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Monday, October 6, 2008

MFSB Muthafunkinsonofabitch

The Truth Behind The Philli Legend (Funkadelphia 2008)

Precise details as to the origins of these 16 instrumental tracks are thin on the ground. None of them are actually credited to MFSB (although the CD as a whole is), and while a few are noted as having been recorded in 1968, 1969, or 1973, over half the cuts are undated. The liner notes -- which actually only consist of five extended quotes from figures involved with MFSB -- aren't much help, although they do scatter hints that these cuts represent MFSB recording under pseudonyms. So an educated guess would presume that these tracks -- credited to no less than twelve separate artists, including such colorful names as Electric Indian (whose "Keem-O-Sabe," a Top Twenty hit in 1969, is the only well known item here), French Connection, Race Street Chinatown Band, and Brothers of Hope, and such mundane handles as Sam Reed Band -- are in fact MFSB recording under different names in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some celebrated figures are involved in the production and songwriting, including Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Len Barry, but the specifics of their involvement aren't fully spelled out. But while the lack of background information is frustrating, the music itself is pretty cool. This is indeed the sound of Philadelphia soul turning into funk, but rawer and closer to the bone than most of the famous recordings on which MFSB were the backing players (and certainly rawer than MFSB's own hit recordings). All of the instrumental elements of the Philly soul sound are here: tight grooves, funky guitars, neat riffs, and overlays of jazzy vibraphones. It sounds earthier than much famous Philly soul of the era, though, in part because most of the tracks aren't decorated with horns or soothing strings, putting the most cutting ingredients in relief. That's particularly true of some of the guitar work, which sometimes goes into nifty wah-wah, and at others (especially on Hidden Cost's "Bo Did It") even verges on what sounds like Cream/Yardbirds-influenced hard rock lines. It's true that much of this does sound like promising backing tracks waiting for vocal overdubs, and that none of them (except "Keem-O-Sabe") particularly sound like they're instrumental-only hits waiting to happen. Yet this incompleteness is also part of what makes this obscure release interesting, allowing us to dig the root of the Philly sound without the sweeteners in a pretty unadulterated state. Much of it's indeed funky as a, well, mutha, and no doubt it will eventually be plundered by twenty-first century samplers looking for something that few competitors are even aware exist.


01.) Interpretations - Trippin'
02.) Brothers Of Hope - Nickol Nickol
03.) Interpretations - Jason Pew Mosso (Part Two)
04.) Hidden Cost - Bo Did It (Long Version)
05.) Hidden Cost - Vibrations (Long Version)
06.) Daley Diggers - I Can Dig It
07.) Sam Reed Band - Ambassador'S Theme
08.) Sam Reed Band - Jimmy Bishop Theme
09.) Alliance - Cupid'S Holding
10.) Cupit - Squeeze Your Knees
11.) Race Street Chinatown Band - Egg Foo Wa Wa
12.) Electric Indian - Keem O Sabe
13.) French Connection - Monte Carlo
14.) Electric Indian - My Cherie Amour
15.) Pat & The Blenders - Just Because (Instrumental)
16.) Ando Orchestra - Ando'S Theme



Anonymous said...

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Excellent album, one of my favorite albums of all time, this album is to listen for relaxation.

Anonymous said...

Lovely compilation, thanks a lot !

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