the Philly Sound. These tracks were recorded during their classic years, when Teddy Pendergrass was lead singer. The first of these is Bad Luck from their 1975 album To Be True, released in February 1975, when the album reached number twenty-six in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts, giving the group their first US gold disc. Bad Luck was the second single released from the album, reaching number fifteen in the US Billboard 100, number four in the US R&B Charts and number one in the US Dance Charts. 

Tell the World How I Feel About Cha is an interesting choice from Wake Up Everybody, as most compilers tend to overlook this track when choosing tracks from Wake Up Everybody. So to see Tell the World How I Feel About Cha feature on this compilation makes a nice change. When Wake Up Everybody was released in November 1975, by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes the album reached number nine in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts, Tell the World How I Feel About Cha was the second single taken from the album reaching number ninety-four in the US Billboard 100, number seven in the US R&B Charts and number four in the US Dance Charts. To me, this has always been a track that’s been underrated and overlooked by compilers, to well done to Dimitri for including this classic track here. This is a joyful, feel-good track, one that melodic and dramatic. Here, Teddy is transformed into soul man number one, as he delivers the track with combination of emotion, passion and power, while the rest of the group contribute beautiful, uplifting harmonies. The arrangement is driven along by the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, while strings sweep and swirl and blazing horns punctuate the track. Together with Teddy’s impassioned vocal, this is a stunning track from Wake Up Everybody, the final album to feature Teddy’s vocals.

Of the trio of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ tracks, my favorite is The Love I Lost from their Black and Blue album released in September 1973, reaching number fifty-seven in the US Billboard 200 and number five in the US R&B Charts. On The Love I Lost’s release as a single, it reached number seven in the US Billboard 100 and number one in the US R&B Charts. The song was originally meant to be a ballad, but was speeded up, with Teddy asked to deliver the track with a swagger. This he does with aplomb, delivering the track with a mixture of drama, sadness and regret while rest of the group contribute sweet, tight harmonies. M.F.S.B. play their part in the song’s success, with the Baker, Harris Young rhythm section combining with Lenny Pakula’s organ playing, while the lushest of strings and blazing horns both play important roles in this stunning arrangement. Like the other tracks on Black and Blue, it’s Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes at their very best. Quite simply, this is one of the highlights of Get Down With the Philly Sound. 

After The Jacksons left Motown, they signed to Philadelphia International, where they worked with Gamble and Huff. On Get Down With the Philly Sound, Dimitri includes a track, written, arranged and produced by Dexter Wansell, Living Together. This was from their tenth studio album The Jacksons released in November 1976. It reached number thirty-six in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the US R&B Charts. Amazingly, it was the group’s first gold album, although they’d previously sold over ten million albums when contracted to Motown. Living Together was never released as a single, but is a track that’s perfect for any dance-floor. With a tempo of 132 beats per minute, and all swirling strings, braying horns, flourishes of piano and a vocal from Jackie Jackson. Later, the vocal changes hands, each member of the group getting their chance to take centre-stage.Of course, there’s some subtle, sweet harmonies from the rest of the group, which when added to the string laden arrangement is a potent combination. Another thing that makes this such a great track are Dexter’s lyrics about peace and everyone living together peacefully. 

Although not a Philadelphia International group, The Trammps have an important connection to the label, with Earl Young and Norman Harris of M.F.S.B. both members of the group. With so many great tracks to choose from, Dimitri chooses one of my personal favorites, The Night the Lights Went Out. This was a song about the power cuts that affected New York in July 1977, and was from their 1977 album Trammps III. Produced by Ronnie Baker, Norman Harris and Earl Young, this is another example of the Philadelphia International connection. On its release, the single reached number eighty in the US R&B Charts, while the album reached number forty-six in the US Billboard 200 and number sixteen in the US R&B Charts. It’s a track with a dramatic opening, the rhythm section, punchy, blazing horns and grand, sweeping strings. After that, a dramatic, powerful vocal enters, while the rhythm section drives the stirring, punchy track along, while the horns blaze and strings swirl frantically. Similar to the power cuts that swept New York in July 1977,  The Night the Lights Went Out is a dramatic track, and unlike that night, it’s bristling with energy.

