‘The Spirit Of Philadelphia’ is one of Expansion’s most enduring though less frequent series of soul compilations. In his notes label boss, Ralph Tee expresses his frustration that it’s taken five years to get this third volume out but we need to reassure him that we’re all grateful for his efforts because the music is (like that on the first two sets in the series) superb and what’ so good about the selection is that there’s enough rarity to satisfy the anoraks and collectors but it’s also peppered with some bigger names offering reasonably well-known tunes so that the casual soul fan will go away happy too.
Of those bigger names the most eye catching is possibly Major Harris. The sometime Delfonic is, of course, best known for ‘Love Won’t Let Me Wait’ and here he offers another melodic Bobby Eli song, ‘This Is What You Mean To Me’. Less overtly romantic than his biggie, it nevertheless has all the qualities that make Philadelphia music so annoyingly catchy. Bobby Eli is also responsible for the Sister Sledge inclusion, ‘Thank You For Today’ which proves that the ladies had more “proper” soul than those Chic-helmed dancers might suggest.
Of the lesser known names , the most obscure is Troy. Even the dogged Mr. Tee couldn’t find out too much about him but his ‘And Tomorrow Means Another Day We’re Apart’ is a terrific ballad and towards the end Troy really does take off in best Teddy P style. Sharon McMahan is another great “unknown” vocalist, though label credit scanners might have seen her name as the writer of a number of soul hits (most notably for Barbara Lewis). Her inclusion here is the ultra-catchy ‘Get Out Of My Life’ which has a real feel of Barbara Mason about it… and speaking of Ms. M, no decent Philly compilation would be complete without a cut from her. Here it’s a lovely Jimmy Bishop song ‘When You Look At Me’ … pop-soul at its very best. Other featured artists include Ecstasy, Passion and Pain, Sharon Paige, Brown Sugar, Keith Barrow, Ronny Dyson, Debbie Taylor, Little Anthony and the Imperials and Jay and The Techniques whose ‘Don’t Ask Me To Forget’ is another wonderful Philly confection… but we could say that about any of this album’s 17 tracks.