Various Artists – Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia Live in San Francisco 1973

January 01, 1970

(Legacy Recordings)



The suicide death of former Soul Train creator and host Don
Cornelius was a shocking blow to generations of folks raised on Saturday
lunchtimes with “the hippest trip in America” coming from the boob
tube. And the fact that this pioneer of black television’s legendary velvet
voice is the first you hear on this recently unearthed live album from 1973
featuring the superstars of the Philly Soul movement is a reminder of his
importance to the molding of African-American music culture over the course of
these last four decades. 


Golden Gate Groove, rescued from Sony Music’s hidden cavern of archival recordings, chronicles the events of the CBS semi-annual company convention, which in
June of ’73 was held at the luxurious Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. According to the informative
liner notes penned by NPR’s Ashley Kahn, 1973 was a year of serious turmoil for
the then-mighty major. Label president Clive Davis had just been ousted under
the charge of misappropriating corporate monies, and morale was low amongst
staffers, many of whom were unaware of the fate of their own jobs as the
company was treading uncertain waters. So CBS aimed to go all out that year in
order not only promote their upcoming summer and fall releases, but to also
show appreciation to their workforce in a bid for solidarity and good faith
that all will work out in the end. And nothing on the roster was more apropos
for party starting than T.S.O.P., short for The Sound of Philadelphia, led by
songwriting production duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff along with partner Thomas
Bell and their P.I.R. (Philadelphia International Records) boutique imprint,
which had just signed a lucrative deal with Epic Records and represented the
bleeding edge of R&B at the time. All it took was one brainstorming lunch
in the Chinatown section of Philly between Gamble and label reps Ron Alexenberg
and Harry Coombs to help transform Epic’s night at the convention into a
full-on vehicle for P.I.R.’s stable of talent before a crowd of 1,500 of the
industry’s biggest movers and shakers.


“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Philadelphia,” enthusiastically
announced Cornelius before introducing MFSB to the stage, the P.I.R. label’s 35
person strong in-house orchestra responsible for the movement’s anthem
“T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)” that also doubled up as the
opening theme to Soul Train, who kicked off the event with their
elaborate spin on Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead”. From there, the
evening just kept getting better and better, as Philly’s finest acts, including
Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, The Three Degrees, Billy Paul and The O’Jays,
cruised through rousing, fruitful versions of their most beloved classics, the
best of which is represented on this 14-track collection. Highlights include
the Blue Notes sexing it up with a stellar eleven minute run through their hit
ballad “I Miss You” that included a mid-song soliloquy by singer
Teddy Pendergrass where he pleads to his lover to let him “hit that thing
one more time”, Paul’s lengthy jam on the semi-title cut to his 1971
psych-lite LP Goin’ East and The O’Jays closing out the night with a
version of their all-time smash “Love Train” that allegedly had the
entire audience busting out the Soul Train line dance through the ballroom and
out into the hotel area. 


Golden Gate Groove ought to be placed right up there with The Stax/Volt Revue: Live in London Vol. 1 and The Motortown Revue Live as one of the finest showcases of a single
label in concert as a collective that not only gives precedence to the
greatness of the TSOP empire but also serves as a final, fitting testament to the
greatness of one of Black America’s most indelible impresarios in the late,
great Don Cornelius, whose golden timbre will forever be missed. 


DOWNLOAD: Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “I
Miss You”, Three Degrees’ “Dirty Old Man”, MSFB’s “T.S.O.P.
(The Sound of Philadelphia)”, Billy Paul’s “East”, The O’Jays’
“Love Train” RON HART

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