Teddy Pendergrass remains for me one of the world’s most vital male vocalists. You couldn’t say the equivalent of Loleatta Holloway (although of the same stature) because his voice testified as to something very particular to him. A cross of pain, sorrow and also of joy from a uniquely soulful perspective which lent his vocals a depth that remains resonate today like all truly great singers. Emerging originally as the group’s drummer in 1970 but by the time Philadelphia International Records had secured the assistance of the might of CBS he had become lead singer, as featured on the albums contained here. The Love I Lost from 1973 (originally released as 7″ side-A & side-B edits) and Bad Luck from 1975 remain powerhouses of heavenly charged music that sound as good as anything today, incredible given just how long ago they were recorded and produced. Following the distinct line from Gospel inspiration through to R&B and then throughout Disco these songs helped define an era, released by a label that did likewise. And it would be fair to add that they were also a key component to House Music in the future. As far as the word classic goes, Don’t Leave Me This Way ranks up there pretty high and is included here on the third disc as Tom Moulton’s mind-expanding arrangement transformed it into eleven blissful minutes. That third disc also has Moulton’s version of Bad Luck and the sheer force of the music alone transcends just about everything in its wake. While Pendergrass went on to launch a solo career in 1977 becoming a Soul icon in the process, it remains important to also celebrate the musicians in the band as well as the producers, alongside the various songwriters who all left a vital legacy. Listen to the music: Wake Up Everybody.
M.F.S.B. will always be synonymous with some of the most transcendent moments Disco ever reached. Truly cherished records like T.S.O.P (The Sound Of Philadelphia) featuring the wonderful Three Degrees typified the breezy yet hard-hitting productions which they became most celebrated for. While perhaps the era’s most defining break, care of, Love Is The Message rightly secures their place in all-time history. The instrumentals they created are second to none and as musicians their like are sorely missed. Jazzy, soulful, rhythm and blues evolved into part of the first wave of ‘Disco’ in the 1970’s yet they were not averse to getting down, hard and funky on the likes of the joyous Sexy alongside K-Jee either. They also provided the backing to other releases on the famed label: Philadelphia International Records and the driving licks that drove the fevered Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto by 1977 pushed the music into socially conscious directions. It’s also interesting note how sounds and moods altered by the close of the decade with the jazz-funk strains espoused by the seminal Mysteries Of The World. A great selection of words from MOJO/ Record Collector scribe Charles Waring accompanies too. An essential addition to your collection.
Save The Children
Big Break Records/ Philadelphia International Records
bbr once again rise to the occasion with yet another classic re-release. This time in the shape of Intruders 1973 album which opens with the rather fine version of Gil Scott-Heron’s timely title track, finely honed in this version with typically soulful infused orchestration and exquisitely arranged movements. It’s always a pleasure to listen music that transcends the timeline so effortlessly and while, of course, I’ll Always Love My Mama stands up like the classic it is – here complete with Tom Moulton’s definitive remix, along with his String drenched reworking of (Win, Place Or Show) She’s A Winner – there are plenty of other rousing moments too, such as Hang On In There closing the show with its hopeful message. Also happy to report Christian John Wikane again supplies the sleeve notes so all the background info and beyond you may need is at hand.
This latest and most excellent set of tracks from Joel Alter are my favourites from the producer to date. No Way captures a melancholy yet uplifting mood which not only pulls on the heartstrings but also hits you hard with a heavy-duty bottom end that is all but nasty. Opposites attract. The Drum again attacks the senses with rough bass, atmospheric voices and an almost jazzy attitude. Ed Davenport then tackles No Way by turning it upside down with harder stabs and fiery snares talking centre stage. Jitterbug finishes with a swing in the tail and striking chords again playing your emotions without words.
It’s almost as if you just need to hear the bassline on its own and you would be satisfied, although when the kick and claps hit it all makes perfect sense. Love the way this is so effortlessly funky, uncomplicated yet imaginatively musical as the chords evolve and the Acid gets slightly twisted. The original version of One Four Green was released on Andy Blake’s World Unknown imprint in 2011 but makes a very welcome return today proving that the past can also sound very much like the future. Remixes come from Deep Space Orchestra giving it more Techno feel, to Perseus Traxx who playfully rework the original elements, leaving Jonny Aux to break it all down to the bare essentials. Essential.
