100 Best Philly Albums of all Time

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

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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.

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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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