100 Best Philly Albums of all Time

It seemed like a good idea in the meeting ...

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 18 | Posted Sep. 22, 2004

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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.

66. MFSB

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.

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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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