It seemed like a good idea in the meeting ...
63. Ben Vaughn
Mood Swings ('90-'85 & More) / Restless, 1992
Even though he left us for the West Coast nearly a decade ago, Ben Vaughn's heart has always been in Philly. The bulk of Vaughn's success has come from projects that included his music, but not his face. In addition to penning the theme song for Third Rock From the Sun and serving as music director for That '70s Show, he also wrote "I'm Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee)," made famous by Marshall Crenshaw. Mood Swings contains "I'm Sorry" and 20 other classic Vaughn ditties, including "Too Sensitive for This World," "I Dig Your Wig" and "Daddy's Gone for Good."
64. Ray Bryant
Ray Bryant Trio / Prestige, 1957
A marvelous pianist who's worked with every jazz great from Miles Davis and Charlie Parker to Kevin Eubanks (his nephew), Ray Bryant's soulful, bluesy style found ultimate expression on his debut as a leader, Ray Bryant Trio, showing his mastery in material as diverse as John Lewis' "Django" and Clifford Brown's "Daahoud." Bryant, bassist Ike Isaacs and drummer Specs Wright were working as Carmen McRae's Trio at the time, and their cohesion shows in flashy flights of blues-inflected improvisation that sparkles, shines and generally makes its mark as a vehicle for an impressive new voice in jazz piano profundity.
65. Joe Venuti
Gems / Concord Jazz, 1975
A well-known practical joker, Joe Venuti is the godfather of jazz violin, his wacky personality lending his playing great character and individuality. Many of Venuti's albums are out of print, but you should be able to find this 1975 Concord date with guitarist George Barnes. "I Want to Be Happy," "Oh Baby" and "Oh, Lady Be Good" are high points of this rollicking set. Fiddlesticks (Conifer, 1931) and Joe Venuti and Zoot Sims (Chiaroscuro, 1975) are also highly recommended.
The Love Is the Message / TSOP, 1975
What the Funk Brothers did for Motown, MFSB did for Philly International. This album provides proof that the success of the Gamble and Huff formula owes much to MFSB, the musicians who provided the lush background sound for Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (see No. 29), the O'Jays (see No. 2), Billy Paul (see No. 40) and all the others who stood behind the mikes at Sigma Sound. Listen to the beats on this album and you'll be thrown back to the Philadelphia of the '70s, when Cornbread, Fat Albert, big 'fros and Soul Train (the album includes the show's unforgettable theme song) were all the rage.
67. Beanie Sigel
The Truth / Roc-A-Fella, 1999
When he was tapped by Jay-Z to debut with this album on Roc-A-Fella, Rolling Stone wrote Beanie had "a style and manner all his own." Listeners related to the experiences he shared about living in poverty in Philadelphia, as articulated in "Remember Dem Days": "No gas, had a hot plate heat our dinners/ No cash, most nights ate sleep for dinner/ Welfare and white landlord, that life ain't easy/ The only ones moving up was George and Weezy." Other highlights are the song "Mac Man," which compares a drug dealer to the hero of a video game, and "What Ya Life Like," about being in jail. Jay-Z, Memphis Bleek, Eve and Scarface all turn in guest appearances, and Swizz Beatz produces.
PW's 2015 Gift Guide
Calendar: Nov. 25-Dec. 2
Artie Lange knows the score
Calendar: November 18-25