Sony Music Entertainment has secured global rights to the entire catalog of Philadelphia International Records, the iconic label founded by award-winning songwriter/producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. The deal reunites the whole PIR catalog under one global licensing and reissue umbrella, adding all post-1975 PIR recordings to the PIR titles already owned by Sony Music.
Simultaneously, Legacy Recordings — Sony Music’s catalog division — is announcing a series of new physical and digital releases culled from the PIR catalog. First up: single CD best-of collections from such core PIR artists as Teddy Pendergrass, the O’Jays, Billy Paul, the Three Degrees and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. These are slated for release in the U.K. on April 21. The U.K. spring launch will also center on the release of a 20-CD Philadelphia International box set featuring classic albums (including the O’Jays’ Back Stabbers, Paul’s 360 Degrees of Billy Paul). Each title in the lift-top box will be packaged in a sleeve replicating the original album artwork.
Established in 1971, Philadelphia International ushered in the game-changing Sound of Philadelphia (aka Philly Soul), a blend of R&B, funk, pop, jazz and world music layered against lush strings, percolating horns and soulful vocals. The label spawned such classic pop and R&B hits as “Love Train,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Me and Mrs. Jones” and “TSOP” (best known as the “Soul Train” theme), since sampled by such contemporary artists as Kanye West, Usher, T.I. and Jay-Z.
“This is a good thing for fans of the Sound of Philadelphia and future generations around the world,” says PIR co-founder Gamble. “The industry’s changing, and it’s important that our catalog is in the hands of the right people who can get the most out of it. Our organization is excited to move on to future priorities.”
Those priorities include two major projects. This fall, Gamble & Huff to release an autobiography. And in 2015, the duo anticipates the launch of a theatrical play about their lives and the creation of Philadelphia International.