Sunday, October 3, 2010

Expressway to that Philly sound

By Wayne Shelor

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There’re all sorts of styles and sounds in rock, from the classic to the clangy, garage to grunge, and West Coast to British Invasion. One of my favorite “sounds” is the Sound Of Philadelphia: TSOP.

Two of the coolest cats ever to write and produce records were Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Their strength was in producing records with social dialogue and distinctive, often ambient, sounds of the streets while cultivating a strings-rich style for the songs of a stable of talented artists.

In their heyday -- the mid-'60s to early '70s, a time when it seemed like everybody was young and idealistic -- Gamble and Huff were the very best at using rock music to break down cultural and color barriers.

Black men, Gamble and Huff wrote a song called “Expressway to Your Heart” for a band of white guys called the Soul Survivors – this all happened at the Cameo Parkway Studios in Philadelphia.

”Expressway to Your Heart” was a runaway hit in 1967, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard charts. The genius of “Expressway to Your Heart” was how Gamble and Huff arranged a rhythm & blues song to produce a soul-influenced pop song that America’s white AM radio audience found entertaining.

Gamble & Huff did something similar -- complete with the patented TSOP -- a year later with the release of The Intruders' hit “Cowboys to Girls,” another wonderful Top 10 hit. They were also behind The O’Jay’s “Love Train,” Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” and even MFSB’s TSOP (Mother, Father, Sister, Brother’s “The Sound of Philadelphia”), a song you will recall as the theme music for TV’s "Soul Train" dance program.

All that love and fraternity delivered via an “Expressway to Your Heart” ... it's no wonder Philadelphia is called the City of Brotherly Love. Of course Philly does have the meanest, most vulgar and unwelcoming sports fans in America. Maybe Gamble and Huff can work up a song about them …

Sanctuary contributor Wayne Shelor, who knows the expressway is not always the best way, would rather ride his bike to the beach.

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