Two other tracks on Get Down With the Philly Sound, a trio of tracks deserve mention. The first is the title track Night and Day from John Davis and The Monster Orchestra’s 1976 album Night and Day. Released on the SAM label, it’s a track that has been influenced by the Philly Sound, featuring a funk drenched rhythm section, grand and lush strings and blazing horns that punctuate the track. They give way to some sweet and beautiful female vocals, that like the percussion and keyboards, drift in and out this disco track. This an absolutely irresistible track, laden with hooks and features a great arrangement from John Davis.

It’s fitting that my final choice from Disc One is of Get Down With the Philly Sound is a track by TJM. TJM or to give him his proper title Tom Jerome Moulton is a man who many DJs owe a debt of gratitude to, for he invented the remixer, and is known as the godfather of the remix. Back in 1979, Tom released an album TJM. With Arthur Baker one of the songwriters, and a number of musicians playing on the album, including some of M.F.S.B. Mk 2 and The Brotherhood contributing vocals what started as a number of unfinished tracks written by Arthur Baker became an album. Released on Casablanca Records, the album included I Don’t Need No Music. It’s a percussive heavy introduction that gives way to the rhythm section, and piano before a vocal soars in. After that, the strings enter dramatically as the song unfolds, reaching 130 beats per minute. What follows is a classic slice of disco  from the godfather of the remix. Like the John Davis’ track, this too has been heavily influenced by the Philly Sound. Although the track is over thirty years old, it still has a timeless and contemporary sound.

Having spent some time reviewing Disc One of Get Down With the Philly Sound, I’ve come to the conclusion that these are thirteen quality disco tracks either from some of the finest proponents of the Philly Sound or artists influenced by the Philly Sound. Among the artists who recorded on Philadelphia International Records and worked with Gamble and Huff were Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes and The Jacksons. During their spell on Philadelphia International Records each of these groups enjoyed huge commercial success, helped greatly by the quality of songwriters, musicians, arrangers and producers working at the label. Of the artists influenced by the Philly Sound, you can hear that influence shine through on each of the other seven tracks, but is best demonstrated on tracks from The Trammps, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra and TJM. This trio of tracks especially, almost paid homage to the Philly Sound, but with a disco beat. Many of these tracks are timeless, but how will Dimitri from Paris deal with them on Disc Two where he reedits and blends them?

DISC TWO.

Disc Two of Get Down With the Philly Sound features a total of nine tracks, which Dimitri from Paris has given his own twist. Previously, he’s released a number of compilations and is a vastly experienced DJ and remixer. Incidentally, he isn’t from Paris but from Istanbul, Turkey, where he was born Dimitris Yerasimos. Since starting out as a DJ, he’s worked in radio, released two artists albums, Sacrebleu in 1996 and Cruising Attitude in 2002. As well as all that, he’s found time to release seventeen compilation albums, including Get Down With the Philly Sound. Reading the sleeve-notes that accompany this album, it’s quite clear that Dimitri is a real fan of the music on the album and because of that, he’s almost reverential towards the music. His love of the music shines through, as does Al Kent’s who contributes detailed sleeve-notes about the history of the Philly Sound. So good are the nine tracks on Get Down With the Philly Sound that choosing just a few tracks to review was tough. However, I’ve managed to choose a quartet of tracks, which I consider to be the best of some brilliant tracks.

