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Conquer The World

Philadelphia International Records  
• Various Artists

The title song of this compilation, "Conquer The World," is a loving homage to Marvin & Tammi, performed by Bunny Sigler and Dee Dee Sharp. It's so infectious and strong that one can only surmise that it was kept off the charts by the fickle finger of fate.

And the same could be said about the other fifteen tracks here. In the early 1970s, at Gamble & Huff's sophisti-soul factory, Philadelphia International Records, there were a lot of bridesmaids and best men who never got their moment. For every O'Jays, there were groups like Frankie & the Spindles and Love Committee. For every Lou Rawls, there was a Bobby Bennett and a Carolyn Crawford.

That's what makes listening to this record feel like pure discovery. It's as if you've uncovered a secret stash of Philly Soul hits that never were. From the sweaty dance floor workouts "Grasshopper" and "Good and Plenty" through the testifying majesty of "Makin' Up Time (Parts 1 & 2)" to the humorous blaxploitation kung fu theme "Five Fingers Of Death" and the lush quiet storm balladry of "Love Is Here," this is pure goodness all the way through.

While Gamble and Huff had a hand in writing and producing at least half the tracks, it's Walter "Bunny" Sigler who emerges as the hero here. Sigler was nicknamed "Mr. Emotion," and for good reason. Aside from his righteous, church-like delivery as a vocalist, Sigler the composer and producer always kept the heartbeat in a track front and center. Just listen to the sublime orchestral arrangement on "Makin' Up Time" for proof. It's right up there with a classic like "If You Don't Me By Now."

R & B music has changed a lot since the '70s, with the emphasis shifting from melody to groove. Whatever your opinion on that matter, this collection is a reminder of the power and glory that results when those two elements are in proper proportion. Quite simply, it makes you feel like you can conquer the world. • Bill DeMain

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