Various Artists

Conquer the World: The Lost Soul of Philadelphia International Records

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The songwriting and production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff prefigured and provided the template for disco and contemporary urban R&B in the early '70s with their strings, horns, and sugary groove approach to making records, and although by the end of the decade the formula began to wear thin and feel tired, uninspired, and stale, the fact remains that the duo's Philadelphia International Records imprint was to the 1970s what Berry Gordy's Motown Records was to the 1960s -- a hitmaking machine. But not everything the label released stormed up the charts, and this set features 16 singles from Philadelphia International that failed to register much airplay, a situation undoubtedly due more to bad luck and circumstance than any lack of musical quality. Nothing else explains why gems like "It's So Wonderful" by veteran Chicago singer Johnny Williams, the hard-driving, Southern soul-styled "Everybody Needs Good Lovin'" by Bunny Sigler, or the memorable and infectious "Hard Workin' Man" by Pat & the Blenders failed to take the airwaves by storm. Revelatory and at times tougher and harder-sounding than the usual Gamble & Huff productions, these lost tracks show that beneath all those sweet, sugary strings was some gutbucket soul and reminds listeners that just because it's good doesn't mean you'll get to hear it.

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