My first choice is the track that opens Disc Two of Get Down With the Philly Sound, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ The Love I Lost. Now I’ve always loved this track, and remember hearing it on the radio when I was growing up. SInce then it’s remained a favorite, so when I hear people remixing or reediting tracks like this I sometimes hope they don’t spoil the track and the memory. However, I’ve no need to worry here, with Dimitri From Paris’ Super Disco Blend to give the track its full title. The track opens with Teddy vamping, his voice full or heartache, as he testifies about his loss. With just the organ adding atmosphere, fingerclicks and bursts of keyboards, the arrangement gradually builds and builds. Chiming guitars and rhythm section enter, as a heartbroken Teddy sings his heart out. By now, the track unfolds, the tempo quickening, The Blue Notes adding punchy backing vocals, before the track’s beauty reveals itself. From a track lasting only six and a half minutes, a nearly twelve minute epic is born, with the tempo quicker, 130 beats per minute against the original’s 124 beats per minute. What’s amazing is that this track was originally meant to be a ballad. Here, Dimitri adds to the track lengthening parts and adding breakdowns, as if realizing that dancers need a rest during some a lengthy and quick track. Percussive parts are lengthened effectively, while the beats sound crunchier and even Teddy’s vamp is prolonged. The result is a stunning epic where to quote The Beatles in Hey Jude Dimitri’s taken “a good song and made it better.” Maybe good is the wrong word, maybe brilliant is a better word.

Having been really impressed with The Love I Lost,  I can’t wait to tell you what Dimitri’s done with The Jacksons Living Together. This is a reedit of the track lasting nearly eight minutes. It opens with crunchy drumbeats, giving way to a driving rhythm section and chiming guitars, augmented by piano, swirling, shimmering strings and blazing horns that punctuate the track. They usher in the joyous vocal from Jackie, before the vocal changes hands, against a punchy and quick arrangement. It’s a hugely catchy track, with the strings, horns and guitars really adding to the track’s uplifting, feel-good sound. It’s a track with a real Philly Sound and is very different to The Jacksons’ previous music. While the original track was only four and half minutes, Dimitri’s reedit transforms the track, adding nearly three and a half minutes to the track. He manages this by clever reediting, extending the best bits of the tracks, with the vocal looped and looped, and just a touch of delay used effectively. Similarly, a guitar solo is transformed into something that any seventies guitar hero would be proud of. All of this and more combine to make one of the album’s real highlights, and for fans of The Jacksons’ this is their music but with a twist.

One other track that deserve a mention include Dimitri’s reedit of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes Tell the World How I Feel About Cha Baby. He extends the track by one minute and somehow, manages to build on the track’s joyful and uplifting sound, which features a trademark impassioned vocal from Teddy and equally beautiful harmonies from The Blue Notes. Add to this M.F.S.B’s stunning arrangement, with swathes of lush strings and blazing horns aplenty. It’s just a pity Dimitri didn’t turn this into an epic of Homeric proportions, but still, what he’s done is pretty stunning.

Similar to Tell the World How I Feel About Cha Baby, Dimitri adds to the drama and energy of The Trammps The Night the Lights Went Out. With an arrangement that’s drama laden from the opening bars, this is a track ripe for Dimitri’s reediting skills. Key to the arrangement are tightest of rhythm sections, braying horns that punctuate the track, while swathes of grandiose, swirling, sweeping strings add to the track’s energy and drama. A similar drama can be found in a vocal that combines a mixture of power and passion with this drama. Although the track isn’t much longer than original, it’s quite different, and offers a new take on an old classic, one that has made in Philadelphia stamped all over it, albeit one that’s got a Gallic and Grecian influence.

I’ve kept my favorite track until last, Teddy Pendergrass You Can’t Hide From Yourself. This is another of Dimitri’s Super Disco Blends and transforms the track totally. With punchy, soaring backing vocalists repeating gloriously just the one phrase, and the the rhythm section, guitars, percussion and keyboards building round that groove, they give way to a drama laden, powerful vocal from Teddy. As if on cue, the drums signal the track to open up and reveal an arrangement that’s full of blazing horns, grand strings and gospel tinged backing vocalists. However, it’s the rhythm section that drives the track along, while the horns and strings play vital roles in the arrangement. With handclaps, soaring, testifying backing vocalists and Teddy’s charismatic and impassioned vocal sitting atop the dramatic arrangement it’s just an absolutely stunning track, made all the better by Dimitri extending parts of the track, adding breakdowns and generally producing a track that’s pays homage to a true giant of soul, the late, great Teddy Pendergrass.

