The Best Album from Philly International Records You Never Heard

Ask any fan of soul and R&B music to name some of their favorite albums and artists and chances are one of the many iconic releases from Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s legendary Philadelphia International Records are on the list. Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls, Billy Paul, McFadden and Whitehead, The Intruders, The O’Jays and dozens of more musicians released some of their finest records through Philly International. Working with the remarkable MFSB house band, PIR churned out one hit after another; songs like “Backstabbers,” “Me & Mrs. Jones,” “Love Train,” “The Love I Lost,” “Love TKO,” are forever ingrained in our lives.

Looking over PIR’s impressive discography though, there’s probably one name you won’t recognize: Dick Jensen. Jensen’s self-titled 1973 release on PIR recently came to my attention by way of this review by music writer Joe Marchese on The Second Disc, a music web site that has news and review about music reissues, box sets and compilations. As Marchese writes: “If you’re a fan of Philly soul, classic pop vocals, so-called “MOR” or just plain R&B, there’s something for you here. This is one white hot album you’ll want to add to your library and revisit again and again.”

The Hawaiian born Jensen was born in Kahlihi in 1942 and passed away in 2006. Known as “The Giant,” Jensen performed in his homeland and performed in Mexico City, Las Vegas and New York. Jensen released his debut record, White Hot Soul, in 1969. His 1973 release for Philly International had all the makings of a classic. Marchese writes:

The line-up recorded at Sigma Sound Studios is quintessential: co-producer Leon Huff on piano, Norman Harris, T.J. Tindall, Bobby Eli, and Roland Chambers on guitar, Earl Young on drums, Ronnie Baker on bass, Larry Washington on congas, Lenny Pakula on organ and Vince Montana on vibes. Don Renaldo brought his Horns and Strings, and the Sweethearts of Sigma (Carla Benson, Barbara Ingram and Evette Benton) were on hand for the background vocals. Gamble and Huff, Bunny Sigler and Thom Bell all contributed production, while Bell, Montana, Harris and Bobby Martin all wrote arrangements for Jensen’s artistic rebirth.

Long out of print, the album is available again through Big Break Records; you can purchase it here. Below, listen to a couple of songs from the album.

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Watch the new behind-the-scenes video for “Disco Inferno” from David Uosikkinen’s In The Pocket (playing World Cafe Live on Tuesday)

If you enjoyed In the Pocket’s cover of The Trammps disco hit “Disco Inferno” last month (and how couldn’t you?) then you’ll love the behind-the-scenes documentary.  Hooters drummer David Uosikkinen’s Philadelphia-centric project hit up Studio 4 in Conshohocken to record their rock ‘n’ roll take of the track with Phil Nicolo of the Butcher Bros. production team.  Also making guest appearances with the In the Pocket collective are legendary rapper Schooly D and Gamble & Huff guitarist TJ Tindall, who played on the original recording.  Download In the Pocket’s version of “Disco Inferno” (and their other tracks) here.  They’ll bring the heat to World Cafe Live this coming Tuesday, October 2nd, at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are $20 here, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Settlement Music School.