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Modern Masters: Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff On Philadelpia International

Modern Masters: Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff On Philadelpia International image
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O'Jays: Family Reunión Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes: Wake Up, Everyb'ody MFSB: Plnladelphia Freedom Billy Paul: When LovelsNew Dee Dee Sharp: Hj}ppy 'Bout the Whole Thing Archie Bell & the Drells: Dance Your Troubles . [way 019 The Christmas season releases from Gamble & lluff's Philly International 'TSOI' Records complex continue to advance the high standards of producción and performing excellence which the two yöung masiers Of modem music ineradicably estab; lishcd iih tlieir inttial releases nmler their labeldistriluilion deal ith ( BS lllarold Meivin and the Blue Notes and the O'Jays'Back , Stabbcrs) back in 1975. Seemingly undjunted by thelr curreru legal prohlenis both (ïambleaiul Huffwere indu ted somc inonthsago for various record industo crimes involving the alleged pa inent of mönej , goods aiul services to radio personnel in exuhange for coacentrated airplay of their product Ihe Dynamic Duo lias inanaged to provide ils vasi public with si scintillatfng dises of 1 hal l'liiladelphia Sound, serveil up by Ihe top of the line the ü'Jays, Marold Meivin & the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, and MFSB and a pajrot'G&H veterans Dee Dee Sharp and Archie Bell & the Drells vvlio are making tlieir reappearance uiuler Ihe aegis of Iheir long-time asxociates. riding high as the hottest producers tri the business with their business partner, and lite-lonu pal, Thom Bell, who produces the Spinners and a nuniber of other singiog ;lcts ■ lor various labels, the Gamble-Huff-Bell combine placed a total ot' 21 singles in the charts. in 1974, taking both tirst and second place among all producers in the business Kenny (amble and Leon lluff are only reapnm the rewards of a lifethne of hard wortc, genius mspiration, and technical study and pr.ictice rn the world of popular (i. e., "cuiniiieiciar'l IIHISIC. I n te ring ihe h.t Philadclphia s ludios ai tcen-aae sesión men. Gamble & Huffstarfcd leammg hou to niake records in ihe earlj sLxties, during tbc liisi era ol l'hilh doniHution, when young white singers likt Fabián, 1-rankie Avalon. and Bobby Rydell uere turnins out hit tunes under the carelul, oniniscienl direction of the tóugh white producers al CanieoParkway and other local recording mitfils. Chubby Checker and Dee Dee Sharp (now Mrs. Kennelh Gamble) ere among the young black artisis w4io Erontcd hal as essen tfally the same studio record ing band hehuul all the l'hilly hits, and ice-cold coinmerciallx crcalin-j tighl two-and-a-half-minute packages ol pnp music wllich could cut across age, race, and class lines to cause millions of Anicricans to fork over millions of dollars lor their own copies of these songs as the underlying .nul all-pcrvasive principie Inch propellcd the Philadelphia Sound ol' the early 6(l. (iambleand Huffsoofl tcained up lo try their hands as l'ree-lance producers, tuming out such perfect early 'jenis as "Tighten l p" (Archie Bell & The Drells) foi tlanlic Records and othcr L'ompanics before secuiing a label deal (as Neptune Recordsl ilh C'hess Records ol' Chicago. Ihey moved tully into their own .is the producers to watch beliind their Lollaborütion uh niasiei vocalist Jerry Butler. ,i lale-siMies smash titled The leeman C'ometh. and their early work with the O'Jays and thé Intruders, who are still among the stand-mits in the Philly International si.iblc. To niake a kfAg story short, iho two youtjg producers Fïnaliy hit the solid voin of gold in the recording industry when thej signed a compreliensive label deal with C'live Davis. then president of Columbia Records, in 1972. Wilh the distnbutiorr, promotion, and marketing nieehanisins ot Columbia Records nów ready to carry their recordjs oul beyond ihe K&B markel and inlo ovcry sector oT América. iih t'ull musical and arfistic control over their product, based in their home town of Philadelphia, surrounded b) musicjans, writers. artangers, producers and Ini■iincsspaople thcy'd known and vvorkcd iih lor years, Canihle & Huff scttlcd down to créate some ol the highcM popular musical art of the seventies. U is ünpcrlani te place the currenl work of (iamble & Huff in ils historica] and lis commortial perspectives because hm h Torces have boen central to its'sha,ping,.ind bpth provide along with the cveiïis ol'everyday lile in Philadelphia and mi riie road (bt G&H and their many collaliorator.s the objective basis óf the music ilseif. Ak commercial producers workms! strictly . uilhin the jnainstreain of the popular music trariilion, shotting lor the top of the sales charts with et'ery a'lease. 