Various Artists

Philly Soul Girls, Vol. 2

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This release compiles 25 tracks (two instrumentals are unlisted on the sleeve) of 1960s Philadelphia soul songs produced by Phil Gaber, some of which found their way onto singles on small labels, some of which remained unreleased until this CD. None of these performers are well-known, and just one song, Ronnie Walker's 1967 single "Really Really Love You," made much of a splash, reaching the local Top Ten and the bottom of the national Top Hundred. There were a lot of okay, but not thrilling, Philly soul records made in the 1960s that nudged the local R&B scene from relatively pedestrian roots into something more sophisticated, identifiable, and exciting. These are a couple of dozen examples. They're not tracks you would point to as pinnacles of Philadelphia soul accomplishment, and producer Gaber did not have an original visionary imprint. For those who like the Philadelphia sound, however, the smooth harmonies, fast shuffles, and conscientious, lush production by long-forgotten ensembles like the Emanons, the Enkays, and the Agents are enjoyable. Dates aren't given for everything, but in general, most of the material seems to come from the years between 1965 and 1969, bridging the cornier early-'60s sounds and the slicker, sweet soul of the Gamble-Huff dynasty. Ronnie Walker has one of those effeminate, high voices (like the more famous Eddie Holman's but thinner) that sounds pleasing on "Love Is an Illusion" and on the midtempo ballad "Really Really Love You," with its ghostly organ and faint Latin beat. Other nice cuts are the Agents' pumping "Trouble," with its haunting chorus, and an unlisted, untitled instrumental (shall we just call it track #24), which is a simmering minor-key funk-blues vamp.