Although I’ve only chosen five tracks from Disc Two of Get Down With the Philly Sound to review in depth, there’s more that five tracks to this disc. All the nine tracks offer something new and fresh to classic disco tracks. As a fan of the Philly Sound and all the music on Get Down With the Philly Sound, Dimitri has treated each of the nine tracks with love and respect. His mixture of reedits and disco blends offer a contemporary take on some old and much loved tracks. He truly is a talented DJ and remixer, one that loves classic disco music. What I like about having the disc of original tracks on Disc One and Dimitri’s reedits and disco blends on Disc Two, means it allows you to compare the original to Dimitri’s new take on the music. On these two discs you’ll hear tracks from some of the biggest names on Philadelphia International Records like Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass and The Jackson, alongside tracks influenced by the Philly Sound. This includes The Trammps, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra and TJM, among many others. So, in the year that Philadelphia International Records is celebrating its fortieth anniversary, Get Down With the Philly Sound allows you to hear some stunning disco music from some of the finest purveyors of the Philly Sound and others influenced by its sweet and soulful sound. Standout Tracks: Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ The Love I Lost, The Jacksons Living Together, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes Tell the World How I Feel About Cha Baby and Teddy Pendergrass You Can’t Hide From Yourself.

DIMITRI FROM PARIS-GET DOWN WITH THE PHILLY SOUND.

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2 Comments

  1. MrDap

    I am a HUGE fan of PIR and the unofficial ‘affiliate’ labels that helped the sound of Philly Soul reach around the world and out to the Universe. I can imagine the inhabitants of Rigel IV booty-bumping to “Time To Get Down” by The O’Jays. Your review of Dimitri’s magnificent production is right on the money. I managed to find his three disk compilation and wouldn’t give it up even if Patti LaBelle whispered in my ear that she’s gotta have it (the compilation). Over all the years of collecting music the hugest section of my collection consists of Philly-Soul. I’m still looking for Jimmy Ruffin’s PIR release and recently found Don Covay’s album on CD. I have to say that your reviews are very informative, filled with information that’s hard to come by other than a meticulous and exhaustive love of research. I had to ‘borrow’ a review from your blog for The Delfonics’ Tell Me This Is A Dream’ because it was so on the money. It’s just a fantastic feeling to know there is another human being (or Rigellan) who’s passion for the great Philly Sound rivals my own. Keep up the great work Derek. You’re doing a masterful job!

    • Hi there,

      I’m glad that you enjoyed my review of Dimitri From Paris-Get Down With the Philly Sound. I’m a huge fan of the Philly Sound, and enjoy writing reviews of the music. Have you heard either the Philadelphia International-The Re-Edits and Philadelphia International Records-The Tom Moulton Remixes. Both have some amazing reedits and remixes, which offer a new twist to the music. Next month, May 14th sees the release of the ten disc Philadelphia International Records-The 40th Anniversary Box Set which I’ve also reviewed. That features not just some of the best music from Philadelphia International’s history, but plenty of hidden gems. Although around £40 or $65, it’s a must-have for anyone who loves the Philly Sound.

      If you love the Philly Sound, I can recommend two albums by The Dells, Love Connection and They Said It Couldn’t Be Done, But We Did It. They were produced by The Harris Machine, from the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section who were part of M.F.S.B., before leaving to become part of the Salsoul Orchestra.Both are great albums, featuring some of Philly’s finest songwriters, musicians, arrangers and producers.

      There are so many great albums by Philly and Philly associated artists, but sadly, many haven’t made it onto CD yet. Hopefully, they’ll eventually make it onto CD soon. BBR Records released a number of great remastered rereleases and previously, Demon Music have released a number of reissues of Philadelphia International albums. I’ll be reviewing a number of albums that will appeal to you. Thanks for your comments, keep reading the blog.

      Best Wishes,
      Derek.

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