|Stylistic origins||Soul, funk, R&B, big band, Philly music|
|Cultural origins||Late 1960s, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Typical instruments||Strings, horns, vocals|
|Derivative forms||Disco, Smooth jazz|
Philadelphia (or Philly) soul, sometimes called the Philadelphia Sound or Sweet Philly, is a style of soul music characterized by funk influences and lush instrumental arrangements, often featuring sweeping strings and piercing horns. The subtle sound of a vibraphone can often be heard in the background of Philly soul songs. The genre laid the groundwork for disco and what are now considered quiet storm and smooth jazz by fusing the R&B rhythm sections of the 1960s with the pop vocal tradition, and featuring a slightly more pronounced jazz influence in its melodic structures and arrangements.
Due to the emphasis on sound and arrangement and the relative anonymity of many of the style's players, Philadelphia soul is often considered a producers' genre.
Philadelphia soul, or the sound of Philadelphia songwriters and producers, included Bobby Martin; Thom Bell; Linda Creed; Norman Harris; Dexter Wansel and the production teams of McFadden & Whitehead; and Gamble & Huff of Philadelphia International Records, who worked with a stable of studio musicians to develop the unique Philadelphia sound used as backing for many different singing acts. Many of these musicians would record as the instrumental group MFSB, which had a hit with the seminal Philadelphia soul song "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" in 1974.
Notable extensions of the Philadelphia sound were bassist Ronald Baker; guitarist Norman Harris and drummer/Trammps baritone Earl Young (B-H-Y), who also recorded as the Trammps and would produce records themselves. These three were the base rhythm section for MFSB, and branched off into a sub-label of Philadelphia International Records called Golden Fleece, distributed by CBS Records (now Sony Music). Soon after, Harris created the Gold Mind label in conjunction with Salsoul Records. Gold Mind's roster included First Choice, Loleatta Holloway, and Love Committee, all of whom would feature Baker/Harris/Young productions of their material. Their 1976 hit by Double Exposure, "Ten Percent", was the first commercial 12-inch single.
The Salsoul Orchestra was composed of key players from MFSB. Salsoul Orchestra, as its name implies, leaned toward R&B-Latin-fused musical flavor. The group was conducted by one-time Mike Douglas television show bandleader/vibraphonist, Vincent Montana Jr., another founding MFSB member.
Philadelphia soul was popular throughout the 1970s, and it set the stage for the studio constructions of disco and urban contemporary music that emerged later in the decade.
Producers and songwriters
- Cummings, Tony (1975). The Sound of Philadelphia. London: Eyre Methuen.
- Jackson, John A. (2004). A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514972-6.