100 Best Philly Albums of all Time

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Occupation: Bike messenger.
Neighborhood: Art Museum.
Album: CVA, Paint It Black.

Occupation: Manager at Sound Vision.
Neighborhood: South Philly.
Album: Ruin, Songs of Reverie and Ruin.

Occupation: Construction manager at Urban Outfitters.
Neighborhood: Center City.
Album: Chubby Checker, Let's Twist Again.

Occupation: Musician.
Neighborhood: South Philly.
Album: Hank Mobley, Soul Station.

Occupation: "Vampire sage."
Neighborhood: South Philly.
Album: Bruce Springsteen, Streets of Philadelphia.

Occupation: Artist.
Neighborhood: West Philly.
Album: Sun Ra, Heliocentric Worlds.

Classical Mass

The Philadelphia Orchestra, since its inception in 1900, has amassed such an impressive and extensive catalog of recordings we decided it merited its own section in the Top 100.

The orchestra--as led by conductors Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Riccardo Muti and most recently Wolfgang Sawallisch--has developed an international reputation as one of the finest in the world for its acclaimed "Philadelphia Sound," a tonality characterized by the warmth and clarity of its string section.

According to Laurence Beck, a local orchestra expert, actor and occasional freelance writer, the Philadelphia Sound can be attributed initially to "Stokowski's love for orchestral color" but was further explored by Ormandy "because Ormandy was a virtuoso violinist who took string-playing very seriously." Beck adds, "It's lusher and richer in its prime than any orchestra anywhere, really."

For those of us who don't know a bassoon from an oboe, Beck provides a list of recommendations to guide us through the recording career of one of the world's best symphonic collectives.

--Emily Brochin

Best Album That Demonstrates the Philadelphia Sound: Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, Marche Slave, Capriccio Italien (Ormandy, RCA, 1993).

Best Introduction to the Philadelphia Orchestra: Jean Sibelius' Second Symphony in D Major (Ormandy, Sony, 1994)


Top 10 Philadelphia Orchestra Recordings:
>> Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concertos 1-4 (Stokowski and Ormandy, Naxos, 1999)
>> Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Sh�h�razade (Stokowski, Biddulph, 1994)
>> Igor Stravinski's Petrushka (Stokowski, RCA, 1993)
>> Jean Sibelius' Second Symphony in D Major (Ormandy, Sony, 1994)
>> Carl Orff's Carmina Burana (Ormandy, Sony, 2002)
>> Ludwig van Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto in G Major (Ormandy)
>> Isaac Stern's Violin Concertos of Felix Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky (Ormandy, Sony, 1999)
>> Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (Muti, EMI Classics, 2002)
>> Paul Hindemith's Mathis der Maler (Sawallisch, EMI Classics, 1995)
>> Paul Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (Sawallisch, EMI Classics, 1995 )

Honorable Mention (in no particular order)

Pieces of a Dream >> American Dream >> Ruin >> Carfax Abbey >> Electric Love Muffin >> Tapping the Vein >> Musiq >> Kindred the Family Soul >> Larry Gold >> McFadden & Whitehead >> Grandfabric >> Stargazer Lily >> Wishniaks >> Bill Haley >> Bloodhound Gang >> Caulfields >> Eddie Holman >> Flight of Mavis >> Pretty Poison >> Daughter Darling >> Joey DeFrancesco >> Nixon's Head >> Bitter, Bitter Weeks >> Denison Witmer >> the Trouble With Sweeney >> Low Road >> Slo-Mo >> Delta 72 >> Bardo Pond >> Lenola >> Interpreters >> Trudy Pitts >> Huffamoose >> Miss Justine >> Bobby Rydell >> Shirley Smith >> Townhall >> Floetry >> Rob Henderson >> Atom and His Package >> Bahamadia >> Bill Ricchini >> Paul Robeson >> Bunny Sigler >> Three Degrees >> Joel Dorn >> Rufus Harley >> Napoleon XIV >> Bilal >> Lefty's Deceiver >> Shellito >> Butterball >> Georgie Woods >> Eltro >> Trammps >> Hy Lit >> Joe Niagra >> James Hall >> Three 4 Tens >> Frankie and the Fashions >> Billy & the Essentials >> the Four J's >> Anthony & the Sophomores >> the Swans >> Wanderlust

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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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