Sony Music Entertainment has secured global rights to the entire Philadelphia International Records catalogue. The ‘Legacy’ will be collated on a set of 12 and 7 inch vinyl CDs, collectibles and replicas to market across to enthusiastic listeners of Philly soul.
Philadelphia International Records (PIR) or the sound of Philadelphia was founded in 1971, by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, a record producing and song writing team who have written 15 gold singles and 22 gold albums and were pioneers of Philadelphia soul, during the 1970s, making a string of hits with artists such as the O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, The Three Degrees and Billy Paul.
The first collectible CD launched on Legacy will include hits from the O’Jays, the Bluenotes, McFadden & Whitehead and Patti Labelle amongst others.
The sounds of PIR, was widely recognised as liberating and catchy, but also sensual and thought provoking to listeners. ‘Ship Ahoy’ was a notable soul album by The O’Jays, produced by Gamble and Huff around the concept of slavery. The title track, a 9min 39sec epic about the arrival of slaves from Africa being transported across to America conveys the sense of impending doom and struggle for the slaves, the slow plodding beat, floats along, echoing the images of slaves being transported on the award winning album’s cover.
Among the label’s top acts, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, fronted by charismatic and gifted singer, Teddy Pendergrass, blended easy listening groove with social awareness on a simple ballad of love, ‘If you don’t know me by now’ and ‘Wake up Everybody’, fore-fronting the issues of not standing up for the wrongs in the world and setting an example for our children to learn.
Mother, Father, Sister, Brother (MFSB) were a pool of 30 or so musicians who would come together to jam and create music, and back up such musical acts such as the Bluenotes, the Spinners and the Stylistics.
Jazz and world music were also genres that took off within the label, with artists such as Dexter Wansel, exploring new avenues alongside music that would come to influence many artists, including Daft Punk who sampled Edwin Birdsong’s 1979 funk classic ‘Cola Bottle Baby’ on their song ‘Harder, better, faster, stronger’.
Perhaps the biggest hit to come out of the label was McFadden and Whitehead’s dance floor filler, ‘Aint no stopping us now’ which reached across both borders, topping the US R&B charts for one week in 1979.
Personally, The Bluenotes’ ‘Wake up everybody’ remains very relevant to social and political troubles today, with violence and conflict across Europe and Africa. It delivers a strong message on how we should act in such hard times, as Pendergrass sings ‘the world won’t get no better if we just let it be’.
The first round of these new PIR titles will be launched in the UK on April 21 2014.