Various Artists - Philadelphia International Re-Edits
Philadelphia International can quite reasonably lay claim to being the first disco music label. Home to the songwriting/production team of Gamble and Huff, in-house band MFSB, as well as the Trammps, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and the O’Jays, Philly laid the groundwork for the trademark disco sound: a thumping bassline, a sophisticated string arrangement and that steady four-on-the-floor beat. Epitomising this was MFSB’s ‘Love Is The Message’, which became an anthem in disco meccas such as the Loft, the Paradise Garage, the Gallery and the Warehouse, particularly in its 11-minute reconstruction by pioneering remixer Tom Moulton.
That remix was one of many for the 1976 Philadelphia Classics album, and Harmless’s Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits, released to coincide with the label’s 40th anniversary, mines a similar vein, providing two discs of contemporary remixes - or ‘re-edits’ - in the spirit of Moulton and fellow adventurer Walter Gibbons. Many of their re-edits were lo-tech labours of love, mini magnum opuses created by copying and splicing tape on reel-to-reel recorders; although these new versions are made in the age of Reason, remixers such as Morning Star, J*Ski and Ed Zone retain the integrity of the original tracks, with grooves extended and only the odd flange or filter added.
It’s a lightness of touch that pays off, showcasing the soulful musicianship of the original 7” and 12” tracks in their new form. The Jones Girls' ‘Nights Over Egypt’ and MFSB’s ‘Mysteries Of The World’ in particular have an ebb and flow to them custom-made for the dancefloor. And for those who write-off disco as mindless boogie, there’s DJ Apt’s re-edit of Harold Melvin’s socially conscious ‘Wake Up Everybody’, which manages to evoke both What’s Going On and ‘Sexual Healing’-era Marvin Gaye. Even McFadden & Whitehead’s over-familiar ‘Ain’t No Stoppin' Us Now’ is reinvigorated, regaining its status as an anthem of black empowerment rather than an advertising tool for beer and building societies.