CNN.com – The music of Philadelphia International Records sounds effortless: the easygoing groove of the O’Jays’ “Love Train,” the triumphant horns of MFSB’s “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” even the cocky declamations of Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones.”
But forming a new R&B label in the early ’70s — particularly one leaning away from the funky, angular sounds of James Brown and Sly & the Family Stone popular at the time — wasn’t easy at all, says Kenneth Gamble, who co-founded the label with Leon Huff in 1971 after several years of producing and songwriting success.
“It was very, very hard to get information for us. It had pretty much been the norm for African-Americans to [be cheated] out of a lot of their music and their royalties,” he said. “I think the industry, by closing us out of so many doors … in order for us to make it, we had to do it on our own.”
“This was music — sweet, gritty, elegaic, sensuous — that celebrated love, fomented activism, pressed for change, celebrated ‘blackness’ in a moment in which black America, in an urgent sense of what that might mean, was just blinking awake,” Lynell George writes in the liner notes to a new box set, “Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia” (Philadelphia International/Legacy).