When you look back at the musical genre we know as Philadelphia soul, there are few who can claim to have both spanned and influenced its evolution and generational forms-from doo wop, funky RnB, the classic Philly sound, soulful disco and what we now call modern soul….unless your name is Weldon Arthur McDougal III that is!
Digging deeper into the Lansdowne vaults mainly laid down in Philadelphia over the last 40 years we have brought you a diverse collection of tracks that emphasize the full spectrum of Weldon’s independent productions. Never overly smooth or manicured nor fitting too neatly with one particular style- these cuts show a production hand that always emphasizes individuality.
Weldon’s production work often took place over many months, building the tracks, trying them out with different artists -always hoping that he could capture that special performance and give justice to the song. Often appearing under different production names the songs were often not given release or were held back as it would have brought him into conflict with his national prominent role as a promotions man for Motown. Bringing these tracks to CD now allows us to put them in their place and time. We can enjoy them properly, often for the first time
The songs featured on the CD highlight Weldon’s R’n’B sensibilities sometimes moving away from the sometimes routine Philly productions of the time and witness a great line up of lesser known talented artists. As in Volume one, Weldon worked alongside some of the finest players and musicians that reads like as ‘who’s who’ of Philly session musicians-the Romeos, MFSB, his band Universal love and other well know session musicians being on hand to complement either the soulful balladry or generate up-tempo dance tracks
We can again hear some of Weldon’s early harmony group work with the Larks ,Irma Jackson and Eddie Holman on newly remastered cuts from the early sixties and classic Philly sigma cuts of the 3 P’s, Gerri Grainger, Phyllis smith and Universal love.
Weldon quietly continues to inspire -as a true ambassador and role model for the city of Philadelphia and for those with aspiring musical ambitions. It has been an honor and a particular pleasure to help compile this second volume of tracks.
1. Would You Believe Me-The 3P’s – / MFSB (1976) 2:54 *
Opening us up from 1976 is an MFSB propelled Philly classic showcasing the talents of the three backing singers we now know as the 3 P’s. Propelled by a typically propulsive Ronnie Baker baseline and overlaid by a wailing Zach Zachary sax solo intro, the track was originally recorded by Gerri Grainger at Sigma sound studios. Ron ‘Have Mercy’ Kersey is on hand to ensure the horns and strings provide the pure Philly magic.
This is Phil, Paris and Paul at their best as they whip up a Philly storm. The track was remixed by Tom Moulton, a long standing friend of Weldon’s from Weldon’s Philly International records days.
2. Nothing but Heartaches- Girl from NYC (1970) 2:56 *
Earlier, Weldon had begun his Philly-Motown affair with Holland-Dozier-Holland tracks, by his well know recording of Nella Dodd’s great version of ‘Come see about me’ on Wand which was recorded in 1965 at the Virtue studios. This time Weldon slows down the tempo and tries out another interpretation of a Motown recording of the 1966 Supremes track. Weldon recalls cutting the track with a girl from New York City in 1970 and gets a truly soulful performance which tears you up every time you hear it being complemented by Sharon Paige’s backing singers and the MFSB rythmn section.
The Supremes version was song always in Weldon’s view too fast and covered up the real heart of the song which the vocalist here makes her very own. The song was cut several times over the years by Weldon with artists including Lois Sneed on Capitol in 1973. A version of the Motown track ‘shop around’ was also recorded and may feature on a future compilation
3. I am Your Women-She Is Your Wife-Barbara Mason (1978) 5:33
Weldon continued his producing association with Barbara Mason in 1978 after she linked up with Weldon again on the well known Prelude album recorded with the help of Universal love. Barbara came to Weldon after recording an album with Bunny Sigler and Curtis Mayfield. Barbara didn’t originally like the rhythm track thinking it was too electronic and modern sounding but was eventually pleased with the result. Featuring the innovative work of Sal Gallina and for the first time the overlay of his electronic Cromuliser this track became a top twenty hit on the national pop charts and holds out as being one of the great later 70’s Philly albums for its distinctiveness and originality. Originally Weldon had been invited by Arthur Baker to go to New York to consider producing the new Edition and when things didn’t work out he secured a deal with Melvin Moore of prelude records and the rest is Philly history.
