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Ain’t No Stopping Them Now: Sony Acquires Entire Philadelphia International Catalogue, Box Set Coming Soon [UPDATED]

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Philadelphia International Box

UPDATED 4/9 WITH NEW INFORMATION, LINKS AND IMAGES: The love train is pulling back into the station.

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records, distributed by CBS Records, began life in 1971 with the release of Billy Paul’s Going East on LP and The Ebonys’ “You’re the Reason Why” on 45.  (Trivia fans, take note: Gideon Smith’s single “Arkansaw Wife” – yes, you read that right – has an earlier catalogue number, but the quintessentially Philly track by The Ebonys appears to have been released first.)  The R&B empire, which had built a catalogue of some of the most iconic soul music of all time, continued to be distributed by CBS until 1984.  At that time, control of the label’s post-1975 masters went to Gamble and Huff, with initial reissues (as well as new albums) coming under the EMI umbrella.  Pre-1976 recordings remained with CBS successor Sony Music Entertainment.  In 2007, Sony’s Legacy Recordings announced regained rights to the post-1975 recordings, and now, Sony and PIR have come full circle with the announcement that Sony has gained global ownership of all post-1975 PIR masters.

What this means for Sony is clear: the music industry giant now adds key titles to its roster from artists including Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass, Jean Carn, The Jones Girls, The Stylistics, Archie Bell and the Drells, Jerry Butler, Phyllis Hyman, and others who began recording for PIR in 1976 and beyond.  What does this mean for fans and collectors?  In 2014, Legacy will launch a series of new physical and digital releases created from the combined PIR catalogue including “a definitive Philadelphia International Records box, budget single artist anthology titles, 12-inch and 7-inch vinyl replica collectibles and more.” 

In recent years, numerous PIR album reissues have arrived from Cherry Red Group’s Big Break Records (drawing on the pre-1976 recordings controlled by Sony) and Demon Music Group (the post-1976 recordings controlled by Gamble and Huff).    In early 2012, Legacy thrilled fans with the archival release of Golden Gate Groove, a Don Cornelius-hosted concert that brought together many of the label’s biggest and brightest stars, from the O’Jays to Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass.  In 2013, Demon’s Harmless imprint issued a comprehensive (if oddly arranged) 10-CD box set drawing on the entire discography plus rare recordings from Gamble and Huff’s pre-PIR labels including Neptune, Gamble and North Bay and sister labels like TSOP, Golden Fleece, Tommy and Thunder.

The new catalogue activity from Sony starts in May!  What can you expect?  Hit the jump!

O'Jays Back StabbersThe first batch of these new PIR titles will be released in the U.K. on May 5, 2014 and will include single CD, budget-priced best-of collections from Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls, The Three Degrees, The Intruders, The O’Jays, Billy Paul and Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes to be issued on the Camden label.

These compilations will be followed by a new 20-CD box set containing twenty original Philadelphia International albums spanning the period 1972-1983, from artists including Billy Paul, The O’Jays, The Jacksons, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, The Intruders, The Three Degrees, Lou Rawls, The Jacksons, Teddy Pendergrass and Patti LaBelle.  This box restores The Intruders’ Save the Children to CD in its original album configuration, makes Edwin Birdsong’s 1979 self-titled album available on CD for the first time outside of Japan, and premieres Bunny Sigler’s 1974 Keep Smilin’ on a pressed (non-CD-R/Made on Demand) CD.  The lift-top box set will include every album in a mini-LP sleeve with original artwork.  It also arrives on May 5.

Undoubtedly future releases will arrive on both sides of the Atlantic to celebrate the upcoming 50th Anniversary of Gamble and Huff’s long, enduring musical partnership.  Two-thirds of Philadelphia’s Mighty Three with publishing partner, longtime friend and songwriter-arranger-conductor extraordinaire Thom Bell, Gamble and Huff plan on marking the landmark anniversary beginning in Fall 2014.  Sony’ press release indicates future projects such as the “projected release of their Autobiographical Book and the 2015 launch of their Theatrical Play on their historic Life Story and creation of one of America’s great music catalogues known as ‘The Sound of Philadelphia.’”

