100 Best Philly Albums of all Time

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43. Eddie Lang

Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang, Vols. 1 and 2 / JSP, 1923-'31

A childhood friend of Joe Venuti (see No. 65), Eddie Lang (Salvatore Massaro) was the first American guitar hero. A skillful and inspired musician who could play blazingly fast when necessary, Lang was in heavy demand for session work during the roaring '20s. Bing Crosby noted that "Lang was the first fellow to do much single-string guitar work." Lang worked with Jean Goldkette's Band and Paul Whiteman's Orchestra, and recorded for years with Venuti, resulting in this double-CD collection of duo, trio and quartet dates complete with alternate takes.

44. Ween

Chocolate and Cheese / Elektra, 1994

Dean and Gene Ween are an acquired taste for many, but this mid-'90s release captured the moment in time when it became pretty goddamn clear that the only way to do anything new was to smash together everything that was already lying around. Chocolate kicks off with the classic rockin' R&B of "Take Me Away," as if to prove the band had the chops to play it (somewhat) straight before heading into outer space--from Mexican-flavored tracks to disco, weepy balladry and even Jonathan Richman-styled twee rock. The result is that the brothers Ween seem to set rock criticism to music, commenting on the myriad forms pop music takes even as they deliver accomplished songs of their own.

45. G. Love and Special Sauce

G. Love and Special Sauce / Epic, 1994

From some Southern swamp comes the improbable Philly trio G. Love and co.--though the swamp in this case is actually the Schuylkill. With this debut album the band hit MTV hard with the video for the groove-infused "Cold Beverage," and toured behind it devotedly. Taking inspiration from funk, blues and hip-hop, this strong live debut--just Garrett Dutton on guitar and harmonica, Jeff Clemens on drums and Jim Prescott on upright bass--was a harbinger of what was to come from these guys, namely powerfully fun and frequent live shows. This album isn't very complicated, but its mix was strikingly original at the time. And sometimes it's just nice to just sit back and shoot the shit about drinking beer and shooting hoops.

46. Good God

Good God / Atlantic, 1972

Good God was a pioneering jazz/rock fusion band. Larry "Zeno Sparkles" Cardarelli was guitarist. Cotton Kent, who still performs quite a bit around New Hope, played keys. Greg Scott played saxophone. John Ransome played bass, and Hammering Hank Ransome was drummer. They got their name by telephoning Don "Captain Beefheart" Vliet and asking him what they should be called. Vliet replied in his sonorous voice, "Good God!" The band said thanks, hung up and had a name. They were a thrilling outfit, as all four were superior players who meshed beautifully. Their own compositions "A Murder of Crows," "Zaragoza" and "Fish Eye" were fine, but the two covers on their one album go a long way toward explaining Good God's parameters: John McLaughlin's "Dragon Song" and a fabulous take of Frank Zappa's "King Kong." Definitely a band ahead of its time.

47. Benita Valente

Shepard on the Rock / Sony, 1999

Soprano Benita Valente is one of the Curtis Institute of Music's most famous stars, and over a long career she recorded and performed with another famed Curtis affiliate, pianist Rudolf Serkin, as soprano in residence at the Marlboro Festival. She and longtime Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Eugene Ormandy had a stormy relationship, but she also sang under some of the most famous conductors of all time, including Leonard Bernstein and Daniel Barenboim. As for this recording, Mark Beers says: "She produced many dozens of recordings. Her most famous and most beloved was Shepherd on the Rock, recently reissued by Sony. It's one of the greatest vocal performances in history." Valente retired last year and lives in Center City.

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Comments 1 - 18 of 18
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1. Serease Brown said... on Nov 13, 2008 at 09:34AM

“Buuter, Who sings the song Step Into My World , I heard it on your show female group? Thanks Serase”

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2. Drew said... on Jul 23, 2009 at 12:01AM

“"Backstabbers" was hardly early in the O'Jays' career. The group has been recording and touring since 1960.They were a quintet until 1965/66, then a quartet until they resigned with Gamble-Huff and became a trio. Prior to being a trio and hitting with "Backstabbers" they had recorded for at least six different labels with most of their songs scoring in the high echelons of R&B charts in the cities they were played.”

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3. greg said... on Jul 24, 2009 at 04:36PM

“I was in Sweet Stavin Chain and Good God...I was also in a band called Breakwater in the late '70's and early '80's that had 2 successful albums on Arista and a national following. It was one of the best funk bands ever to come out of Philadelphia and one of the few truly self-contained bands on the soul side of town to make a mark. It still gets played on WDAS...the songs were good enough. I'm a little surprised that it didn't get a mention here.
By the way, were getting together again after almost thirty years and it's a real pleasure. The band sounds possibly better than it did back then... nice to know it's still there after all these years, makes you think you were on to something the first time. Keep your eyes peeled, we'll be playing out before the year is out.


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4. Frank C. said... on Jul 26, 2009 at 08:29PM

“Hats off for citing Essra Mohawk's PRIMORDIAL LOVERS but it should be in Top 10, for sure!
The album still blows me away and to think Essra was only 21 when she created it... Not only is it, for my money, the best of the earliest singer-songwriter works, but Rhino Records even went one step further by essentially calling it the mother album of "grrrl power."
Essra, rock on!!!”

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5. Richard Romanowski said... on Dec 25, 2009 at 06:24AM

“Essra, for me, has become a suitable, iconic legend. One listen ro ant of her songs could alone exolain my rationale behind thid thinking. Her songs are truly an inspiration, they are a force to be dealt with. I feel her melodies bery deeply, surging within the innermost parts of my very soul. Thank you. Rich Romanowski of Romanowski Studios (look for my songs on YouTube.”

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6. Joann Cape May NJ said... on May 14, 2010 at 12:42AM

“My husband John Bussell is still alive, still singing and playing for his family and friends.”

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7. john travis said... on May 27, 2010 at 10:19AM

“What about the album Dobbs Lives. only 1000 copies were made, 1980 copy right, Living Room Artists Productions.”

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8. Fluke said... on Mar 24, 2011 at 11:53PM

“Tommy Conwell, are you joking? After he stopped booze and drugs, and became the real him, one of the biggest jerkoffs to ram the earth.”

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9. Ed said... on Nov 17, 2011 at 10:15AM

“The "John Bussell" I'm curious about would be hard to miss ... maybe 6'10" tall!!! Graduated Olney High School Class of '67. He played drums, played with us on graduation night, played drums in Sweet Stavin Chain ... still with us??? Inquiring minds (and old friends) want to know. May be a 45th HS Reunion coming up in May '2012. Please advise”

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10. Dave said... on Feb 10, 2012 at 01:54PM

“The Kit Kats at #81-
the correct song title is "Won't Find Better Than Me", just sayin'”

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11. Michael said... on Feb 28, 2012 at 07:28PM

“What. No mention of American Dream, Good News, Crystal Mansion, Woody Truck Stop, High Treason. Are you sure you were in Philly those years?”

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12. The Warped Vinyl Junkie said... on Mar 28, 2013 at 08:10PM

“You include Bessie Smith on your list since she died near Philadelphia? What an ignorant way to make up a "top 100" list. My vote is you are -200.”

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13. Joann Bussell said... on Nov 7, 2013 at 02:56PM

“Just want to add I am the wife of John Bussell .We married in 1970 and still together today. John Bussell of Sweet Stavin Chain is Alive and well. At 65 he still playing his guitars and singing to his grandkids lol. So late he is not. Lol Still living and loving life.”

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14. Larry said... on May 9, 2014 at 04:58PM

“How come you did not have the singing group the futures on the list?”

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15. Anonymous said... on Sep 16, 2014 at 04:29PM

“U forgot First Choice!”

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16. Anonymous said... on Oct 16, 2014 at 12:41PM

“Two corrections. David Bowie's "David Live" was released on RCA, not Capitol (Bowie's never been on Capitol); and Clarence Clemons recorded "Woman's Got The Power," not "After Last Night."”

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17. Ed Feldamn said... on Dec 5, 2014 at 10:57AM

“The Philadelphia Orchestra, you incredibly ignorant bastards.”

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18. Tom Rothermel said... on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:36PM

“How did you miss American Dream? Incredible band, amazing album. My high school rock band covered several of their songs.

Great to see Edison Electric Band and Good God on the list. Two of my other Philly favorites from the day.”


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