Who is MFSB? Who backs up Eddie Kendricks. The Whispers. Blue Magic. Revelation. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. The Spinners. Impact. The First Choice, Billy Paul. The Trammps,The O’lays, and The Stylistics?Who is the Sal soul Orchestra? And what about the Ritchie Family? How can so many names spell out the same simple answer: TSOP.
Most people think Lose is the Message was the first MFSB album. Over the last few years we’ve come to associate the Three Degrees’ Soul Train Theme as the beginning of Mother, Father. Sister, Brother. but think again. In 1973 an album called MFSB was released. It got little notice. On the back were assorted photographs of such unknowns as Ronnie Baker. Earl (Trammps)Young, Norman Harris, Bobby Eli, Don Renaldo, and other R&B dynamos. What we have here isn’t so much MFSB as D.N.A. the very building block of today’s black sound.
It’s almost impossible to assess the impact that these men have had on the musical world. Philadelphia International is an entity of extraordinary prolificacy. Gamble and Huff are everywhere. The Harris Machine is a logo that every disco fan is familiar with. The names Harris. Baker & Young have become synonymous with excellence. Thom Bell is a legend in his own time. All studio musicians. All the men behind the scene. The main-men of soul.
Love is the Message was one of the original albums that launched the disco movement in America. “TSOP” topped the charts. People began to dance, became involved in black music. With cuts like “Touch Me in the Morning” and “Bitter Sweet” an incredible style became apparent. These were masters at work. Funk, blues and a touch of Broadway blossomed into a sound that was so completely American that any other art form was hard pressed to be as pure a melting pot process.
Universal Love was released in the late spring of 75. By now people had heard of the Philly Sound and a new breed of listeners (both black and white) were evolving. “Sexy” blew the east coast discos apart. D.J.s waited anxiously for their promos climbing into their dark pits passing the likes of “K-Jee” and “T.L.C.” to the stoned ears of the crowded sweaty clubs. Philadelphia was giving birth to new artists, rejuvenating older ones and developing a sound unmistakably their own. Gamble and Huff presided. MFSB a disciplined nectar.
Philadelphia Freedom was a bicentennial offering, a tribute to the capitol of soul. Somewhat weaker than its predecessors. the album re-hashed much of what was stated in Universal Love. By no means a bad album, new ground was broken, but with some trouble. It seems that the MFSB formula was being questioned. R&B freaks began to wonder if the next album would he a continuing step downward. “The Zip” was used for a theme song for a T.V. commercial. Not one cut was big in the discos.
MFSB was involved in too many ventures. The Sal soul Orchestra was without a doubt a disco success and the Ritchie Family’s “Brazil” became a classic.The Trammps were rising with phenomenal speed. Groups like Blue Magic and Revelation released albums of beautiful quality. R&B was rivaling the level of artistry which until that time musical snobs