What would you like to see emerge from the united Philadelphia International catalogue?  Sound off below!  You’ll also find a list of the complete contents of the upcoming PIR box set, below!  All of the single-disc anthologies can be pre-ordered at the links above, and track listings can also be viewed at those links.

Various Artists, Philadelphia International Box Set (PIR/Legacy U.K., 2014) (Amazon U.K.)

  1. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (1972)
  2. Back Stabbers – The O’Jays (1972)
  3. 360 Degrees of Billy Paul – Billy Paul (1972)
  4.  Save The Children – The Intruders (1973)
  5. The Three Degrees – The Three Degrees (1973)
  6. Ship Ahoy – The O’Jays (1973)
  7. Love Is The Message – MFSB (1973)
  8. Keep Smilin’ – Bunny Sigler (1974)
  9. Wake Up Everybody – Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (1975)
  10. All Things In Time – Lou Rawls (1976)
  11. Life On Mars – Dexter Wansel (1976)
  12. The Jacksons – the Jacksons (1976)
  13. Teddy Pendergrass – Teddy Pendergrass (1976)
  14. Jean Carn – Jean Carn (1976)
  15. The Jones Girls – The Jones Girls (1979)
  16. Edwin Birdsong – Edwin Birdsong (1979)
  17. McFadden and Whitehead – McFadden and Whitehead (1979)
  18. When You Hear Lou You’ve Heard It All – Lou Rawls (1977)
  19. I’m In Love Again – Patti LaBelle (1983)
  20. Life is A Song Worth Singing – Teddy Pendergrass (1978)

Written by Joe Marchese

April 9, 2014 at 13:21

17 Responses

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  1. I hope they include some of the Tom Moulton remixes alongside the original versions. Other than that, seriously excited about Bunny Sigler and Dexter Wansel becoming more readily available.

    Jeremy Shatan

    February 13, 2014 at 16:16

  2. Let’s hope we get some more releases of Phyllis Hyman’s work with PIR.


    February 13, 2014 at 16:25

    • There are some great quadrophonic mixes (O’Jays, Billy Paul, MFSB) that would make for some excellent bonus content


      February 13, 2014 at 17:13

  3. I would like to see a complete collection of singles and non-album tracks such as Motown and Stax (to a less complete extent) have done. Every A&B side with relevant alternate mixes and the like. The world does not need another PIR greatest hits compilation. More archival material like Golden Gate Groove would also be welcome.


    February 13, 2014 at 17:44

    • I couldn’t agree more with the coment above.


      February 17, 2014 at 09:56

      • The entire A&B sides of the Invictus label will be out soon on CD, so it can be done! There has been more greatest hit compilations over the years, than you can shake a stick at so please no more. Can we have different mixes and previously unissued material PLEASE.


        March 23, 2014 at 18:36

    • I totally agree too Sean !


      March 24, 2014 at 13:32

  4. I’d like to see SACD releases for the great ’72-’74 period PIR individual albums (Ship Ahoy! from O’ Jays has already been done). I have always dreamed of hearing “Me & Mrs Jones” in 5.1. The great key albums from this time period really need 5.1 representation.
    I’d also like to hear more archive releases from the early pre-Disco period (up to and including the time period of around the Fall of 1974).
    I would also hope that the Lou Rawls-All things In Time album will get a stand-alone separate release. If Sony/Legacy should decdide to do individual album reissues once again, I would like for them to state clearly that they are brand new remasterings (for instance, this is a brand new 2014 remaster). I am willing to own another copy of the classic albums I have from Billy Paul, the O’ Jays and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, but just make it clear if they are new remasters or not. And please let people know about these things in the advance press releases/announcements.
    For standard CDs, I’d buy anything from the PIR and related label stuff from ’70-’74.
    Also, if there are bonus tracks added onto any individual album remasters, I’d like to see more studio outtakes and alternates included. I love live stuff, but this time around, there should be more studio offerings as bonus tracks because we already have the live material which was added on to some of the Total Soul Classic series that we bought previously.
    As for live stuff, again, I’d love to see more shows from the ’72-’74 period-even if the shows took place in the non-obvious markets not named New York City, Los Angeles and London. If they were at least decently recorded and were taken from a hot night, I’d buy them.


