Lost Soul Gems: A collection of Philly soul that lives up to its name

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William DeVaughn | Photo by Eli Meir Kaplan | via Slate.com
William DeVaughn | Photo by Eli Meir Kaplan | via Slate.com

While Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff orchestrated The Sound of Philadelphia with bands like Harold Melvin and The Bluenotes, Billy Paul, and MFSB on Philadelphia International Records, there was also some incredible soul music being made around the edges of the music scene here. The record label Sound Gems Records was one of those, and the label has just released an excellent compilation of Philly R&B and soul, Lost Soul Gems.

In the 70’s Soul Gems was primarily a 45 RPM label. The label worked with artists like William DeVaughn (“Be Thankful For What You’ve Got”), Billy “The Human Percolator” Harner, Spice (featuring Bunny Davis), and many others. Sound Gems was founded by songwriter and producer Frank Fioravanti, who worked on DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful” with MFSB’s John Davis. DeVaughn’s song reached #1 on Billboard’s R&B charts, and #4 on the Hot 100 charts in 1974, and remains to this day one of the great soul songs of all-time.

Sound Gems Records’ Lost Soul Gems is a fantastic collection of rare soul and R&B that more than lives up to its title. Some of these hard to find tracks have appeared on Northern Soul music collections and fetch upwards to $40 from record collectors. Standouts include the feverish, proto-disco dancefloor jam, “Give Me Your Best Shot” by Ebb Tide, “Sweet Norma Jones,” by Spice (featuring the powerful vocals of Bunny Davis,) “You’re My Main Squeeze,” by Crystal Motion, “Breaking Up Again,” by The Charmetts, the Tyrone Davis-esque “I’m A Stranger” by Tommy McGee, and two previously unreleased songs by William DeVaughn, “Staying Power,” and “Love Ballad of the Year.” The DeVaughn songs are silky, sexy, and go down smooth.

Below, sample of few of the songs from the collection. And check out the Sound Gems website for more information about the label and project here.

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