Yo, dudes and dudettes, here is part two in my ongoing musical homage to Philly. It struck me as I was going through this list that It’s been a long time since there was a “Philly Sound.” There are lots of great artists and tunes in this town, but a long time since there was a definitive signature sound in this city, like grunge from Seattle, 80s punk from LA, hip hop from Atlanta, etc. I think that’s good, but it doesn’t help with generating press and attention on the artists that are still hard at work here. But isn’t that par for Philly? A city that often sits in the shadows of other cities, but that has authenticity, grit and heart to go along with its inferiority complex.
Enough of this citywide psychoanalysis by a lawyer who did not sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. On to the tunes!
The Roots “The Seed”
Doesn’t everyone know the Roots by now? Questlove and Black Thought met at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and went on to massive fame. Jimmy Fallon was smart enough to grab these guys as the house band for his Late Night show, and then brilliantly move them with him to the Tonight Show. Marvelously talented musicians, they are also hugely influential in the Philly scene – they sponsor the Roots Picnic each year to highlight great talent and bring them to the city. I’m not the biggest hip-hop fan in the world, but I can dig it, and the genre is so broad that the label covers a lot of acts across a sizeable spectrum. The Roots, in particular, deserve their acclaim. Here’s a great song by them that I’m sure you’ve heard before: “The Seed”:
Marah “My Heart Is The Bums On The Street”
Marah has been around for many moons. Hailing out of Conshohocken, PA, these guys are what you would call a rock ‘n roll band. Dave Bielanko and his brother Serge front the band. Terrific live performers, they have received tons of national acclaim and put out some really strong albums. They did a Christmas show at Underground Arts last December, complete with fake snow, female singers dressed in holiday garb, a dude playing the bagpipes, and tons of fans (well, hundreds?) who seemed to know every lyric to every song. The rollicking show, part Philly revival, part house party, and part rock concert, went on for 3 hours. Needless to say, BRP was there and was impressed enough to put this on the list of annual holiday traditions. The track selected for your listening entertainment is from the Kids in Philly album, which I bought shortly after relocating to the city. Rock it:
Pink “Get The Party Started”
Hailing from Doylestown, Pink is a huge international star. She has won a ton of Grammy’s, MTV video awards, blah blah, and has sold about 45 million records. I can’t say that I’m much of a fan, but I do like some of her tunes. L.A. Reid, a really cool record company executive (check out the Sound Opinions interview with him – it’s very good), was the guy who signed Pink to her first record contract, and the rest is history. There is no denying her influence on a lot of younger female artists. Here’s a really good track called “Get The Party Started” which was a humongous hit and that sports a great title:
Hop Along “The Knock”
Enough of these older acts and established stars for a bit. But what is it with the sibling bands in Philly? Hop Along has Frances Quinlan up front, and her brother Mark in the back pounding the skins. While they started with a folk bent, a big no-no here at BRP, they moved on to more acceptable indie-rock terrain. I was into a female-singer thing about a year or so ago (after discovering Bully and Chumped), and came across Hop Along. Frances’s voice isn’t for everyone, but it’s nothing if not earnest. I really like this track, and since it’s kinda new and bad-ass, I figured I would flash it on you, too. “The witness just wants to talk to you!” That sings to a lawyer. Ready, steady, go:
Boyz II Men “End Of The Road”
More mega-stars hailing from Philly, Boyz II Men hit it absolutely huge with this track. They leveraged it into a massive career focused on ballads and acappella songs. Not exactly BRP material, right? Right! But again, this isn’t about me, it’s about Philly. I wasn’t aware of this, but just last month, a section of Broad Street (from Christian to Carpenter Streets) was renamed "Boyz II Men Boulevard." And the Boyz, like Questlove and Black Thought from the Roots, attended Philly’s own High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. Cooooool. Let’s get jiggy with this track:
The Trammps “Disco Inferno”
Disco sucks! Not! This musical format on the 8 beat has held up a lot better than a number of other musical fads that rip through the popular musical landscape. And this track by Philly’s own Trammps is one of the classics. Burn, baby, burn, an expression that was used to devastating effect during the Watts riots in the 60s, became a lyric used to get you onto the dance floor in the 70s. How’s that for cultural restructuring? BRP will venture out onto that dance floor, especially when this song comes on, but if it were the Gong Show, they would be grabbing quickly for that mallet once they see BRP bust a move. This song was on the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack, and has been covered by Tina Turner and Cyndi Lauper. But for me, it’s the original that is the gold standard, and let’s give it a spin, ok? Fantastic video on this one!
Alright, that does it for Part Two. Do you think I’m done? Well, there ain’t no way! Philly has been busting its seams with musical talent for decades, and we have barely scratched the surface. I’m going to be back real soon to give you more from the broad shoulders of brotherly love. You be sure to check back in to get your ya-ya’s out!
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.