Various Artists

The Best of Melron Records: The Early Philly Sound

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Melron Records was a tiny, independent Philly label that put out several dozen singles, mostly in the 1960s. This is a compilation of 25 tracks recorded there in the early-to-mid-'60s (some, most likely, previously unreleased; the liner notes are indefinite on that point; at any rate, a number of the cuts did not come out on Melron singles). There aren't any hits among them, but Melron, along with numerous other low-profile Philly labels, were doing their bit to move the Philadelphia R&B sound from its roots in doo wop, girl groups, and twist music to more modern forms of soul. As such, this record might find most favor with scholars who appreciate the hidden links in musical history that lead to the full-fledged expression of a genre -- in this case, Philly soul. That's not to say, though, that much of this isn't nice to hear on its own terms, even if the songs aren't brilliant and the styles are derivative. In fact, the all-over-the-place nature of the tracks, as they stumble around for something that might be hit-bound, is a big part of the fun. There are raucous dance tunes, smooth group vocal harmonizing, Latin rhythms, decent girl group tunes (by Lori Ann), and humorous novelties. What's missing is top-level material, but there's an engaging unself-conscious enjoyment to the delivery, the production usually being no-frills and competent (although some of the cuts are rough). Colly Williams' "We'll Make It Someday," with its cheesy organ and soulful backup female vocals, comes the closest to sounding like a hit that never made it to hit status. The liner notes speculate that the Pheasants' introduction to "Out of the Mist" might have been lifted for the Beatles for "This Boy." Although the melodies are similar, it is likely just a coincidence, as the Pheasants' single was so obscure, and the melody line a basic variation on progressions often found in Latin and Hawaiian music.

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