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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83. Lilys

A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns / SpinART, 1994

Though it's only six songs long, this Lilys album stands apart from the band's others. Erik Bader says: "History, to me, is early-'90s Philadelphia in all its imperfect glory. One guy in the band went on to do the Photon Band; another went on to own the Khyber. Plus, it had a song in a Calvin Klein commercial, before all those silly indie rock songs that wound up in every SUV commercial. It's an important record. It sounds like that wrecked pre-Rendell city we all try to forget. It's brittle, fragile, proud and hopeful. It's perfect."

84. Mazarin

Watch It Happen / Victoria, 2000

After years behind the drums in noise-peddlers Asuza Plane, Quentin Stolzfus put down the sticks and cobbled together the most unexpected album to break out of Philly's fertile late-'90s indie rock movement. NME picked "Wheats," perhaps the greatest breakup song ever written, as its single of the week, before the album was even released here at home. The remainder of the album features tracks soaked in melancholy and set adrift on tuneful melodies that ebb and flow through crashing waves of buzzing drone. Feeling bad never sounded so good.

85. Matt Pond PA

Measure / File 13, 2001

This beautiful and elegant debut album features frontman Matt Pond's wobbly and somehow always melancholy hum, made even more melancholy with the strong inclusion of cello, violin and, yes, French horn. The title track is the most haunting, though "The Hollows" is a close second. The whole album shimmers, and the songs--though not as uptempo as most tunes that you can't get out of your head--are sneakily infectious. Listening to this album, you have a feeling that what's being said is sad but true in a way you haven't tapped into for a long time.

86. Wilson Pickett

Wilson Pickett in Philadelphia / Atlantic, 1970

Alabama-born Wilson Pickett's raw soul swagger is among the best in the business. With a career spanning four decades, Pickett's released dozens of catchy, soul-ified hits, including "In the Midnight Hour," "Mustang Sally" and "Land of 1,000 Dances." In 1970, after 10 or so years in the business, Pickett moseyed up to Philadelphia and recorded In Philadelphia with Gamble and Huff. Philadelphia garnered critical acclaim and commercial success (with hit tracks "Engine Number 9" and "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You"), and proved that Pickett had staying power like no other.

87. Mario Lanza

Be My Love / Prism, 2000

Cursed by a life of drama (with all the booze, drugs and overeating he could muster), South Philly-born Mario Lanza was considered one of the top opera stars of the last century, and used his warm tenor pipes to record several best-selling albums. This greatest hits package features Lanza's work in the studio and onstage. In his short but illustrious career, he made several dozen films (Lanza's favorite was playing his idol in The Great Caruso). Sometimes too portly to actually star on-screen, he often provided a smooth-toned voiceover for more handsome leading men. Dramatic in death as in life, it was rumored that Lanza--though he officially died of a heart attack--was the possible target of a hit by Lucky Luciano, allegedly because he refused to perform a private concert for the mob boss.

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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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