written by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Teddy Pendergrass was the main voice of Philadelphia soul in the 1970s, whether as front man of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes or as a solo singer. Remix engineer John Morales has looked to recognise that in the latest installment of his remix projects with BBE Music, keen to bring improved clarity to each of the 18 songs he has selected. This involves highlighting individual musical contributions without losing the spirit of the original, while keeping the utmost respect for the principal instrument – which of course is Teddy’s voice.
The project has the blessing of Gamble & Huff, founders of Philadelphia International Records in 1971, and the Teddy Pendergrass estate.
What’s the music like?
Once you’ve experienced Teddy Pendergrass as a singer, you don’t forget it – and John Morales ensures each of these tracks captures that formative experience.
He gets the good vibes flowing immediately, with arrangements that give the music all the breathing space it needs. There is a sumptuous orchestral introduction bookending Don’t Leave Me This Way, while the piano powering If You Don’t Know Me By Now is the icing on the cake where the pleading vocals are the star of the show. Two classic songs, with their instrumental craft illuminated by Morales. The Love I Lost may be a bittersweet song but it is wholly uplifting here, while the impassioned vocal of Where Are All My Friends is given an active counterpoint from brass and strings that respond to its changing harmonies.
These instrumental touches elevate the songs still further. Do Me has a nicely pointed sax solo. I Don’t Love You Anymore has a brilliant vocal hook, the strings bubbling under. There are some lovely string flourishes taken up by the brass on If You Know Like I Know, and a beautifully crafted orchestral intro to Now Is The Time. Some of the songs are still powered by their meaningful lyrics – with Life Is A Song Worth Singing and Is There A Place For Me especially pertinent.
Morales has chosen carefully, selecting some of the outright classics from this era, but also delving deeper to bring out lesser-known songs such as Come And Go With Me and If You Don’t Love Me.
Does it all work?
Very much so. The love John Morales has for these tracks is clear in the painstaking work bringing each component to the fore – and his work is rewarded with some noteworthy tracks, giving this music wonderful clarity and renewed energy.
Is it recommended?
Yes – Morales fans will already be on it, but fans of soul music in general will love the collection in its sparkly new clothing.
You can purchase this compilation at the BBE Music website, where you can hear more clips and read more about the project.