100 Best Philly Albums of all Time

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Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 / Hidden Beach, 2000

In the burst of neo-soul activity right at the turn of the 21st century, Philadelphia got its name on the genre's map thanks mostly to Jill Scott's sexy, lush, confident debut. She spends most of the disc quiet and cool, so when she bursts into second gear, it's an explosion of color and timbre. Her hometown is all over this DJ Jazzy Jeff-produced disc, from namechecking the Roots and Mumia to reciting shopping lists for what sounds like a summertime Belmont Plateau barbecue. And this young, most un-diva-like diva carries the entire album with a kind of poise, maturity and self-assuredness that allowed her to release its proper follow-up a full four years later. In 2000 Vol. 1 sounded like a soul throwback. Today it sounds like a classic.

29. Harold Melvin & the

Blue Notes

Wake up Everybody / Philadelphia International, 1975

Philly soul was never more meaningful than this, a raucous, gospel-inflected slice of Teddy Pendergrass--growling, shouting, teasing and striking every note with the precision of a tuning fork. Just seven tracks long, Wake up Everybody is emotion distilled to a raw essence. The title track is a message song with real lift--a sonic rocket of hope. "Don't Leave Me This Way" is about as sad as it sounds. The album is a pinnacle for soul music, and few since have ever tried anything so simultaneously elemental and ambitious.

30. The Goats

Tricks of the Shade / Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1992

A terrifying romp, the Goats' Tricks of the Shade upended the Bush dynasty agenda when Dubya was still an education-supportin' Texan. The album stands as a mark of how far we've come, and 12 years later Tricks of the Shade is still relevant. MCs Oatie Kato, Madd and Swayzack exude swagger and confidence both in their antiwar, anti-ethnic-profiling stance and the operatic background beats. Anthem tracks "Typical American" and "Burn the Flag" blast into the right wing before descending into a smoked-out session of theme-driven rap. With this contribution, the Goats showed that protest can come with a side of Philly's finest booty-shaking riffs.

31. Pink

Missundaztood / Arista, 2001

Local gal made good, Pink stood out from the rest of the little-girl crowd right away. The knowing "Don't Let Me Get Me" conveyed adolescent self-loathing along with the adult determination to do something about it. "Just Like a Pill" fused the kind of meticulous production pop radio demanded at the turn of the millennium with a desperation and anger more commonly associated with punk. And "Get the Party Started" is a sublime dance anthem that bridges the gap between white and black radio. Britney Spears may taunt adult men with her bare midriff, but Pink might sleep with anyone at any time.

32. Laura Nyro

Gonna Take a Miracle / CBS, 1971

Still a cult classic 24 years later, Gonna Take a Miracle was the late Laura Nyro's tribute to the Carole King/Brill Building music she adored as a teenager. Though produced by Gamble and Huff, the album has none of the supertight production values that appear on so many of their TSOP efforts; instead, "Miracle" is one long girl-group (Patti LaBelle contributes mightily) jam session, with such great timeless sing-alongs as "I Met Him on a Sunday," "Jimmy Mack," "Monkey Time" and more, all done with white-girl-with-soul perfection.

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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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