"Ain't it a groove!" Teddy Pendergrass exclaims on ""Tell the World How I Feel About 'Cha Baby," one of many classics tracks on the new compilation Get Down with the Philly Sound. One of the most enduring musical genres to emerge from the '70s is Philadelphia Soul, typified by lush strings, blaring horns, and complex arrangements. Responsible for such pioneering acts as The O'Jays, The Spinners, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and Pendergrass, the music helped spawn the disco sound and launched the careers of legendary songwriters/producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Songs such as "Backstabbers" and "If You Don't Know Me by Now" still permeate the airwaves. To celebrate the Philadelphia Sound's vast influence on modern R&B, DJ Dimitri from Paris has released Get Down with the Philly Sound, an essential collection packed with extended versions of well-known (and more obscure) cuts that focus on the genre's contribution to dance.
Get Down with the Philly Sound consists of two CDs; the first contains a collection of outstanding dance tracks by such artists as Pendergrass, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, The Trammps, and Eddie Kendricks. CD two features remixes of select tracks by Dimitri from Paris. A deluxe booklet chronicles the history of Philly Soul, complete with new interviews with original session musicians and color photos.
Three aspects of the album stand out; first, each of these songs was exquisitely arranged and produced. Try to resist those majestic horns on "You Can't Hide from Yourself" while the strings surround Pendergrass's voice, which warns listeners that "You can't hide/Look in the mirror/There you are." Second, the percussion on these tracks are second to none. Legendary DJ Tom Moulton's mix of the Philly Devotion's version of "Hurts So Bad" highlights the irresistible Latin percussion that entices people to dance. Similarly, TJM's "I Don't Need No Music" combines complex percussion with a rich string arrangement to create a fuller sound, one tailor-made for a large speaker system.
Finally, Pendergrass's soaring vocals transform many cuts from typical disco to incredibly soulful, sincere tracks addressing love, loss, and frustration with life. Just listen to his performance on "Bad Luck," particularly his extended rap toward the end of the song. His laments on not having enough money, losing a job, and disenchantment with the president sound as angry and poignant today as they did in 1975. The extended version of "The More I Get, the More I Want" spotlights Pendergrass's gravely, expressive voice that just oozes funk and soul.