    February 13, 2014 at 23:20

  5. I don’t think it’s economically feasible to hire people to remix an album into 5.1 at this point in time (Steven Wilson notwithstanding). I’d be thrilled to see the original quad mixes included on a DVD-A or even DTS/DD disc. Many of the 5.1 remixes pale next to their quad counterparts (3+3 comes to mind for starters).


    February 14, 2014 at 15:42

    • I’d just like to have the choice of high resolution audio presented. A high rez., download from HDTracks would be another option. I’d like to see The Intruders first three albums finally put on disc as they have never been thus far and are long, long, long overdue.


      April 3, 2014 at 10:28

  6. I’d like to see all of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes albums released….They’re a little hard to find except for ”Wake Up Everybody”….

    Scottie D

    February 18, 2014 at 08:30

  7. Id like to see cd compilations including 7″ singles only like Kaleidscope,etc


    March 24, 2014 at 11:50

  8. The real Philly lovers who are aged around 45 – 55 years old and who have been acquired the 7″ s and LP’s and tapes from the 70’s and the re-editions on CD until today (Legacy, Concorde, Westside,…) have THOSE 20 albums (on vynil and CD) and some tracks 50 times on original album and again and again in a VV.AA. compilation and another…

    I think I’m not the only who hope to see the complete collection of singles from North Bay / PIR / TSOP,…, the albums by Thad Jones, Don Covay,… The complete collection of gospel stuff from Louise Williams album to The Triennal Gospel College Concert in TSOP two LP’s passing trough Ted Whortam & Co. LP,… The unissued stuff by Dennis Edwards, Ron Tyson solo, mary Wells,… Anthony White, Johnny Williams unissued stuff,… gospel stuff from the Peace International subsidiary label…

    These are the things that a true Philly Sound Lover more than 40 years ago, really expect. To dream is free!

    Peace & Soul Food

    manel c.

    March 29, 2014 at 10:01

  9. I would like to finally have the MFSB album “Universal Love” issued on cd. “Got My Head On Straight” by Billy Paul is another extremely hard to find title on CD. What about the early Intruders. We have had some of the late 60’s and early 70’s singles on cd, but no album tracks. Are those included in the Sony acquisition. I would think that Gamble and Huff will still own all of the unreleased material. Very disappointed when the O’Jays finally had a cd of unreleased tracks issued in the mid 2000’s, only to find all of the original music tracks had added synths etc., and did not sound like vintage 70’s recordings. If it ain’t broke… One would think there would be loads of great material lurking in the vaults…we are not getting any younger. Lets have this music issued for Philly music fans.


    April 6, 2014 at 01:39

  10. A compilation of Gamble & Huff productions and songs. Same with Thom Bell.

    Tom Lane

    April 9, 2014 at 16:44

  11. I would like to see remastered (clearly identified) single albums released with 12″ versions and unreleased material included. IMO, compilations should contain FULL LENGTH versions of songs….something that is frustrating to me especially if the original LP for the shortened song is not available. This is one reason why I avoid Motown and to some degree Rhino (not what you used to be) compilations. And let the buyer decide if they prefer the original mono mix over the stereo mix used….included both!

    John C.

    April 10, 2014 at 12:30

  12. Can we get a 2-disc Essential MFSB or, even better, a Complete Albums collection!


    April 12, 2014 at 15:54

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