100 Best Philly Albums of all Time

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

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33. Elton John

The Complete Thom Bell Sessions / MCA, 1989

After dropping Blue Moves, his first dud in seven years, Elton John ditched his tried-and-true formula, including longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, and signed on with Philadel-phia's Thom Bell in an effort to tap into the magic the gifted producer and arranger had created with partners Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Backed by a who's-who of Philly soul stalwarts, including the Spinners, MFSB and Bell himself, John eked out the unmistakably TSOP-sounding "Mama Can't Buy You Love" and "Are You Ready for Love."

34. King Britt Presents Sylk130

When the Funk Hits the Fan / Ovum/Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1998

Built around a day in the life of a 1977 funk-loving Philadelphia resident, this album's audible occurrences threatened to overwhelm the music itself. But Britt, being an utter perfectionist, righted the collection's balance with the supreme choice of untapped local luminaries like Vicki Miles, Alma Horton and Alison Crockette belting out an original blend of funk, soul and house. Some called it acid jazz, but the richness of tracks like "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life," "Season's Change" and "The Reason" made Fan more than a glitch in the electronic- music fad file and into the soundtrack of an entire summer.

35. The Hooters

Nervous Night / Columbia, 1985

Philadelphians love to smirk when the Hooters are invoked, but this album remains a strong, smart collection of New Wave rock, as evidenced by its two biggest hits, "Day by Day" and "And We Danced." For "All You Zombies" Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman seemed to deepen their voices and chords to match the somber biblical themes. The Hooters brought Philly a level of notoriety during a period when many bands possessed of big hair (but not metal-big hair) were competing for MTV airplay. The subsequent albums failed to measure up, but the songwriting chops are undeniable.

36. The Stickmen

This Is the Master Brew / Red, 1982

Frank Moriarty says: "The Stickmen may have been Philadelphia's most original band, a fever dream of funk and incandescent energy powered by the tag-team front duo of Pete Baker and Beth Lejman. They channeled James Brown with a punkish approach filtered through a cosmic, comic aura, and the mania of the end result was like nothing seen before or since." Moriarty voted for Get on Board as the group's best album. But Brew got more votes. As the Dead Milkmen's Rodney Anonymous says, "Sweet and sour Jesus on an open-face bun, This Is the Master Brew is a classic! Pete Backer was the most amazing frontman I ever saw. This record plays inside my head every second of every day." Okay then.

37. Essra Mohawk

Primordial Lovers / Reprise, 1970

Essra Mohawk's first album, Sandy's Album Is Here at Last, was, thankfully, the end of her career as Sandra Elayne Hurvitz. She changed her name for 1970's underrated Primordial Lovers, which writer Ramsay Pennypacker calls "a challenging, often breathtaking blend of jazz, '60s pop and what would soon be known as the singer/songwriter sound." He adds, "The album went nowhere, as the label, Reprise, had put its money behind someone named Joni Mitchell. Mohawk was nothing if not groundbreaking--this disc followed her stint as the first woman in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention--and today Lovers routinely makes the best-album lists of numerous critics and High Fidelity-type music freaks." Including us.

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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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