100 Best Philly Albums of all Time

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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."

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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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