Home / Music / Music Review: Varous Artists – Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia Live in San Francisco 1973

Music Review: Varous Artists – Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia Live in San Francisco 1973

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1973 was a magical year for music from Philadelphia. Two young songwriters, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, had formed a record company, P.I.R. (Philadelphia International Records), a division of CBS Records. They created a lasting legacy of great music, pairing talented entertainers with their own great songs and those by others to infuse a whole new and delightful energy into soul and R&B.

One night in summer 1973, P.I.R. showcased the Philadelphia sound for 1,500 of music’s movers and shakers at a CBS Records convention. That night became legendary and luckily for us it was recorded, although somehow it took decades before the recording was made public.

Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia in San Francisco 1973 gives us the best of that night, nearly 40 years after the event. The tapes sat on a shelf for all that time before being restored, mastered and released for our enjoyment. And what a treasure this recording is!

The musicians featured include Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, featuring the “golden voice” of Theodore Pendergrass, Jr. (later known to the world as Teddy Pendergrass), The Three Degrees, Billy Paul, the R&B orchestra MFSB, and The O’Jays. Many of the songs performed that night would become classics of R&B history, and these artists delivered them flawlessly. Emceeing the event was Soul Train‘s Don Cornelius, who died just this past week.

The weak link here is The Three Degrees, who have pretty much been forgotten, not because they weren’t good performers, but because (unlike the other artists included here) they weren’t great. Their performances don’t hold up particularly well, and the song “Dirty Old Man” is today so politically incorrect as to be creepy. It does show how times have changed since the early ’70s, though.

Another politically incorrect but very funny note is Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ rendition of “I Miss You,” featuring a silky spoken piece in the middle in which the lovelorn singer expresses his profound desire to not have his lady back, but just “to hit that thing one more time.” Even if he has to disguise himself as the milkman, he says, he’d “leave four quarts instead of two.”

From the sublimely silly to the simply sublime, the Blue Notes also deliver one of the finest soul songs ever written, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” The 35-piece MFSB perform fantastic versions of Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead,” and “T.S.O.P”, AKA the Soul Train theme (twice, actually, since they close out the recording with an encore performance).

Billy Paul provides a slightly psychedelic and, by today’s standards, quite dated performance of a understandably forgotten song called “East,” but he follows it up with the brilliant and unforgettable “Me and Mrs. Jones” in a riveting performance. The O’Jays then close out the show with a stellar set of amazing songs, including “Backstabbers,” “When the World Is At Peace,” “Sunshine,” and “Love Train.”

“It was a historical night in music, the beginning of a major change for rhythm and blues music in America,” says Kenny Gamble in the CD’s liner notes. “It opened doors for rhythm ‘n blues at CBS records and that opened the door to rhythm ‘n blues everywhere.”

The notes also describe 1,000 CBS artists, executives, and others creating a love train during The O’Jays’ performance that stretched through the ballroom and out into the hotel. It was a night that those who attended would never forget and now, thanks to this recording, we can be part of it as well.

A reminder of just how great The Philadelphia Sound really was in its heyday, this CD captures the absolute best of the soul sound along with the energy and excitement that continues to brighten up the lives of of music lovers everywhere.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, Southern Crossroads: Georgia Bluesand Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.
  • A soul vocal group, comprising three talented teenage girls started in 1963.
    The influence and popularity of The Three Degrees is sometimes lost on US audiences who are largely familiar with the group for only one great song, but the trio has played an important role in bringing Soul music to the world and continues to be considered around the globe a one of the most important ambassadors of American Soul Music, more than four decades after its modest origin.

  • Los

    Well well well. Just a kind reminder that had it not been for groups like The Three Degrees who demonstrated the possibilities of all female singers to come together with their heavenly, fired up, flawless and CLASSY presentations, the recent “roster” of female groups would not have existed. World wide legacies are created for those who CAN create the legacies. Here is a group who can and DID. Here is a group whose masterful vocal expertise still rings throughout the world. Here are some artists that helped in changing the image of all women of color throughout the world. Forever. The fruits of the American Equal Rights Movement. I am disgusted as an American that our memories are so short. I am delighted that many Asians and Europeans STILL remember and STILL support our artists.

  • jayman1960

    Rhetta, I think you can see just how much love and affection The Three Degrees are given all around the World. Thankyou for graciously accepting that you were in error and why not check the Group out on Youtube so you can see for yourself just why so many of us have been both fans AND friends of the Girls for nearly 40 years! Thanks for your willingness to listen, unlike Mr/Ms Costello who seems to revel in insulting not only The Three Degrees but also fellow human beings and other Countries too…LOL! Flame wars are not in order here – so many thanks again. Jeremy x

  • Rhetta for you to say they were good but not great ,is really reinforcing my opinion that your knowledge of The Three Degrees is non exsistant .Listen to their songs fron the Roulette years the Masterpiece which is Ebb Tide .The wonderfull Trade winds .And the Brilliant Mac Arthur park Then comment they were not brilliant ,Then they moved into the Disco era with the Smash Givin up Givin In .The Runner .working with the legendary producer Giorgio Moroder.Listen to one of their live albums yes LIVE albums .Every note hit harmonies that leave you amazed .No group has ever come close now or ever to match the vocal talents of this group .

