Local Wire

Various Artists

A recurring aspect of pop history is the "hit machine," a moniker bestowed upon creative teams of producers, songwriters, and/or record labels known for a distinctive style and lots of hits. The Motown Sound, Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, and Bacharach/David are iconic examples — Philly Soul is another. In the '70s, Philadelphia International Records, helmed by producers/songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, churned out tremendous hits with their exceptional blend of sweet pop melody, urban funk, sleek sophistication, and smooth, soulful singing. Hits include the O'Jays' "Backstabbers" and Billy Paul's "Me & Mrs. Jones" — but not every single made the charts. Conquer the World compiles 16 of Philadelphia International's magnificent "failures." David (Bunny) Sigler & Dee Dee Sharp's poised "Conquer the World Together" uncannily evokes the '60s Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell duets. The doo-wop-tinged "Makin' Up Time" by Frankie & the Spindles could be a lost gem by the Dells at their best, and why the Mellow Moods' pleading, silky "Stop Taking My Love" wasn't a hit is hard to understand. There are funky workouts, too — Bunny Sigler's wonderfully odd "Theme for Five Fingers of Death" and the JBs-like "Ruby's Surprise Party" by Ruby & the Party Gang. Fans of old-school R&B: Conquer The World is a party ready to happen!
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Mark Keresman