Various Artists

Ben Lee's Philadelphia Story

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In the 1960s, musician-producer-songwriters Frank Bendinelli and Leroy Lovett formed a production company, Ben-Lee Music, that generated tracks that were leased to other labels, as well as sides that were put out on their own small Philadelphia labels, like Benn-X and Sonata. The exact routes (whereby each side got placed where) are painstaking to trace nowadays; all the lay fan needs to know is that the Ben-Lee umbrella produced obscure Philadelphia soul throughout the decade. Twenty-four of their 1963-68 efforts are collected on this disc, half of them previously unissued. As was usual for small-label soul, the songs are often derivative of larger trends. It's less generic than the usual collection of items that were resuscitated by the Northern soul graveyard in Britain, however, due to the Philadelphia feel of its doo wop-influenced harmonies and peppy horn arrangements. Gamble & Huff freaks will want to pick this up since Leon Huff has a hand in several tracks as pianist and songwriter; Gamble-Huff wrote two of the better tracks: Patty and the Emblems' "He Said, She Said" and Kenny Gamble's own "What Am I Gonna Say to My Baby," which are both tuneful and emotional ballads. There aren't any lost treasures here, but the best tracks are pretty fair pop-soul. The Inspirations' "I'm Cuttin' In" sounds like a missing Drifters B-side; Joyce Bennett's "The New Boy" (actually produced by Tony Luisi, who ran studios that Ben-Lee usually used) has a bouncy uptown girl-group production feel; and the Symbals' "Don't Go, He Don't Love You" is an ingenious inversion of Jerry Butler's "He Will Break Your Heart."

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