It seemed like a good idea in the meeting ...
48. Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles
Sweethearts of the Apollo / Newtown Music, 1963
Over the decades Patti LaBelle has repeatedly reinvented herself to adapt to the times. But in recent times Patti has settled into becoming our city's one and only diva, showing up repeatedly at major black-tie events to blow the roof off the joint. Those familiar with her long and winding road will always feel warmest about her early years when she fronted the Bluebelles, back when she sang her young heart out on the unforgettable "Down the Aisle" and had us all singing along to the AM ditty "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman." Those early hits and more are all here--performed live at the Apollo--including a version of "Danny Boy" that'll make you forget all about all the ham-handed Irish versions trotted out every St. Patrick's Day.
49. Boyz ll Men
Cooleyhighharmony / Motown, 1991
Sad but true: After Cooleyhighharmony, Boyz II Men simply became wusses. Never again would the Boyz recreate the upbeat New Jack swing of "Motownphilly," with its laid-back rhymes, funky horns and beaming civic pride. While they did introduce to the world the notion that urban music could combine the beat patterns of '80s hip-hop with the rich harmonies of '60s soul and R&B, they later let just the four-part harmonies become their bread and butter, allowing the danceable Philly style to fall by the wayside. Cooleyhigh harmony gave us both--not to mention one of our best hometown anthems yet.
50. Robert Hazard and the Heroes
Robert Hazard and the Heroes / RCA, 1982
Remember riding the escalator of life? Shopping in the human mall? That New Wave hit was a bracing debut, but it turned out that Hazard, whose "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" was made famous by Cyndi Lauper, was better at writing hits than recording them himself. When this EP came out in 1982, the girls and Wavers in Philly went wild, and it sold 100,000 copies in this area alone--but sadly, in this area only. Kurt Loder lauded the band in Rolling Stone in 1981 but pointed out: "Robert Hazard and the Heroes are a rock 'n' roll event waiting to happen. Unfortunately, they are waiting in Philadelphia, a city known to record-company A&R men mainly as a clearing in the clouds somewhere between New York and Los Angeles." (The review also called WMMR "Philly's leading progressive rocker." Sigh.) Rolling Stone later gave this EP four out of five stars.
51. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
I Love Rock 'n' Roll / Boardwalk, 1981
After her stint with the Runaways, Jett could easily have disappeared forever or wound up like Lita Ford, slinging hack-metal cliches like fried eggs and coffee, and showing up each year with her hair just a little bigger than it was the year before. But Jett served up this tasty collection of riot grrl rock 'n' roll instead--before riot grrls even existed. The title track remains a sublime slice of ruff and ready riff rock. And any thirtysomething can still remember what it was like to hear Jett purr, "I can take you home/where we can be alo-own-own ... " Scha-wing, baby. Here comes puberty.
52. Grover Washington Jr.
Inner City Blues / Motown Jazz, 1971
Sadly, Washington died before we could see what his later jazz years would have brought. We're left with mixed remembrances of the talented horn player, perhaps the most vivid single memory being his many renditions of the national anthem before Dr. J-era games at the Spectrum. He of course left behind a lot of music too, the most significant arguably this early-career album, where he combined jazz (his genre of choice) with soul (his hometown sound). The result: winning renditions of "Georgia on My Mind," "Mercy Mercy Me" and "Ain't No Sunshine."
PW's 2015 Gift Guide
Calendar: Nov. 25-Dec. 2
Artie Lange knows the score
Calendar: November 18-25