It seemed like a good idea in the meeting ...
78. Larry McKenna
It Might as Well Be Spring / Dreambox Media, 2001
Like fellow saxman Bootsie Barnes (see No. 70), everyone in Philly who knows anything about jazz knows tenor sax player Larry McKenna. His legacy is not only his smooth tone, but his mentorship of many other local musicians who studied with him at Temple University, Community College and elsewhere. Like Stan Getz (see No. 12), there's a sweetness and romance to McKenna's playing, and that pure sound is perfect for the American songbook, which McKenna pays great tribute to here. "Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most" has always been undervalued, and the other choices--"April Showers," "It Might as Well Be Spring," "Skylark," "How About You" and more--speak for themselves.
79. Edison Electric Band
Bless You, Doctor Woodward / Cotillian, 1970
In the Electric Factory's '70s heyday--before the days of conservative Clear Channel greed--this puffy-haired band was a local favorite. Legendary music critic Robert Christgau writes of this release: "This Philadelphia group has been ignored just about everywhere but in Rolling Stone, where they were panned stupidly, perhaps out of geographical jealousy. All the players have the kind of blues-soul feeling that makes Nick Gravenites such a Bay Area hero, and in the best ballroom tradition the music occupies that uncharted region triangulated by rock, pop and jazz--only it's tighter and more melodic than what you hear in the ballrooms."
80. Dee Dee Sharp
It's Mashed Potato Time / Cameo, 1962
Not only was "Mashed Potato Time" catchy, but the song created a new dance, one that only the kids in Philly seemed able to make look cool. Lots of the songs Sharp recorded on this album were popular covers--"I Sold My Heart to the Junkman," for example. But she did them all with a unique kind of Philly confidence and swagger, and the songs that were hers--"Gravy" and "Slow Twistin'" in particular--became big hits nationally and on WIBBAGE, the hippest big-time AM radio station in the city--and some would say, the whole country.
81. Kit Kats
It's About Time / Jamie, 1967
In the '60s and early '70s the Kit Kats--who combined soul sounds with a sunny upbeat vernacular--were the consummate Philly bar band. They were everywhere at once--at least everywhere we were, including the Jersey shore. Their music was catchy and fun to bop to, and unlike most bar bands, many of their songs were original and translated well to vinyl--particularly "Let's Get Lost on a Country Road" and "Can't Find Better Than Me." The Kit Kats, we were sure, were going to make it really, really big. Didn't happen. Doesn't matter. They were Philly cool.
82. Jerry Blavat
Jerry Blavat Presents for Dancers Only (Recorded Live at Chez-Vous and Wagners) / Lost Nite, 1966
Blavat made a raft of records on Lost Nite in the '60s--including memorable albums dubbed "For Lovers Only" and "For Collectors Only." Some of his compilations sold upward of 50,000 copies, a stunningly high number for a disc jockey on a minor label. Kids loyal to the Geator collected all of them, which makes it tough to single out one. But For Dancers Only, recorded live at two ballrooms where Blavat regularly held court, captured the raw energy and true madness of a Geator with the Heator record hop. Being there was a rite of passage. Listening to this brings it all back.
PW's 2015 Gift Guide
Calendar: Nov. 25-Dec. 2
Artie Lange knows the score
Calendar: November 18-25