Various Artists

Philly Soul Girls, Vol. 1

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B & L Productions, formed by songwriter Frank Bendinelli and arranger Leroy Lovett, recorded quite a bit of music in Philadelphia in the 1960s for either their own small labels or for lease to other companies. Much of it typified the city's transition from R&B, doo wop, twist, and girl group music to early Philadelphia soul, and this 30-song compilation of rare singles and unreleased material focuses on the women vocalists they recorded during the mid-'60s. Most of the anthology bridges girl groups and soul, and while it's competently produced and representative of the period, it's also derivative of certain styles and better songwriters. It could not be said, for instance, that the Persianettes (whose two songs were co-written by "Huff," presumably a young Leon Huff) were not trying to sing like the Supremes, and that the rhythm on Ann Byers' "Dead End" isn't heavily indebted to Martha & the Vandellas. Yes, Motown was an inspiration for many of the songs, but that's not the worst thing in the world; at least the model is good, and the execution of these facsimiles is fairly pleasing. Certainly the standout cut is Patty & the Emblems' "Mixed Up Shook Up Girl," with its swaggering horns and confident girl-group-styled vocal. It was a big hit in Philly in 1964, and had the potential to be a big hit everywhere. Other highlights include Joyce Bennett's "New Boy," a good sassy girl-group tune with an uptown sound, and Kim Brown's "Listen to My Heartbeat," a yearning ballad with a complex melody and such elaborate production (down to the booming orchestral drums) that it's puzzling it was not released at the time. Incidentally, the five cuts by Honey & the Bees are by an entirely different group than the more popular Honey & the Bees that recorded for Arctic/Josie. For listeners worried about duplication, only four of the songs also appear on Ace's compilation of B&L Productions sides, Ben Lee's Philadelphia Story.

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