  • Gino

    LoL, we have to be fair. The ladies filled “The Royal Albert Hall” in London; “Blue Note” in Tokyo; they did Las Vegas and played for the Royals in the UK and the Netherlands… NYC?? nahhh, too little for them 🙂

  • Ashley Scott

    Costello thats not it. They had other issues but lets just say they are able to work here and they can draw a crowd. If you have the booking power make it happen. We have people in NYC that will come out to see them. Can you make it happen?

  • Tony

    Well i’ve never heard such bunkum relating to the Three Degrees.The are still standing and performing at the major venues of the world, and have seen of more one hit wonders than they have had glasses of lemonade.They have earned the respect of not only Royalty,but the masses of fans around the world including todays younger generation of Three Degrees followers.How dare you make a comment like that without given thought to the statement before making it.

  • Roger L. Chemel

    Rhetta, Rhetta, Rhetta. Who is your target audience? 18-25 years old? 25-35? Your opinion may matter to an audience that is unfamiliar with the Three Degrees, but THIS audience is generally in the age range of the Three Degrees. We grew up with them and remain loyal to them. What is wrong with that? Being in their fan club has nothing to do with my loving their music. I knew of the Three Degrees over 47 years ago. Even though Beyonce is admirable, do you think I listen to her music? Uh, no! Will Beyonce’s loyal fans today be her loyal fans 40 years from now? Of course is the answer. I will pay good money to see any of the members of the Three Degrees. Beyonce is a good person but I would not go to a free concert of hers. Her music is not my music. The music of the Three Degrees is my music.

  • Roger L. Chemel

    I’ll “try” to make this my last comment as it is not important to me what YOU think about the Three Degrees. It is your loss. Now are we talking about the same Tony Bennett who recently said words to the effect of that Americans deserved 9-11?

  • Just to set the record straight: this review was not just about The Three Degrees. It was about The Philadelphia Sound. I was wrong about them being forgotten as they are remembered in England and Europe, obviously. I had no idea this review would be seen outside of the States. And I said they were good, but not great. Based on my limited knowledge of the group and this performances, I stand by that. They were good, but The Ronettes, The Shirelles, The Supremes, and many others were better, in my opinion. I am glad to see that they have so many loyal fans but if I only write reviews that I know everyone will agree with, I’m not going to write very much, am I?

  • Costello

    You mean play nice like the way your fanclub friends treated the author of this piece? Your crowd is certainly not in position to judge trolls. Haven’t been to a show in a few years but Tony Bennett was the last person I saw in concert. I am not concerned about whether anyone else considers him worthy, but that’s your loss if you don’t

  • Roger L. Chemel

    Oh c’mon now Costello, play nice with the other kids in the sandbox. Name for us some of your selected celebrities and we will see if they are worthy of our consideration. You wouldn’t want to be seen as a troll would you?

  • Costello

    Roger, the earth spins around the sun. It doesn’t rise and set. Your science knowledge appears to equal your musical tastes.

    Ashley, that they haven’t played in NYC in over a decade on some oldies bill speaks volumes about their ability to draw an audience

  • Ashley Scott

    Hey Costello…Get them a gig in NY with proper advertisement and it will be packed. They played NYC in 1999 at The Apollo and headlined over other groups. But get them a gig and you will see how good they are how they will leave the audience wanting more.

  • Roger L. Chemel

    Hey Costello! I think that 99% of the world is of the opinion that the sun doesn’t rise and set in New York City.

  • Costello

    When was the last time the band drew well enough to play New York? Playing some small UK town isn’t impressive in the music business

  • Darwin Holt

    Yes Costello we are cute and loyal. Hhhhmmm have you ever been to one of their shows and seen for yourself that the “majority” actually shows up, has a great time and sings along to every song? If someone is going to write an artical the least they could do is to research the subject before publication. Which obviously was not done in regard to The Three Degrees for this article.

  • Costello

    It’s awfully cute that the fan club has shown up, but Rhetta is right about the Three Degrees being forgotten by the majority of folks

  • Darwin Holt

    You seem to be an American living in the typical USA bubble, as a fellow American living in Europe, let me burst your bubble. The Three Degrees are not forgotten and never will be. Their vocal talents, harmonies and dance routine are legend, at least in the rest of the world. They are still going strong today,touring, looking and sounding better than ever. Please next time try to expand your world before making comments of which you have not researched for the actual truth.

  • Dwight

    Rhetta..By this review you do not know true talent, class, and good music. No The Three Degrees were not popular in America but they are not forgotten. They are “International Stars’ and continue to tour the world. Please do your research on things before you review. I don’t know if you could really be a good judge of talent or music.

  • I am quite amazed that out of a positive review one comment caused such fervor. I was obviously mistaken when I said that The Three Degrees were “forgotten.” I based that solely on the fact that I have not heard anything about them personally in years.

  • Klaatuinc

    Ms. Redpine, just for your reference, Beyonce remarks that The Three Degrees are sassy with attitude. Well, you might not care about what she says. Do you happen to know Ed Sullivan? The ladies performed ‘I do take you’ way before ‘Dirty Ol’ Man’ on his show.

