Ask around the Philly soul scene in the 70s and you never got a straight answer regarding why the Sigma house band were called MFSB. The polite explanation is that the abbreviation simply stood for Mother, Father, Sister, Brother but (as most serious Philly collectors will tell you) there’s also a slightly ruder translation – stemming from the musical storm that the Orchestra could cook up at the drop of a baton! Philadelphia’s main musical men – Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff – knew that from the off but they waited till 1973 before they decided to let MFSB record their own albums. MFSB cut six sets in all and the half dozen were all well received – both by the hard-nosed critics and the dance-crazy soul and disco crowd.
MFSB’s 1973 debut eponymous set has just won reissue via bbr and Philly collectors will tell you that it’s without doubt the outfit’s best. The simple reason is that the 6 tracker was a whole lot more soulful than their later more blatantly disco-slanted releases. It features extended and electrifying versions of stuff like ‘Freddie’s Dead’, ‘Family Affair’ and ‘Backstabbers’ and even the lushly orchestrated take on the MOR standard ‘Poinciana’ has lots of appeal. Vince Montana’s vibes are a delight throughout, while Leon Huff’s electric piano proves he coulda been a contender in the performer stakes. Other featured Philly legends include organ-grinder Lenny Pakula, bassist Ronnie Baker, guitarists Norman Harris and Bobby Eli, bongo-beater Larry Washington, drummer Earl Young and of course Don Renaldo and his fabulous strings and horns.
Every soul home should have a least one MFSB album… and if must be just one, make it this one.