Various ‘Philadelphia International Classics: The Tom Moulton Remixes’ 4 CD Box Set (Harmless) 5/5

Philadelphia International Records (PIR) celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year and what better way to commemorate the label that is synonymous with the rise of black American dance music during the 1970s than with a sumptuous package from the incomparable king of disco remixers, Tom Moulton. Of course as a label PIR is so much more and, among other achievements, has contributed fabulous jazz-fusion from Dexter Wansel, gorgeous ballads from the likes of Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Paul and Patti Labelle, socially conscious grooves from the Philadelphia All Stars and even early rap in the form of DJ Jocko, but these can form part of other compilations. Here the focus is strictly on the hottest dancefloor sounds and boy does Tom Moulton deliver the goods. A generous selection of the all-time dance classics have been expertly dissected, deconstructed and then built up again as only Tom Moulton knows how, which means seamlessly weaving in new instrumental parts, beefing up the percussion and incorporating weird and wonderful sound effects. The results are songs that you thought you knew off by heart given a unique and wonderfully creative and inventive new twist. Thus ‘Let’s groove’ by Archie Bell and the Drells has now mushroomed into an elongated ten minutes and twenty second version with an extended pared down keyboard, drum and guitar intro with a thrilling outerspace feel on additional layered instrumentation before the familiar vocals are subtly incorporated into the mix. The masterful reworking is repeated elsewhere with new guitar licks from the instrumental take on ‘Backstabbers’ by the O’Jays while arguably the same group’s greatest dancefloor smash ‘I love music’ is relatively untouched at the beginning, but then mid-way through starts to repeat a segment several times before the Grant Greenesque guitar solo takes over. At times it feels as though Tom Moulton is toying with the listener, teasing them into a false sense of security before unleashing the subtlest of sonic surprises. Teddy Pendergrass features heavily on the compilation as a whole with four selections, three of which are as part of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Of the unexpected remixes, the rather sedately paced ‘When will I see you again’ by the Three Degrees, a long time Prince Charles favourite, receives a gentle makeover that transforms the second part of the song into a mid-tempo groover while Lou Rawls’ sophisticated ‘You’ll never find a love like mine’ is judiciously not tinkered with too much. The soulboy classic ‘Nights over Egypt’ by the Jones Girls is extended to double its original 12” time and old favourites by Jean Carn, the Intruders and the Trammps are lovingly re-created. In sum, no filler and all thriller. This is a truly fitting way to celebrate one of the greatest labels in music history and Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the labels co-founders, would be mightily pleased at the efforts made here to pay rightful homage. Excellent and incisive inner sleeve notes from Lloyd Bradley shed useful light both on an overview of the label and of the individual songs, and classy packaging make for an unbeatable whole. A prime candidate for re-issue of the year. Tim Stenhouse

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