Review: MFSB, Love is the Message, The Best of MFSB
MFSB were the house “band”, orchestra really, for Gamble and Huff’s Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. Gamble and Huff were the architects of what became known as the Philly Soul sound that dominated soul and R&B in the early 1970s. Philly Soul was characterized by big sweeping string arrangements, driving, often funky rhythms and jazz influenced horn arrangements. MFSB were the guys who played the music.
The acronym officially stands for Mother Father Sister Brother although some have claimed it stands for MotherFucking Son of a Bitch. (Great. Now all the wankers looking for internet porn doing a Google search on “motherfucking” are going to hit this review. lol) MFSB backed a huge number of hits coming out of the Gamble and Huff studios and began releasing their own albums of mostly instrumental music in 1973. Even if you’ve never heard of this band you probably know their music, in part because they were the backing band on innumerable hits by other artists like the O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the Spinners, the Stylistics and many more. When Chicago’s Soul Train TV show was nationally syndicated in 1973, Don Cornelius, Soul Train’s producer and host, commissioned Gamble and Huff to write a theme song for the show. The result was TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia – great name for a song so prominently identified with Chicago) which almost everyone knows as the theme from Soul Train. The flip side of the TSOP single was “Love is the Message” which New York’s underground DJs discovered and turned into the theme song for the underground dance scene in NY in the early ’70s that eventually produced both disco and house. Both tracks are on this disc.
“Love is the Message: The Best of MFSB” is a terrific collection. I picked up the disc when I was recently looking into the underground dance scene in New York and didn’t have a good copy of the tune “Love is the Message” in our collection. I was delighted when I listened to the rest of the disc. Some of the string heavy songs are a little too soft for me but they are easily offset by rhythm driven tracks like “Back Stabbers” or “Philadelphia Freedom”. If you are a fan of the Philly Soul sound and you don’t already have this disc, it’s a must buy. If you like old school soul in general there is a lot here to enjoy and the quintessential Philly Soul sound these guys unleashed on the world will be instantly familiar if you were listening to soul or pop music in the ’70s or any of the many musicians or types of music that have been influenced by or have sampled this music since then.
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