Sal Gallina who worked with Weldon on many of his late 70’s and early 80’s tracks recently passed away and will be remembered by Weldon and many as a brilliant inventor and musician who worked with a host of artists and was a good friend.
4. Bright Shining Angel-Dennis Rodgers with Universal Love (1977) 5:20 *
A song that for many years has been the favorite of Weldon’s son has finally been transferred from tape and highlights the beautiful vocal range of Dennis Rogers with the wonderful piano accompaniment of Les Paul. Whilst the song was never finished, it has an honesty and directness as its weaves and loops into your consciousness.
Sounding as fresh today as no doubt it sounded in 1977, the song rises and falls and sounds a little like early Donnie Hathaway. What makes the song is the simple combination of piano and guitar with stripped down shifting Philly chord changes that cut through the song. You can almost hear a pin drop as it eventually reaches its crescendo and final coda. A truly great soul ballad that I am pleased has been made available for the wider soul audience.
5. Keep on Holding on- Phyllis Smith (1966) 3:18 *
First recorded by the larks and backed by the original members of the Romeos-Winnie Wilford, Karl Chambers, Roland Chambers with Thom Bell on Piano this track is driven by Roland’s punchy staccato guitar lick and its impassioned vocals by close friend Phyllis Smith. Weldon first used the Romeos on several tracks before using Ronnie Baker, Norman Harris and Earl Young as his main rhythm section
The Romeos later famously linked up with Kenny Gamble to become Kenny and the Romeos and became Cameo-parkway session musicians. This track has been a Philly bomb waiting to explode for years and is one of the standout tracks from this second volume. Phyllis recorded several tracks with Weldon has a sweet vulnerability in her voice but still makes this a great up-tempo track.
6. The Lover Man-Weldon A. Mc Dougal III (1975) 5:48 *
Written by Weldon with his cousin Weldon C McDougal, who plays the keyboard on the track ,this soul-jazz Philly number sees Weldon rub shoulders (and goodness knows what else) with the sublime vocals of Dahlia who featured on volume one. This track hits all the highs and with Dahlia’s helps heads off into a sultry seventh heaven. The track was again recorded at Sigma sound. Weldon recalls originally recording the track as an instrumental and then overlaying the vocals. I remember first hearing this when I first met Weldon and saying that lover man was a giant track in the making.
7. I Need Somebody to Love-Phyllis Smith (1969) 2:54 *
Another fine Philly ballad written by Kenneth Kelly of the Manhattans who was friend of Phyllis’ from North Jersey and used to appear at the Uptown Theater with other members of his group. This track is reaching CD for the first time and features a great vocal backed only by the guitar of Norman Harris with Luther Randolph on organ. The song was co-arranged by Weldon, Norman Harris and Thom Bell. The orchestrated version of the song was originally released on J&M records and later Yew records. The label release stood for the first letter of Joe Tamburro, a famous WDAS DJ and M for McDougall.
8. Come Share My Umbrella -Rhonda Burg (1978) 4:04 *
Featuring again the talented Rhonda burg who hailed originally from Houston Texas this track came about from Weldon’s brief post Prelude records association, when David Porter who commissioned him to record Rhonda after being impressed with his album he did with Barbara Mason. Although the tracks have remained unreleased till now, it is surprising that David wasn’t happy with the product.
Rhonda Bird also recorded with David Porter for Fantasy records but don’t compare to the tracks heard here. Rhonda was in Weldon’s view a ‘real firecracker’ who had an almost operatic range of voice-singing in a jazzy vocal style. Interestingly Rhonda always wanted to put the background vocals down first which was highly unusual (and very difficult!).
9 With Out You Baby- Irma Jackson & the Larks (1963) 2:09
When Jackie Marshall left the group, Irma Jackson a college friend of Weldon’s, joined forces with the Larks to record this well know northern favorite that was released twice on both Fairmount and originally on Weldon’s own Priority records imprint. The song was written by Eddie Holman and James Saloman, two budding songwriters who wrote many well known tracks for the Harthon label and provided a great Motown influenced finger snapper which has become a perennial favorite in British dance halls.
This is a great early northern soul track and features again the Romeos. Weldon recalls playing a particularly rhythmical wooden block to add to the proceedings when it was laid down at Frank Virtues studios in North Philly.