Stefan Braatz Pres. Crack Jack
Unreleased Traxx EP
SoulDeep Inc. Records
Stefan Braatz’s EP for SoulDeep comprises of four equally impressive tracks that will reignite that classic sound of Chicago to you all over again. Yes it’s a homage but one that feels fresh with two tracks: Jacks Nation and especially Acid Music each offering their own blistering take on the Acid sound of the late eighties. Chicago Skyline meanwhile delves into a deeper landscape with moody keys and tastefully spoken words telling a story as does the next production T.R.A.X.X which also probes similar territory.
Having inevitably reached the colour Black the series now enters its tenth year with the same impact with which they began. The music is still first-rate, soulful yet provocative and as you play through the numbers you’ve got to say there is no sign of filler here. Opening with the Nebraska remix of Salvatore Freda’s Luv Can’t Hurt you get the sense of history compacted by a contemporary flair that defines the label so easily. And, as you ease into the proceeding Set Me Free by Willie Graff & Tuccillo you know you’re in good company. Moving between deeper moments, Tech and Disco and most points in between the selection features the labels releases over the past year, along with some new exclusives that notably finish with Mark Hand’s sublime bass-warming Don’t Take It All Away. A second CD then sees everything blended neatly together for your extended listening pleasure.
The third album for review this week is by far the most diverse. And number 3 in the Parisien series continues its dedication to exposing fresh French talent. Put it this way if you know of a nightclub that plays such an exciting and wildly imaginative set of music then please let us know? From Toys low-slung and emotive ‘Noise’ straight through to the cosmopolitan Disco of Cinema and Le Crayon, and on to the chiming guitars of You, the compilation breathes fresh life into jaded eyes. Just to highlight the variation FAUVE ‘Kane’ pushes the envelope still further with haunting sentiments and retro guitars feeling cinematic and tastefully mysterious, while the finale from Saint Michel ‘Don’t Bother’ does likewise except with synthesizers accompanied by a more melancholy twist. Next please.
bbr/ Philadelphia International Records
The really don’t make them like this anymore which is why it’s such a joy to listen to Big Break Records Expanded Anniversary Edition all over again. Forty years after its original release and the power of the music and sheer exaltation of the vocals still remain very much intact. There probably couldn’t be a more apt opener that the energetic ‘Put Your Hands Together’ but that’s not to forget the album’s title is about Slavery – the title track being particularly poignant and you only need to look closely at the cover art too. That said you’d be a fool to ignore powerhouse grooves such as the timely message of For The Love Of Money or the original version of Now That We Found Love that sees the ballad sound very different to the later Third World version. Now digitally remastered you can soak up all those soulful strings and horns in their full glory via the original sublime Gamble & Huff production, and hear where dance music was pointing to next. For the full picture and story sleeve notes by PopMatters Christian John Wikane are invaluable.
One of the reasons Dance have been so very exciting over the past number of years is down to the sheer breadth of music which reside within the House Music bracket. Not that that hasn’t always been the case of course, there’s just something particularly exhilarating about the clash of ideas being generated between the USA and Europe – just as much as the revived sounds of the early 90’s continue to reinvigorate the genre too. What that in mind Scarlett Nina’s amazing sounds and devilish moods fit the bill perfectly. The End, sends shivers along with staccato guitar notes and sinister, tripped-out voices inducing a powerful reaction to this notably original production. As you might expect Tone Of Arc the remix is stunning with pulsating organ and vocal treatments building the tension with typical aplomb, while the Special Case version twists the bass into something altogether more sinister on their equally impressive take. Who Am I To Disagree, explores the same atmospheres with electronic funk and the remix comes from David K Marabunta Remix whose haunting techno also fits the bill.
Waze & Odyssey
Dance, Yeah, How?
This Is Music Ltd
And so the story continues with this killer production from Waze & Odyssey whose deft blend of classic House influences are creatively put to the test. This moves beyond a simple revival of sounds by developing its theme with expansive pads and clever vocal twists that complete the moody yet uplifting arrangement. Love the thumping Kick drum and chiming, deep bass which underpins the rich mood generated by the remaining sounds. Try for yourself.
