(5 / 5)
In a previous life, I wore the hat of record producer, among other things. The quality of the end result and the sound wafting out of the speakers for those who bought and listened to that band or artist I was working with, was of paramount importance to me.
When grafting away at the pit face in a studio day and night against the clock, there would be certain tracks and albums in my head, as a baromoter and benchmark in production quality to try to achieve on my own project. No matter the genre of music we were working with.
Since those days, I have heard various tracks and albums where I think, ‘Wow. Now that is really ace production’ and I take my hat off to the person responsible. As examples of records I admire production-wise and wish I had achieved such heady results, include Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ 1975 single, “Who Loves You”, Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles”, from 2002 and Soul II Soul’s genius “Back To Life”, which blew me away on its release in 1989.
They all have one thing in common; incredible orchestral arrangements and real attention to detail in the production values. Harking back to the days of the late Barry White’s output and his amazing orchestral approach with his Love Unlimited Orchestra backing and their own releases.
The audio quality was always second to none. Hi-fi nuts would blast out the walrus of love’s music to demonstrate how amazing their set-up was, as the attention to detail in the mix was consistently exemplary.
In the same ball park in class and quality was the stuff M.F.S.B. put out on the famed Philadelphia International label in the 1970s. Assembled by midas-touch record producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, MFSB was the house band for their Philadelphia International Records label and originated the signature smooth “Philly sound” that dominated the early 1970s
Again; when I heard them, either on their own tracks or when they were backing the likes of the O’Jays, the Spinners, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, Billy Paul, Lou Raals, The Delfonics, The Intruders, The Three Degrees, Jerry Butler, and Teddy Pendergrass – and later on, with The Trammps and First Choice – I got much inspiration from the production values and arrangements across their impressive work.
So I am as happy as a kid in a sweet shop now Robinsongs have dropped this new one; the first “double definitive” collection by M.F.S.B. featuring all the full-length versions of their biggest and best tracks.
M.F.S.B., which stood for Mother, Father, Sister, Brother – because the musicians from the local area were all closely connected and good friends- released seven albums in their own right on Philadelphia International.
Well, insiders say that those initials stood for something else, a little more X-rated: “Mother-f*ckin’ son-of-a-bitch”, a phrase used among the musicians to heap praise on an individual’s musical performance, when they did good! Wonder what they said when someone played a bum note?
It was the 1972 release of their first album, “MFSB”, that put them on the map. This marked the beginning of a string of instrumental hits that brought major attention to a large orchestra who laid the foundation for the Sound of Philadelphia.
The line-up of musicians included Karl Chambers, Earl Young, and Norman Fearrington on drums; Norman Harris, Roland Chambers, Bobby Eli, and T.J. Tindall on guitar; Winnie Wilford and Ronnie Baker on bass; Vincent Montana, Jr. on vibes, tympani, orchestra bells, chimes, percussion, arrangements and conductor, and Larry Washington on congas and bongos, Harold Ivory Williams on keyboards, plus Leon Huff and Thom Bell on keyboards and Don Renaldo on strings and horns featuring Rocco Bene on trumpet.
This package also contains the full-length version of the classic “Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto”, which featured all the major artists on the Philly label, but the driving force behind this hit was defiantly M.F.S.B.
“T.S.O.P (The Sound Of Philadelphia)” was the ensemble’s first smash hit single, and went to the top of the R&B and Pop Chart back in 1974, and was adopted as the theme tune to the legendary “Soul Train” TV Show. The track also featured the Three Degrees on vocals. “Sexy” was a number two hit on the R&B chart in the summer of 75. Both “T.S.O.P.” and “Sexy” also charted in the U.K.
The package also includes the track “K-Jee”, probably best known for its inclusion on the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack album. Other stand-out tracks are “Mysteries Of The World”, “Love Is The Message” and “Dance With Me Tonight”, which is included here in the rare 12” mix.
We get a glorious 17 + 15 = 32 cuts across this two-disc set, and this stuff sounds as fresh and fantastic as it did back in the day. I personally think that M.F.S.B. and The Love Unlimited Orchestra’s contribution to the artists they backed and helped make timeless hits with, is not given as much profile and credit as they genuinely deserve.
This bumper package is a flipping good start to attempt to rectify that issue…
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’