Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Music from City of Brotherly Love satisfies soul

Compilations are often a successful way of summarizing the
work of one or a group of musicians, eliminating the filler that tarnishes some
of their albums and providing a clear representation of an entire career in one
or two discs. But this same oversimplification and selectivity can also remove
the breadth and thematic structure whole albums provide over a single or hit.
Fortunately, The Sound of Philadelphia: Gamble & Huff?s Greatest Hits
sits somewhere in the middle of those two realities, exploring some of the best
tracks Gamble and Huff?s wrote but only representing the penning duo?s softer
side, and in the process missing a few essential tracks.

Gamble & Huff wrote numerous hits together throughout
the ?70s, resulting in 175 gold and platinum records, awards and a category of
popular music named after their work, referred to as ?The Sound of
Philadelphia.? Their songwriting prowess allowed them to work with a formidable
cast of musicians, both soloists and groups, many of whom are represented on The
. These include hit machines The O?Jays, Harold Melvin & The Blue
Notes, Teddy Pendergrass and R&B songstress Patti LaBelle.

The Sound of Philadelphia samples 14 pleasing songs
from Gamble & Huff?s songbook via the hands of soul journalist Joe McEwen
and producer Leo Sacks, and all of them are worth a listen. The O?Jays? ?Love
Train? is a pop culture staple, as is Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes?
rendition of ?If You Don?t Know Me by Now.? The Three Degrees girl-group ballad
?When Will I See You Again? slips along in syrupy orchestration and is abruptly
contrasted by People?s Choice?s funk channeling ?Do It Any Way You Wanna.?

The track ?T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)? sums up
everything the two soul writers stood for in music, complementing a bombastic
horn rift with lush strings, a keyboard part and a heavens-reaching choir of
female vocalists.

But ?T.S.O.P.(The Sound of Philadelphia)? provides the basis
for this compilation?s only significant failing point. Instead of selecting a
representative sample of all the different nuances Gamble & Huff could
achieve or compiling a collection of songs that represented the lively style
?T.S.O.P.? embodied, McEwen and Sacks instead give us tracks that are mostly
soft balladry. While these are all tried and true soul hits, such as Patti
LaBelle?s contribution ?If Only You Knew,? they create a sonically cohesive
album unable to fully represent the dynamic nature of Gamble & Huff?s
writing. Much of their work did include strings and spoke of love and sappy
emotions, but these were not all of, nor their most, influential hits. In
particular, the O?Jays track ?For the Love of Money? is absent, making The
Sound of Philadelphia
feel a bit lacking and biased toward lush crooners.

But this flaw, though notable, is forgivable because the
compilation feels tighter due to an obvious subgenre preference by its
compilers. Rarely do compilations by multiple artists prove listenable as an
album, but The Sound of Philadelphia is exactly that. As the album?s
packaging states, ?There?s a message in the music. And the message is love.?
Perhaps this message might be a little obtrusive, but it does come through loud
and clear with a substantial collection of soul hits that can introduce the
most discerning of ears to some classic American writers.


3 1/2 stars out of 5

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