Release: exclusive to Beatport Sept 24. October 8 on general release
Gently side-stepping Dance music for the duration of this limited 7” vinyl and digital EP we revisit Maigret Jnr once again purely because this is so f**king good. For lovers of slightly melancholy, though conversely, uplifting music will greatly benefit from what’s on offer. You may already know the anthemic beauty of Always Again, which starts with the prophetic line ‘Silence is Golden’ but if not its swirling strings and heart beating drums are a joy to behold. New track, Breathe feels every bit as good covering the same territory emotionally, with poignant piano and rich baritone vocals sounding just as impressive. While the title track, Sick Friends dares to lift the sound with a heavier beat and bassline, although while this doesn’t have quite the same impact it still works neatly.
Love Is The Message
Philadelphia International Records/ bbr
If this album only contained two tracks it would still be worth its weight in gold. For within just under eleven minutes of music this 1973 release went a long way to define what became known as the Disco sound. The first track Love Is The Message is simply a seminal classic featuring Early Young’s masterful drumming, who alongside the striking keyboards, emotive Strings, strident Bass and blazing Saxophone cumulates into a sequence of one of my (and many others) favourite all time dance grooves. It all sounds so effortless, yet so completely stunning. The second track TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) featured for a time as Soul Train’s theme and also provided a hit single for the label. Again the instrumentation is flawless, supremely funky and must have felt oh so good way back then, as it also does right now. Plus of course, it featured the sassy vocals of The Three Degrees. Both tracks appear in their original, and more importantly, their extended form with Tom Moulton’s epic reworking of ‘Love Is…’ adding vocals from The Three Degrees while highlighting the keyboard and rhythm section with devastating flair – a genius at work. While TSOP again expands the rhythm section into something seminal and heavenly. It really doesn’t get much better.
TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) Original 12″ Version with Soul Train dancers…
Earl Young drums…
Salsoul Records/ bbr
Next to Philadelphia International Records, Salsoul was the other 70’s American dance label which had the greatest impact and influence both then and today. Their debut album featured the powerhouse vocals of James Williams, Joseph Harris, Charles Whittington, and Leonard ‘Butch’ Davis whose range spanned the very depths of Soul to the dizzying heights of explosive Disco. Produced by one time Philly producer (the legendary) Norman Harris the album features three timeless cuts that defy history: Ten Percent, Everyman, and My Love Is Free. All of which pack more emotional punch then most music can muster today in terms of emotion vocally, alongside poignant funkiness. Although, that’s not so surprising as the players included Early Young, Vince Montana Jr. and Bunny Sigler amongst many significant others. The package also contains the first commercially available 12” single (1976): the superlative Walter Gibbons version of the title track which sounds every bit as powerful as production does today, along with Tom Moulton’s gorgeous mix of My Love Is Free, and Joe Claussell’s remix of Everyman. Despite the fact that these tracks overshadow the remainder of the songs that shouldn’t deter you from soaking up the rest, as they all display those wonderful voices and sumptuous grooves in their full glory. A truly classic album.
The original Walter Gibbons 12” Mix of ‘Ten Percent’
Double Exposure ‘Everyman’
Salsoul Records/ bbr
And last but certainly not least this week is this gem from Instant Funk which also appeared on the Salsoul label. Released in 1979 their second album again contains a classic which defined the band: Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl). Appearing both as the album version and with the full Larry Levan remix, which clocks in just shy of ten minutes, this proves to be peerless funk. Everything about this production is just right from the fanfare of Horns which intro, straight through to the sassy percussion, and devastating bass and guitar combination upon which the soaring vocals aim skyward. Again, the remainder of the album has plenty of other gems such as Crying and the hard-core Don’t You Want To Party, while they explore notable Jazz-fusion on Wide World Of Sports. The band also played on the likes of ‘Shame’, Archie Bell & The Drells ‘Let’s Groove’ and South Shore Commission ‘Free Man’ so the familiarity of their playing just goes to prove how good they where/ are. A classic production from Bunny Sigler and engineered by Bob Last.