|Personnel: Dennis Harris , Darnell Jordan, Guy Fiske, Tito Jackson (vocals, guitar); Frankie Brunson, Ron Kersey (vocals, piano, electric piano, organ, keyboards, synthesizer); Earl Young, Michael Thompson (vocals, drums); Brenda Lee Jones, Harry McGilberry, Valorie Jones, Jon King, Shirley Jones (vocals, background vocals); Harold Wade, Bobbie Smith, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, James "Hal" Smith , Walter Williams , Robert Upchurch, Clarence Vaughn, Charles Ingui, Eddie Levert, Edward "Sonny" Bivins, James Wise, Jon Hart, Willie Parnell, Sam Strain, Herb Murrell, Shirley Porter, Robert Edwards, James Dunn , Gene McFadden, David Beasley, Stanley Wade, Gerald Alston, Phil Terry, Donald Ford, Kenneth "Wally" Kelly, Frank Washington , Sam Brown, III, Airrion Love, William Powell, Harold Melvin, Jimmy Ellis , Richard Taylor , Fayette Pinkney, Jerry Cummings, Bernard Wilson, Ritchie Daniels, Kenny Jeremiah, Linda Turner, Randy Cain, Richard Ingui, Jackie Jackson , Eugene Daughtry, James Tuten, James King , Roger Andrews, John Whitehead, Dave Thompson, Lloyd Parks, Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson, Philippe Wynne, Randy Jackson , Archie Bell, Russell Thompkins, Jr., Teddy Pendergrass, William "Poogie" Hart, Winfred "Blue" Lovett, Billy Henderson, Lee Bell, Wilbert Hart (vocals); Dexter Wansel (guitar, piano, celesta, electric piano, organ, keyboards, synthesizer, marimba, congas, bongos, tambourine, timpani, percussion); Bunny Sigler (guitar, piano, electric piano, organ, keyboards, synthesizer); James Herb Smith (guitar, background vocals); Reggie Lucas, Dennis Dozier, Edward Moore, Tom Kennery, Theodore Life, T.J. Tindall, Doc Wade, David Bay, Kim Miller, Norman Harris, Roland Chambers, Ronnie James , Bobby Eli (guitar); Don Renaldo (strings); Sam Reed (horns); John Hart , David Jones & the Revels Chorus, Eddie Green , Eugene Lambchops Curry, Cotton Kent, James Mendell, Harold Williams , Ugene Dozier, William Bloom, Bruce Gray, James Ingram , T.G. Conway, Jerry Cohen, Jimmy Sigler, Joseph B. Jefferson, Lenny Pakula, Leon Huff , Philip T. Pugh, Richard Rome, Victor Carstarphen, Thom Bell, Bruce Hawes (piano, electric piano, organ, keyboards, synthesizer); Cynthia Biggs, Bob Conga, David Cruse, Miguel Fuentes, Larry Washington (celesta, marimba, congas, bongos, tambourine, timpani, percussion, background vocals); Vince Montana, Nick Dimico, Bobby Martin (vibraphone); Karl Chambers, Keith Benson, David Thompson, Jim Helmer, Scott Miller , Quinton Joseph, Norman Farrington, Andrew Smith , Charlie Collins (drums); Evette Benton, Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson, Herb Johnson & The Impacts, Kenneth Crew, Terri Wells (background vocals).
|Sony/Legacy's 2008 four-disc Love Train: The Ultimate Sound of Philadelphia isn't the first box set assembled on Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff's legendary Philadelphia International Records -- most notably it follows the triple-disc Philly Sound: Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and the Story of Brotherly Love (1966-1976) by just over a decade -- but it is surely the best, covering more ground and painting a fuller picture of the Philly soul sound than any other similar compilation. This is largely due to how Love Train doesn't focus solely on singles released on Philadelphia International: it encompasses sides released on early, pre-PIR imprints like Crimson, Philly Groove, and Gamble but, more importantly, it weaves in outside productions by Gamble & Huff and their crucial partner Thom Bell. Adding all these non-PIR singles greatly expands Love Train, as does the decision to have this set run all the way into 1983, thereby emphasizing how Gamble & Huff's symphonic soul opened the doors for both disco and quiet storm. Part of the set's appeal is that it does offer some education, illustrating how the psychedelicized soul of 1967's "Expressway (To Your Heart)" led to the cool, soft grooves of 1980's "Love T.K.O.," a document of how rich and adventurous '70s soul was thanks to Gamble & Huff and Bell, and all their artists and associates, but this set never drags like a history lesson. It keeps moving from peak to peak, spending the first disc on early triumphs from the Delfonics ("La-La -- Means I Love You," "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind)"), Joe Simon ("Drowning in the Sea of Love"), the O'Jays ("Back Stabbers"), the Spinners ("I'll Be Around"), Billy Paul ("Me and Mrs. Jones") and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes ("If You Don't Know Me by Now"), the songs that established the Philly Sound, then giving way to the glory days documented on the second disc, which opens with the O'Jays' "Love Train" and closes with "T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)," the singles that helped cement the Philly sound on a broader scale. The third disc finds Gamble & Huff and Bell expanding their lush signature, ushering in disco with singles like Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "Don't Leave Me This Way," then the fourth disc charts the aftermath through the Spinners' "The Rubberband Man," Lou Rawls' "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mind," and Deniece Williams' "It's Gonna Take a Miracle." Although there are assorted lesser-known singles scattered throughout the box, this is by design hits-heavy, which is how it should be, as this showcases a body of work -- and as this superb set proves, Gamble & Huff's body of work ranks among the strongest popular music of the 20th century. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine