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Philly soul legends The O’Jays get political on their farewell album and its single “Above The Law”

The O’Jays: Walter Williams, Eric Grant, and Eddie Levert | photo by Shahar Azran | via Pitchfork

Though they’re originally from Canton, Ohio, The O’Jays will be forever associated with Philadelphia, due to their work with producers Gamble & Huff and their mega-hit “Love Train” being a defining song of The Sound of Philadelphia.

It’s been 45 years since that song emerged, though, and it seems that the band’s hope and optimism has hardened a bit. “People all over the world, join hands” might still be a noble ideal, but as The O’Jays admit in their new single, “evil exists as well as good.” To say nothing of forces like power, corruption, intolerance, hate.

The new song is called “Above The Law,” and it’s a deep funk groover with a dose of socially conscious real talk, in the vein of The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion.” Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: La Santa Cecilia at World Cafe Live at the Queen, Into It. Over It. at Fowler Blast Furnace Room, The O’Jays at Dell Music Center and more

la santa cecilia

Catch La Santa Cecilia tonight when they play at World Cafe Live at The Queen. Like a lot of current musicians, La Santa Cecilia is a musical hybrid — taking bits and pieces of Latin, rock and world music. Hailing from the City of Angels, the band’s high energy, fast-paced music will have the blood dancing through your veins. For more information and tickets, check out the XPN Concert Calendar and watch a performance of La Santa Cecilia’s Latin Grammy nominated song, “La Negra,” below.

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It’s time for a Philly Funky Friday music break by The O’Jays

ojays If you’re in your office or home today in Philly and surrounding areas, and you haven’t looked outside your window or stepped outside, you’re missing a gorgeous, sunny Spring day in Philly. It’s the kind of day that screams Funky Friday, which is on today at 5PM with XPN’s David Dye. So take a moment, poke your head outside, and if you can’t do that then take our little funk break here with this classic from The O’Jays, and make sure you tune in at 5PM today for two hours of the funk with David.

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Here’s a show I wish I had been at: “Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia in 1973”

Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia in 1973 is one concert I would have loved to have been at. Released today, the album, according to Philadelphia International Records “documents the first—and only— time that the stars of Philadelphia International Records ever played in concert with the label’s fabled house band, MFSB. The concert took place in San Francisco during the annual CBS Records convention at the Fairmont Hotel in September 1973.”

In a review of the album on the music site The Second Disc, Joe Marchese writes:

Recorded on July 27, 1973, the concert was held at CBS Records’ company convention inside the plush environs of the Fairmont Hotel. Previous performers at the convention included Bruce Springsteen and Engelbert Humperdinck. Joe Tarsia, the owner of Philly’s hallowed Sigma Sound Studios and the concert’s engineer, recalls in the liner notes that the event was attended by everyone on the CBS roster from Perry Como to Edgar Winter. (What a sight that must have been!) And nearly everyone associated with the success of Philadelphia International was up there, on that stage. Vocalists included Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass, The Three Degrees, Billy Paul, and the O’Jays. The MFSB Orchestra that evening counted among its 35 members two-thirds of the city’s “Mighty Three,” Leon Huff and Thom Bell on piano and organ, respectively. Huff and Bell were joined by a duo of Philly’s finest arrangers, Norman Harris and Bobby Eli (guitars), plus Earl Young (drums), Ronnie Baker (bass), Lenny Pakula (piano/keyboards), Jack Faith (saxophone), Vince Montana (vibes) and other notables. Bobby Martin and Richard Rome, two more arrangers with key contributions to the Philadelphia sound, took turns conducting.

Gamble and Huff considered the evening a crucial one to secure ongoing promotion at CBS Records for their fledgling label despite its already-proven hitmaking ability. That urgency is evident in the performances. (Thom Bell was the third partner in Gamble and Huff’s publishing company, and a frequent face at the label despite his outside productions for The Stylistics, The Spinners, Ronnie Dyson, New York City, Johnny Mathis and so many others.) Hit the jump to meet the evening’s emcee, the one and only Mr. Don Cornelius!

Go here to read the full review.

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Videos In The Key Of Philly: The Dead Milkmen, The O’Jays, The Delta 72, The Hooters

Yesterday, we launched Songs In The Key of Philly, an eight-hour stream of Philly’s finest music throughout the decades. Below, we’ve posted a handful of choice videos from some Philly legends then and now. (Really, I’ll use any excuse we can to post that O’Jays “For The Love Of Money” clip—if I could make it autoplay at the top of every post, I probably would…)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJYjr-vUKZM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCkLEo-DT1Q

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Philly Phlashback: Philly bands on Soul Train

Time-Life’s recently released The Best Of Soul Train three-disc DVD set is filled with some classic booty-shaking performances, including a few that became exemplary of “TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)”. Check out Teddy Pendergrass’s sideburns and The Blue Notes’ costumes—but mostly just groove to these incredible songs that still remain fresh.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVC2j_Kdw8c&feature=fvsr

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p65sBNxoLbA