'Gamble & Huff have evolved ..rn esthetic ttliich owesits existCDce to the classic niasK-'rs ol Lhe tonn sueh producersas Cieorge Goldner, Richard Barrett, Harvey luqua, lerry VVexler & Ahmet Ertegun, l.ieber & Stoller, Phil Spector. Curtis Mayfield, Berry (iordy, Holland-Doier-Holland, Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong, Isaac Hayes & David Porter and uhich evtends the uork of these men in u veis lofdcal, direct and beSutiful u.i - Like their mentors and prMecessors, (amble & Huff opérate in the Iradiiion ol "giving the people whal Ihej want," and their streng'th as trend-setting producers derives in laiuc pari trom iheu traditional ability todraw trom and ruergc .irimis strains of con tempo ra rj popularbased music mío a fusión of easily recognizablc, coinlortable bul genuinely exciting sounds, fotally in touch wilh the world ol' the streelsand lhe people who work and play Ihere, they are able to rellect the realilies and the aspirations ol common people in record alter record by any miinber of artists uiider their direction. creating in the process a unilied body of work which has come increasiiiszly to bcar llie personal mark ol' lhe producen! to a much erealer degree Ihan tliat of .m ni their antecedailts. s tnodcrn-day urban black people struggting io upgrade and ciMitrol the conditions of iheii living .nul werking existencc and as two of the relative u-u w have bcgun toenjoy the sweei Iruils ol success in thal struggie Gamble & Huff are jvell qualitïed lo spcak l'or. and to, ihelr everprowing constituency. (It Lsnosccrel thal many white people are in a similar social sttiialion .is well, nor iliat ihese people are equali) well served by the work ol G&H as ii comes to them over Iheir radios and TVs.) (amble and Huff create music luis all the depth, speed. Flash and elcgance of ihc city muslc which, in its beauty ;md prace and iniili, helps ilio Hstener overeóme the ilrcir pain ot'úrbah lile while maintainiii!.' the desperate hope that things will :vi bettei somehow before iliey can el .my wurse. Vnyone near a radio r j jukebox in Ilie cities of America over the iis! few yc.irs can'l help bul have heard such (amble & Hufif masterworks as Ihc OMays'"For the Love of Money," "Love Train," "Put Your Hands Togethet," "Give the People What Thcy Want," "The Rich Gel Richer," '"I Love Music." 01 "Livin" for the Weekend": Ilarokl Meivin & the Blue Notes' "Bad Lucfc" 01 "Wake lp Kverybody"; MFSB's "TSOP": Billy Paui's "Me and Mrs. Jones," "Am I Black F.nough lor You," oi "People Power"; the Intruders' "Save the C'hildren," "Hang On In There," oí "I veryone's a Star"; or othet of the many lesscr masterpieces of the Terrible Two. Based in everyday reality. yel optimistic .ind inspirational as only that of desperate believers in righteousness can be, the recorded uork of Gamble & lluff stands alone in its magnitude, depth, and breadth at the top of the pile of contemporary popular inusic, where ii hélps light the way 10 the future of the form. Central to (amble & Huff's siictcs. both musically and commereially, is their uniqtie complex ol' perforfnmg and recordin;.: ariists centered at Sigma Sound Studios in Phjladelphia. Starting with thcir own corrrpositional genius (thcy wrile most of the ir artists' liitsi and their mastery of the art of modern production, Gamble & Huff have assembled a band of crack studio players (Ml SB), a regular hom and siiiiiü section (headed by Don ftenaldoi, a leam of' rocordinsi technicians (hcaded by Joe Tarsia), a statï of arramiers (includini! Bobby Martin, Dexter Wansel, Jack Faith, Norman Marris, Tony Bell, Koland Chambers, and Kon "Have Mercy" Kerseyl, producers (Martin, Marris, Bunny Sigler); song-Vritcrs (notably the team of Whitehead-McFaddenCarstarphen. which is also developin into a production unit as well), and performers the O'Jays, Harold Meivin & the Blue Notes in dissolvm into Theodore Pendergrass & the Bluenoters). Billy Paul, the Intruders. the Three Degrees, Dee Dee Sharp, Archie Bell & the Drells. Detroit's own C'arolyn Crawford. the People's Chotee, Trammps. Soul Survivors. and MI-SB itself. Out ol' ihesc relutivelj stuble, yct ever-evolving dcinenis (.amble & Huff have t'.ishioned theii populür-inuiic fusión, neveí letting up for a minute in their relentless rush at the record-buyinp public, Tlie ne releases tb ose lisicd al the heul ol [lus review continue t unfold .nul extend the ünique (amble & Huff esthelic while dcveloping even l'urlher the individual idenlilies the producers have so painstakingly establisJied foreach of their acts, and none ol ihem is worth missing. Very briefly noted; the O'Jays' Family Reunión lias one "Livin" for the Weekend," "Stairway to Heaven," "I Love Music" of sheet pop êcstacy, scl offby the socially reactionair title cul and the n i r o contemporary but stiU hopelcssly sexist "She'sOnlyA Woman" on the ' ' side. I or Ihose who love the sweet and sensual as lilis riler does. "Stairway to Heaven" is the absolute bomb, and lor the social dreamcrs siill lelt umong us (count me ín there loo, picase'.), i lio lead cut. "I nity," says ít pretty goddamn well. "Wake Vp Fverybody," the tillo cut un llaroid Meivin and the Blue Notes' lates! opus. ix anothei socio] imperative numbei which is super slick lor ilie firsi half and very bol and preacln toward the end: "Dope piishers slop pushin that dope!" "Keep On Lovïn' You" and 'Teil the World How I Teel About 'Cha Baby". ue equaüy exciting in the more traditional R&B "love" vein, und the two numhers featuring Harold Mclvin protegee Sharon Paige are pretty gorgeous in their own right. You will want lo listen lo the l'irst side over and over again what more can yon ask lor.' Billy Paul makes hit bid lo step into the warm and wclcome footsteps of the great Marvin Gaye with his When Love Is New, ccept that K. Gamble surfaces in the lincr notes as ,m anti-abortion advocate and cases Billy Paul into a very convincing "Let's Make a Baby" antliem lo close the sel. Side One muintains a strong and beaulil'ul social emphasis, however, through "People Power," "America (We Need the Light)." and "Let the Dollar Circuíate" (ritten and produced by Billy himselO, with the lovely "Malorie" dosing the side on a light, tiemcndously swinging "love note." MFSB, the backbone of the modern Sound of Philadelphia. introduces its l'ourth LP with a prolonged fanfare and a quiek slip into Iheir laiest contribution to the dancing madness, "Get Down with the Philly Sound." A hip versión of htlle Reggie Dwight's "Philadelphia 1 reedom" follows, and the tone poems "South Philly" nul "Ferry Avenue" close out the side. "The .ip" is at the end of side ! o. and the rats llial come helore il won'i make you teel had eillier. I ots ol excellent saxophone soloing and the impeccable arrangements of most of the Philly International Staff make this one ,i dancing and listening delight. Dee Dee Sharp comes to us iliis time via Bobby Martin's tiist lull-scale production foi (amble & Hult', and she mms in an oHenexciting pcrforniance throughout the session. "Ooh C'hild" is the star of side one. and "Share My Love". nul the tille cut. "Happy 'Bout the Whole Thing," make side twe the one (hal will gel the needie again and again. I inallj . Arehie Bell & the Drells are back on wax with a reien tless production which goes either way with no pain whalsoever. "Let's Groove" kicks it ofl with the perfect spoken intro by the mature Mr. Bell. Bunny Sigler contributes two greal numbers ("I Could Dance All Night" and "I Won 't Leave You Honey. Never"). and the Whitehead-McFaddenCarstarphen team lakes care of all of side two. both coinposiiionalK and piodtictioii-w ise, except where the Terrible Two come in !o guide "Let's (.o Disco" lo the nlit place. Great stuff, and a truc testimonial to Gamble & Huff's detonnination lo put all their old pais hack where they belong on record players. radios and jukeboxes all over the w orld. m Ui T a í 9 w MtOf j telvii fll the faue JVOT ÏTT O'laY BMKPaw s 5' 88 1 : fe