Review ·

If imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, then the classic Philly soul sound of the early to mid-'70s must have occupied the most overtly flattered wing in all of the American R&B canon. Over the years, that sweeping, romantic, hook-filled, string-laden sound has been aped by everyone from Hall & Oates to Difford & Tillbrook to Lenny Kravitz, with varying degrees of success. The four-disc Love Train box goes a long way toward explaining the Philly soul obsession that's continued to exist ever since the heyday of the Spinners, the O'Jays and Teddy Pendergrass.

The empire that producers/songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff built around the artists on their Philadelphia International label in the '70s is given a definitive and loving document with these four discs, not to mention a handsome, elaborate booklet, packed with photos, detailed info and thoughtful essays and interviews. Things move along chronologically, beginning with the late-'60s hits Gamble and Huff masterminded before establishing Philly International, like the Delfonics' "La-La Means I Love You," and the Intruders' "Cowboys to Girls" before moving into genre-defining early-'70s PI singles like the O'Jays' socially conscious "Back Stabbers" and Billy Paul's nice 'n' naughty "Me and Mrs. Jones." With tart but lush string arrangements, percolating grooves and emotive pop-soul vocal performances, these tracks were the sound of pop radio in the '70s.

Moving along a few years further into the decade, with the Gamble/Huff army still marching along at full power, the seeds of disco can be heard in 1975 hits like Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "Bad Luck" and the O'Jays' "I Love Music." And sure enough, these were just the kind of records that the earliest disco DJs were spinning at those pre-Studio 54 goodfoot gatherings. Later cuts such as McFadden & Whitehead's propulsive anthem of optimism "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" and Teddy Pendergrass's much-covered "Love T.K.O." found the label pushing into a new decade, at the vanguard of a new era of pop/R&B crossovers.

 

In subsequent years, everyone from Brit-soulsters Simply Red to former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald would have hits with their own versions of some of the songs on Love Train, and while the continued commercial viability of these tunes can't help but speak to their staying power, in the words of a song that emerged from that other classic R&B/pop crossover empire, "ain't nothing like the real thing." And that's what you get with this top-shelf set.

 

  • Expressway (To Your Heart) - Soul Survivors
  • La-La---Means I Love You - The Delfonics
  • Cowboys To Girls - The Intruders
  • Hey, Western Union Man - Jerry Butler
  • Ready Or Not Here I Come (Can't Hide From Love) - The Delfonics
  • Only The Strong Survive - Jerry Butler
  • Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time) - The Delfonics
  • Brand New Me - Dusty Springfield
  • Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You - Wilson Pickett
  • You're The Reason Why - The Ebonys
  • Drowning In The Sea of Love - Joe Simon
  • I'm Stone In Love With You - The Stylistics
  • I Miss You - Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  • Back Stabbers The O'Jays
  • Sunshine The O'Jays
  • I'll Be Around The Spinners
  • Slow Motion (Pt. 1) Johnny Williams
  • Me And Mrs. Jones Billy Paul
  • If You Don't Know Me By Now Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  • LOVE IS HERE THE FUTURES
  • Love Train The O'Jays
  • Break Up To Make Up The Stylistics
  • Family Affair MFSB
  • It's Forever The Ebonys
  • Time To Get Down The O'Jays
  • There's No Me Without You The Manhattans
  • I'll Always Love My Mama The Intruders
  • The Love I Lost Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  • I Wanna Know Your Name The Intruders
  • Dirty Ol' Man The Three Degrees
  • Put Your Hands Together The O'Jays
  • Thanks For Saving My Life Billy Paul
  • Mighty Love The Spinners
  • Be Thankful For What You Got (PT. 1) William DeVaughn
  • For The Love of Money The O'Jays
  • Where Do We Go From Here THE Trammps
  • T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia) MSFB (Featuring The Three Degrees)
  • Then Came You The Spinners with dionne watwick
  • Love Is The Message MFSB (Featuring The Three Degrees)
  • When Will I See You Again The Three Degrees
  • Where Are All My Friends Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  • Picture Us Bunny Sigler
  • Bad Luck Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  • Give The People What They Want The O'Jays
  • Billy's Back Home Billy Paul
  • Hope That We Can Be Together Soon Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (Featuring sharon Paige)
  • Do It Any Way You Wanna People's Choice
  • THE BIG HURT PEOPLE'S CHOICE
  • Let Me Make Love To You The O'Jays
  • Wake Up Everybody Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  • I Love Music The O'Jays
  • Don't Leave Me This Way Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
  • Let's Groove Archie Bell & The Drells
  • Livin' For The Weekend The O'Jays
  • Kiss And Say Goodbye The Manhattans
  • I'm Not In Love Dee Dee Sharp
  • You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine Lou Rawls
  • THE Rubberband Man The Spinners
  • Enjoy Yourself The Jacksons
  • Free Love Jean Carn
  • I Don't Love You Anymore Teddy Pendergrass
  • See You When I Git There Lou Rawls
  • Use Ta Be My Girl The O'Jays
  • Close The Door Teddy Pendergrass
  • Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now McFadden & Whitehead
  • You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else The Jones Girls
  • Hurry Up This Way Again The Stylistics
  • Love T.K.O. Teddy Pendergrass
  • I Ain't Jivin', I'm Jammin' Leon Huff
  • It's Gonna Take A Miracle Deniece Williams
  • If Only You Knew Patti Labelle
Various - GPM100 Matt and Kim Grand

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