100 Best Philly Albums of all Time

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

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 17 | Posted Sep. 22, 2004

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98. Mandrake Memorial

Mandrake Memorial / Poppy, 1968

Despite their nonexistent national profile, Mandrake Memorial's trippy debut--dig that sitar and electric harpsichord--did very well for them along the East Coast, partly because they played live so incessantly. George Manney says: "They were the unofficial Trauma 'house' band. The Trauma was an underground venue on Arch Street (1967-'68) that hosted bands such as Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Tim Buckley, Moby Grape, plus many more." This eponymous album was ethereal and melodic, a quiet contrast to the tumultuous days when it was released.


99. Sweet Stavin Chain

Sweet Stavin Chain / Cotillion, 1970

The night Sweet Stavin Chain debuted at the original Electric Factory remains one of the most vivid memories of the era. They toddled horns and all onto the stage, a monstrously populous and ragtag bunch. When they started to play, they were a slam-dunk hit. The late Big John Bussell, a terrific white blues singer, was primary lead vocalist. He'd shine on numbers like "I'm Tore Down" and "Stormy Monday" while the band would boil behind him. But Sweet Stavin Chain's unquestioned show-stopping number was one of the most improbable yet brilliant of that or any era. Group leader and organizer the late Danny Starobin took center stage for a fully choreographed version of "Teddy Bear's Picnic," a touchstone of the collective audience's kidhood. Chain's one album contains all of these and more.


100. Tommy Conwell

Rumble / Columbia, 1988

It's true: He and the Young Rumblers were the king of all bar bands, and that would hurt any rocker's credibility. But Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers were truly beloved in the '80s, mostly because this University of Delaware grad had a strong sense of what worked for the live crowd. That charisma is partly what attracted the attention of Columbia Records for this major label debut, which featured the hit "I'm Not Your Man," about a regular Joe who realizes he'll never be the kind of guy who gets introduced to the parents. The band never went far nationally, but Conwell remains a strong supporter of the Philly music scene as the host of Loud and Local on WYSP.

 

These picks were written by: Jeffrey Barg, Patrick Berkery, Ain� Ardron-Doley, Julie Gerstein, Collin Keefe, Johnny Loftus, Ken Micallef, Ramsay Pennypacker, Liz Spikol, Michael Tearson, Suzann Vogel, Steve Volk and Tim Whitaker.


Man (and Woman) on the Street

We sent out an intrepid PW intern to learn what Philadelphians think are the city's best albums.

By Emily Brochin

 

Matt
Occupation: Electrician.
Neighborhood: South Philadelphia.
Album: Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Wake up Everybody.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 17 of 17
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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.

Greg”

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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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