Saturday, November 12, 2005

Family Reunion

When was the last time the Philly Sound got a good career overview? Tony Cummings' 1975 The Sound of Philadelphia. So, John A. Jackson's A House On Fire is a most welcome addition to the Soul Music Book catalog. A quick, breezy read at 261 pages, it tells the story of Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff and the overlooked Thom Bell's place in music history. That Philadelphia International Records was the Motown of the 70's is undeniable, but unlike that Company, PIR faded and then disappeared. Most of the blame in the book goes to Kenny Gamble, who let his politics creep into the music as each year passed (I remember PIR albums in the 70's and reading the love-one-another BS that Gamble would write in the liner notes). But regardless of how the label ended its rise was one to celebrate. The Philly catalog remains stellar, and the fact that the laggard's at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have yet to induct Gamble & Huff or Thom Bell for their achievement is enough to make you pause. ( I remember emailing Dave Marsh, who loves the PIR stuff and is a Nominating Committee member, asking him why haven't been inducted, and his response was that they've been "shortlisted" many times. I guess inducting fellow member Seymour Stein was more pressing.)
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