It seemed like a good idea in the meeting ...
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.
PW's 2015 Gift Guide
Calendar: Nov. 25-Dec. 2
Artie Lange knows the score
Calendar: November 18-25