10. Been So Long-Eddie Holman & the Larks (1967) 3:26
Weldon first met Eddie Holman when Eddie and James arrived touting their songs to the Harthon offices in Philly. Eddie puts in a performance equal to if not surpassing the original version by Dee Irwin when with the Pastels Eddie Holman belts out this track with the ever tight harmonies of the Larks and a classic bassline form .
Weldon indulges for the first time in giving some prominence to his own booming bass vocal. The larks used to sing the track in their shows and strangely Weldon narrowly missed recording the track with the Pastels as he used to bump into them from time to time at the USO club for service men-Weldon was in the marines at the time and Dee and the rest of the Pastels where in the Air corps.
11. Would You Believe- Gerri Grainger (1975) 2:30 *
Gerri Grainger originally recorded the track in 1975 after Weldon wrote the track for her first sessions at Sigma sound. Whilst the track was never released it has been a favorite of mine ever since I first met Weldon and I knew it needed to be heard by a wider audience. The background is provided by the ubiquitous Bunny Sigler who helped with the background for many artists at PIR at the time. Gerri became friends with Weldon and was also acquainted with Sammy Davis Junior at Motown. Gerri was working with Sammy at the time, and opened Sammy’s shows.
Due to family circumstances, Gerri’s recording career came to a sudden end the same year these tracks were recorded.
12. Sweeter-Rhonda Burg (1978) 4:29 *
We return to another jazz soul outing from Rhonda which shows her gifted singing and vocal range- truly astonishing. This track was cut at Sigma but mastered at Stax in Memphis. Weldon recalls vesting Memphis many times in the early 1970’s and often hung out with Rufus Thomas. He recalls visiting Elvis at Graceland and watching a movie or two!
Surprisingly the tracks he cut never got released. Weldon lost touch with Rhonda in the eighties, at last count she was working as a psychiatrist in Singapore.
13. Why can’t you be nice to me?-Gerri Grainger (1972) 2:32 *
This track was featured on the first volume recorded by the three P’s but this is the original version which was recorded without the horns which were layered over the 3P’s version. This version hear makes an interesting comparison, but is a sweeter rendition with Gerri also doing background with Weldon. I never get tired of hearing its descending baseline and drums which hold the vocal beautifully together.
14. Never Let Me Go-Eddie Holman & the Larks (1966) 2:22
This great Johnny Ace standard not only highlights Eddie’s golden voice, but the great bass singing of Weldon. Whilst with the Larks he would never turn up his voice at the expense of others.
This was a Parkway single which is testament to the quality of the production as well as treatment of the track. Johnny Ace who was accidentally killed in a Russian roulette game, recorded the track on Duke Records in a more a plaintive and easygoing style but here it is given a sympathetic and more upbeat vocal rendition by Eddie and the Larks.
15. Willing to bet cha-Rhonda Burg (1978) 4:00 *
We return for a final installment of Rhonda’s vocals which combine with a deep and punchy bassline to complete the trio of tracks cut with Weldon. Rhonda went on to record a single with David Porter on a Stax label subsidiary. This has a gritty rhythm track which complements Rhonda’s vocals perfectly. Weldon always emphasizes the rhythm rather than the pop elements in his productions and this is a particular favorite of mine.
16. No Other Love-Barbara Cole (1979) 6:16 *
Originally recorded by Barbara Mason on her Prelude album, Barbara turns in an infectious pop-infused version that makes you feel good with every play. Again with Sal Gallina in the background, Weldon on Cuica, Dr Gibbs on bongo and Les Paul on keyboards the track just trucks along for us to enjoy.
17. A Philadelphia Groove (1981) George Howard, Weldon C McDougal,Gerald Veasely, Kae Williams,Dennis Rodgers,Weldon A. Mc Dougal III
We finish the compilation with a buried jazz-boogie instrumental treasure which was written by Weldon and his cousin Weldon and recorded in New York with a stellar cast of session musicians. George Howard on saxophone leads the pack with Gerald Veasely on bass and Dennis Rogers on guitar Weldon C Mc Dougal. Keyboard, Kae Williams on moog, The track was originally recorded by a girl group entitled ‘You came through’. You get a sense of the great time they had recording and the sheer class of musicianship on view.
* Never Released