Gamble & Huff: That Philly feelin'
To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of one of the greatest black music labels of all time - the legendary Philadelphia songwriting/production duo Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff’s iconic Philadelphia International Records - UK-based Harmless Records are, over the next couple of months, set to release four brand-new “Philly 40” PIR releases, all of which have been eagerly anticipated across the globe.
These in turn comprise: ‘Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits’ (21 club-friendly Philly re-edits all fully approved by Gamble & Huff and done by PIR enthusiasts from across the world); ‘Philadelphia International: The Roots Of PIR’ (which finds soul DJ Richard Searling compiling a collection of pre-Philadelphia International gems from the Gamble & Huff stable, along with an exclusive Kenny Gamble DVD interview); ‘Philadelphia International: The Tom Moulton Remixes’ (where the Godfather of the Disco Mix remixes 15 more original Philly International tracks to add to l6 of his best original PIR mixes); plus ‘Philadelphia International: 40th Anniversary Box Set’ (a 10-CD deluxe box-set compiled by former ‘Blues & Soul’ contributor Ralph Tee, together with 60-page booklet plus an exclusive Kenny Gamble DVD interview).
All of which in turn provides highly interesting conversation-fodder, as in-awe ‘Blues & Soul’ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis meets up with the globally-revered Kenny Gamble for an early-evening interview at Demon Records’ West End HQ.
PETE: How do you generally feel about celebrating Philadelphia International Records’ 40th Anniversary?
KENNY: “What makes me really happy about celebrating this 40th Anniversary by releasing these four albums is that it gives everybody - including the industry - an opportunity to re-look at Philly International, what we stood for, and the quality of our MUSIC. I mean, 40 years is a long time for ANYTHING! And when, in addition to having the label itself, you consider that as Gamble & Huff we’ve actually been songwriting and producing for almost 50 years now, that definitely makes for a pretty substantial time to be working TOGETHER! And I can genuinely say that throughout that time we’ve always tried to maintain our INTEGRITY. You know, the industry has changed a lot during the last 40 years - particularly when you look at how labels like Motown and Stax are now part of big conglomerates - and so you too also have to adjust to the way times CHANGE. Which is why we at Philly do now have associates and partners all over the WORLD that we license our music to - and so far I’m happy to say that our music has been able to maintain itself and is still in DEMAND! You know, people still love it, they still use it in movies and television... So yeah, I guess one of the things that pleases us the most is the SUSTAINABILITY of our music over the last 40years.”
PETE: So what are your ideas on the ‘Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits’ album - which sees 21 Philly tracks from the Seventies and Eighties now being re-tooled by some of PIR’s prominent modern-day clubland supporters from all over the world?
KENNY: “I LIKE it! You know, I particularly like the fact that many of the songs they’ve used weren’t GIGANTIC hits but were more kinda underground hits in the CLUBS. Like I really appreciate what Morning Star have done to Jean Carn’s ‘Was That All It Was’ - which in fact is also currently in a movie called ‘Precious’, which was directed by Lee Daniels and stars Monique. Plus I also really like the way Deep&Disco have re-worked (The O’Jays’) ‘Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby’. Because, though they cut a lot of our original track out, it’s still very CREATIVE! Which to me is the exciting PART of all this - just to see how someone else will take your song, or your production, and put their own INTERPRETATION on it... So yeah, to see all these young guys re-edit songs like (Billy Paul’s) "Let The Dollar Circulate" and (The Jones Girls’) "You’re Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else" I think has not only made these songs good for today’s clubs, but also given new life to the Philly sound ITSELF.”
PETE: Another of the new album releases - "The Roots Of PIR" - will showcase some of your pre-Philadelphia International songs and productions. How do you feel about that?
KENNY: “Well, I’ve been here at the record label’s offices most of today - and what I’ve found is that people have been bringing songs to me that I’d totally FORGOTTEN about! And I actually think it’s great that you have here a group of people who are doing so much work in pulling up all these soul songs and old productions that go way back into the SIXTIES! You know, it’s actually very inspiring for me to SEE that - and it’s something you can’t find anywhere else but here in the UK! You know, you can’t find people anywhere else who love The Sound Of Philadelphia so MUCH! I mean, I’ve got people l’ve been talking to here that know EVERY INCH of the MUSIC - and that to me is a real TRIBUTE!... So yeah, I think "The Roots Of PIR" will not only be an educational piece, but will also be something that’ll tell the story of how we EVOLVED! Because, you know, we had the same musicians in 1962 as we did in 1972, 1982, 1992…. So you’ll hear how they evolved as players, and also how Gamble & Huff evolved as WRITERS.”
PETE: "The Tom Moulton Remixes" album meanwhile promises to feature said inventor of the 12” format returning to the label where he started with 15 new remixes of original Philly tracks…
KENNY: “Well, every time I’ve seen Moulton over the years he’s been like ‘Let me do another remix, let me do another remix’ - and so it makes me happy to see that now that’s actually HAPPENING! Because he’s a dedicated person who truly specialises in remixing other people’s MUSIC. You know, it’s always great to see the approach he has when taking something that we’ve obviously done our best to construct and then develop as a finished PRODUCT! It’s like, along comes this guy who says ‘Well, I wanna take the drum outta here; I’m gonna take the voice outta here; I think I should take these background vocals from here and put them HERE’… I mean, while it’s still the same song we wrote and produced, Moulton is just somebody who always reconstructs things in his own WAY! And I actually think a remixer of his calibre deserves a lotta credit for being able to reassemble something while at the same time making it so inspiring and ENERGETIC! You know, Tom Mouton is known all over the WORLD for his excellent ability to remix records - and to me he deserves all the credit he GETS!”
PLEASE NOTE: THIS FEATURE PRECEDES PETE’S IN-DEPTH RETROSPECTIVE INTERVIEW WITH KENNY GAMBLE WHICH WILL RUN IN THE FEBRUARY/MARCH PRINT ISSUE OF ‘BLUES & SOUL’
The album "Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits" is released on January 16, followed by ‘Philadelphia International: The Roots Of PIR’ on January 30; ‘Philadelphia International: The Tom Moulton Remixes’ on February 13; and ‘Philadelphia International: 40th Anniversary Box Set’ on February 27, all through Harmless
Words PETE LEWIS