A '70s soul collector's guide -- We recommend albums you should have by The O'Jays, The Spinners and Barry White
A ’70s soul collector’s guide
If Lisa Stansfield’s ”All Around the World,” Soul II Soul’s ”Keep on Movin’,” or the Chimes’ ”Heaven” strikes a familiar chord, check out the source of the new Brit-Soul invasion. Though most of the original Barry White and Philly Soul albums are out of print, it’s still possible to compile a respectable collection of this underrated genre with the following currently available discs.
Various Philadelphia Classics (Philadelphia International/ CBS) Classics indeed — ”Love Train,” ”Bad Luck,” ”Don’t Leave Me This Way,” ”I Love Music” — but all in extended dance versions. For the fleet-footed.
Various Ten Years of #1 Hits (Philadelphia International/CBS) Not the definitive collection its title promises, but enough of the basics to make it a fine beginner’s lesson: McFadden and Whitehead’s relentless ”Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now,” Billy Paul’s sultry ”Me and Mrs. Jones,” MFSB’s lush ”TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” Teddy Pendergrass’ seductive ”Close the Door.”
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes Collectors’ Item (Philadelphia International/ CBS) The stars here were actually lead singer Teddy Pendergrass and some of Gamble and Huff’s most luxurious productions. Whether he was singing sad songs (”If You Don’t Know Me by Now”) or dance tracks (”Bad Luck,” ”The Love I Lost”), Pendergrass somehow still sounded forlorn.
The O’Jays Greatest Hits (Philadelphia International/CBS) They never quite matched their first major hit, 1972’s ”Back Stabbers,” but the brawny Gamble and Huff productions and Eddie Levert’s husky voice on ”Love Train,” ”Use Ta Be My Girl,” and the unstoppable ”I Love Music” more than compensated.
The Spinners The Best of the Spinners (Atlantic) With Motown in the ’60s, the Detroit Spinners never found their place; with producer and songwriter Thom Bell the following decade, they located it and made some of Philly’s most love-drunk tracks: ”I’ll Be Around,” ”Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” ”Mighty Love,” and their collaboration with Dionne Warwick, ”Then Came You.”
The Chi-Lites Greatest Hits (Epic) This Chicago quartet never recorded in Philly, but you wouldn’t know that from the Thom Bell-like warmth of ”Oh Girl” and ”Have You Seen Her.”
Barry White Greatest Hits (Casablanca) You laugh, with good reason. But listen to the overwhelming lusciousness of the arrangements and the power of the Voice and you’ll pipe down fast.
The Stylistics Best of the Stylistics, Vol. 1 (Amherst) Philly falsetto heaven, again courtesy of producer Thom Bell: ”Betcha By Golly, Wow,” ”You Are Everything,” ”Break Up to Make Up.”
Elton John The Complete Thom Bell Sessions (MCA) In 1977 Elton topped ”Philadelphia Freedom” by recording with Bell and the Spinners on their home turf. ”Mama Can’t Buy You Love” (a No. 9 hit) and all 8 1/4 exuberant minutes of ”Are You Ready for Love” were Philly’s last stand.