THE DELFONICS : ‘La La Means I Love You’ and ‘Sound Of Sexy Soul’ (Label: Kent)

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THE DELFONICS : 'La La Means I Love You' and 'Sound Of Sexy Soul'

Before his lush, symphonic production style and penchant for an infectious melody helped transform ’70s soul groups The Stylistics and Spinners into household names, Thom Bell worked behind the scenes at Stan Watson’s Philly Groove label with Philadelphian vocal trio, The Delfonics. Thanks to Bell’s songwriting prowess and skill as an arranger, the group led by the soaring, sweetly seraphic falsetto voice of William Hart, enjoyed a slew of US chart hits (and three UK ones) beginning with an insanely catchy romantic ode called ‘La La Means I Love You,’ in 1968. It became the title song of the group’s debut album, which is combined here on this new ‘twofer’ with the group’s second opus, the dubiously titled ‘Sound Of Sexy Soul,’ from 1969. In addition to both albums, there’s also a non-album bonus cut in the shape of the 45, ‘You Got Yours And I’ll Get Mine,’ while detailed liner notes by Tony Rounce (who sources Tony Cumming’s long out-of-print book, ‘The Sound Of Philadelphia’ for information) illuminate the group’s background and musical roots. Like many soul acts of that particular era, The Delfonics were short of original material and padded out their LPs with cover versions – for example, ‘La La Means I Love You’ features the group doing MOR staples like ‘The Shadow Of Your Smile,’ ‘Alfie’ and ‘The Look Of Love,’ while ‘Sound Of Sexy Soul’ boasts revamps of ‘Let It Be Me,’ ‘Ain’t That Peculiar,’ ‘Goin’ Out Of My Head’ and ‘Scarborough Fair.’ The covers are fair to middling but what redeems the albums is the exceptional quality of the Bell-Hart scribed material – exemplified by gems such as ‘I’m Sorry,’ ‘Break Your Promise,’ ‘Losing You,’ ‘You’re Gone,’ ‘Can You Remember,’ ‘Loving Him’ and the fantastic ‘Ready Or Not Here I Come.’ The orchestration, too, is a revelation, with Bell favouring mellow orchestral French horns, opulent strings, glockenspiels and swirling harps. His groundbreaking work here paved the way for future Philly groups like Blue Magic and the Stylistics. Believe me, Philly soul doesn’t get much sweeter than this.
(CW) 4/5