  • Gerard

    My personal feeling is that The Three Degrees are one of the best female vocal groups of all time. Each lady had equal talent and could sing lead at any given time. In contrast other groups had one lead singer and the other 2 sang some ooooo’s and aaaahhh’s and that was the extent of it.

  • @Rhetta Akamatsu the “Ol'” bit in “Dirty Ol’ Man” does NOT refer to age, but a state like “A good ol time was had by all”…..”The good ol days” etc!

  • jayman1960

    I think that it’s fair to say that The Three Degrees were THE act from the PIR stable to have international success on a HUGE scale. Unfortunately some – and I do stress the SOME here – of our cousins Stateside are of the opinion that the World starts on their East Coast and ends on their West. Musically this is not the case and I am pleased that so many are outraged by the comments towards arguably the most popular of the Philadelphia International artistes worldwide. As Mr Chemel states, a quick view of youtube would have saved alot of efforts putting you right. As for “Dirty Ol’ Man”, one can take political correctness too far! The song smashed Europe and is still a very popular part of the Ladies shows’ so please in future, a little more research before attacking a very classy and INTERNATIONAL Group of Ladies 😉

  • Really for someone to write a review before checking their facts is really quite outrageous .For you to say they were good but not great.This coming from someone who did not even know how popular they are in Europe and Japan.Does not give your review much credibility.I believe The Three Degrees have sold 20 million plus records not bad for a group who you do not think that good .But then again not everybody has taste .These ladies are still working and i my self Are going to see them in their current line up in a few weeks .Isaw them last year aswell and can assure you that they are just brilliant live .Not great ?they are fantastic.

  • Roger L. Chemel

    Wow! Your review of the Three Degrees is really off even by American standards. The group, with various members, has been around since 1963. They are linked forever to the success of Soul Train and TSOP. They stand on their own for their songs, performances and success. You may not have seen them in a live performance but you could at least view them on YouTube before commenting. I have NO CLUE where you are going with Dirty Old Man and political correctness. Research, research, research is what you have to do when you do not have first hand knowledge.

  • Gino

    Rhetta, I’m not offended… It’s just not a correct statement about the Philly ladies. Facts are facts. And “Dirty Ol’ Man” is, like Ruud says, not about chasing very young girls. It’s OLE, not OLD…

  • Vonnie Wright

    Sorry mispelled Guinness plz excuse!!!!!

  • Vonnie Wright

    I think you all need to listen carefully to the song before you form your opinion, i agree with you Ruud….Anytime you’re in the book of Genes that says a lot right there…These ladies should have received an award at one of the Academy awards by now after all of these years…Keep it up Ladies!!!!!!

  • Ruud

    When I heard about the forthcoming release of this PIR gem I was very excited. Especially because of the live versions of ‘I didn’t know’ and ‘Dirty ol’man’ by The Three Degrees. Right now I’m looking forward to receive my CD! I was pretty much disappointed by the review given here, especially regarding The Three Degrees. They were the ones who brought the Philly Sound to the attendtion ot the record buyers outside the USA. The Netherlands and belgoum gave them tgheit first number one ever with……………….’Dirty ol’man’. I guess we – in Europe – noticed quite fast the potential of these three ladies. Who – by the way – as one of the very, very few Philly acts still perform live, mostly in Europe and Japan.

    Regarding the statement about the political incorrectness of ‘Dirty ol’man’, just listen again to the song. It’s not about an (very) old men chasing very young girls.
    Sorry had to get this of my chest!

  • I apologize to those people who were offended by my comment about The Three Degrees. I was not aware that they are so popular outside the US and my opinion that they were good, but not great, is of course,my own. The piece is a review and a review is always an opinion, whether “instant” or not.

    In stating that “Dirty Old Man” is politically incorrect today and creepy, I am not denying how the world was; I am merely saying that attitudes towards the subject of older men hitting on very young girls have, thankfully, for the most part changed.

  • Gino Monsieur

    As an author, you have the power to write things and give ‘your’ point of view, which every reader hope is correct. Facts about The Three Degrees here, are not true… even not close to truth. They are the “Longest Running Female Vocal Group” in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records! Gamble & Huff created this CD with them, and with reason. Not because they are “Forgotten” ?! We, the other people in this world, who live outside the US, are aware of these legendary ladies, who are in fact ambassadors for the US, their home country. When will they finally be recognized and honored for that by their own people over there ??!

  • Klaatuinc

    Politically incorrect? You’d better not look away from the way the USA was. And the songs were all created by the leading male writers and such politically incorrect fantasies are still made popluar by Modonna, for example. America still loves it while some have learned to think diffently. If you review any kind of music, you’d better take a good listen and consider what’s contained behind it. Instant reviews are worthless. Because you haven’t checked your spellings right. 2 errors at least. That attitude is associated with anything else.

  • jayman1960

    The Three Degrees forgotten? What a ridiculous comment! They are the only PIR act from this night still performing and although were never given the success they deserved in USA, were MASSIVE in here in England as well as Europe and the Far East. Check your facts next time!