- Isn't liking Philadelphia International, however rejiggered, kind of a no-brainer, like enjoying a spoonful of the melted ice cream pooled at the bottom of a bowl? It's ice cream, for God's sake. And it's Philadelphia International, disco's greatest label, its Motown, with huge pop and R&B hits that defined the '70s mainstream—and as DJs never stop discovering, an equal supply of tucked-away gems.
Like Motown, Philadelphia International was a bellwether for social consciousness and back-straight anthems, its lush ballads and instant funk. (Instant Funk, for the record, recorded for Salsoul, AKA Philadelphia International II: Let's Boogaloo.) And while house fans have been well familiar with disco loops as far back as the mid-'90s (cf. Paul Johnson's 1994 "Welcome to the Warehouse"), the structural tightening and scene-building aspects of edits culture is a different thing altogether, and well-suited to writer-producer-executive powerhouses Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff's (and arranger-producer compatriot Thom Bell's) blend of highfalutin strings and ever-earthier motion.
It's also where the depth of Philadelphia International's catalog comes in handy. With songs as familiar as many of the O'Jays' and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' hits were, then and now, it's harder to hear them as new, or to want to. It can be done, as anyone familiar with Dimitri From Paris's volcanic reconstruction of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' "The Love I Lost"—the original is so perfect that I'd never imagined anyone could touch it and not ruin it.
By contrast, the ultra-familiar items included on The Re-Edits are largely playful. Tim McAllister's changes the Blue Notes' "Be for Real" from a ballad to a floor-filler, bolstered by a surprisingly well-placed kick drum and extra percussion highlights when Teddy Pendergrass stops talking and starts singing. The Noodleman's new version of McFadden & Whitehead's "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" (from 1979, at the tail end of Philly's black music dominance) adds some filtering and either highlights or adds on a high, xylophonish part that dominates the mix. It makes an Arthur Russell record out of one that went #1 pop—as neat an encapsulation of '10s kids' attitude toward "disco" as any. Todd Tejre's version of Dee Dee Sharp Gamble's "Easy Money" lopes in precisely the way you'd expect it to.
So yeah, it's hard to fuck up material this proven. The Re-Edits sets the stage for Philadelphia International's 40-year celebration: A Tom Moulton remixes compilation and a few other goodies are in the works. All of it is laudable. That said, maybe we could stand not to have so many re-edits for a while, yes? I realize it's not a novelty anymore, it's a full-blown genre, but as deeply as I bowed when I saw Earl Young's drums at Seattle's Experience Music Project during its disco exhibit a decade back, I'm starting to wonder how far my waist is going to bend when I see a Serato-loaded laptop (or whatever) sitting behind glass, awaiting our delectation, in the future.
01. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes - Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Take Your Love Back) (Morning Star Re-Edit)
02. Billy Paul - Only The Strong Survive (J*Ski Re-Edit)
03. The Trammps - Save A Place (J*Ski Extended Re-Edit)
04. Jean Carn - Free Love (Victor Rosado Re-Edit)
05. People's Choice - Do It Anyway You Wanna (Keep Schtum Re-Edit)
06. Dexter Wansel - Life On Mars (DJ Mila Re-Edit)
07. MFSB - Mysteries Of The World (J*Ski Extended Re-Edit)
08. McFadden & Whitehead - Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now (The Noodleman Re-Work)
09. The Jones Girls - Dance Turned Into Romance (DJ Friction Re-Edit)
10. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes - Be For Real (Tim McAllister Re-Edit)
11. The O'Jays - Message In Our Music (Jimmy The Twin Re-Edit)
01. Jean Carn - If You Wanna Go Back (Morning Star Re-Edit)
02. The O'Jays - Darlin' Darlin' Baby (Deep & Disco Re-Work)
03. The Jones Girls - You're Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else (Henry Greenwood Re-Edit)
04. Archie Bell & The Drells - Strategy (Touchsoul Re-Edit)
05. Billy Paul - Let The Dollar Circulate (ScratchNSniff's Extended Re-Rub)
06. Dee Dee Sharp Gamble - Easy Money (Todd Terje 2004 Re-Edit)
07. Jean Carn - Was That All It Was (Morning Star Re-Edit)
08. The Jones Girls - Nights Over Egypt (Womack & TOT Re-Edit)
09. Archie Bell & The Drells - Don't Let Love Get You Down (Ed Zone Re-Edit)
10. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes - Wake Up Everybody (DJ Apt One Re-Edit)