There's definitely a need for a thorough career retrospective of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes: one covering their '50s and '60s period, the hit-filled run headed by Teddy Pendergrass during the first half of the '70s, and even the group's less viable post-Pendergrass years. Of course, with the maze of record companies involved, this is a tall order. So, those wanting to check out the group should start with this collection of their prime Philadelphia International hits. Although only containing eight tracks, Collectors Items has most of the chart-toppers, including "If You Don't Know Me By Now," "Wake Up Everybody," and "The Love I Lost." The slick, Philly bump groove marks most of the material, showing why producers Leon Huff and Kenny Gambell, as well as arranger Thom Bell, deserve a good portion of credit for their label's success beyond having a major impact on the black music scene, the Philly Sound, like Motown and Stax before, had substantial crossover appeal as well, influencing the likes of David Bowie and Elton John. And with Pendergrass' soul-fire, gospel-drenched vocal delivery lighting up extended cuts like "Bad Luck" and "Where Are All My Friends," not to mention most of the numbers here, the smooth musical backdrops are infused with just the right amount of grit. A great collection, topped off with a fine duet featuring Pendergrass and future Blue Notes singer Sharon Paige. If you feel the need for a more thorough collection than this budget-price release, check out Epic's 15-track If You Don't Know Me By Now: The Best of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, which covers the same mid-'70s period.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook