Before The O’Jays or Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The Intruders were the first stars in Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s orbit. Founded in 1960, the group formed an association with the duo beginning in 1966 for the pre-Philadelphia International labels named Gamble and Excel. “(We’ll Be) United,” produced and penned by the label’s namesake and his partner, earned The Intruders a No. 14 R&B/No. 78 Pop hit. In 1968, “Cowboys to Girls” earned them an R&B chart-topper and Top 10 Pop smash, securing their place in the firmament of early Philadelphia soul. Big Break Records has recently delivered an expanded edition of the group’s fourth of five albums for Gamble and Huff. 1973’s Save the Children marked one of The Intruders’ finest hours on vinyl. It featured only eight songs – but win, place or show, each was a winner!
Save the Children wasn’t titled after a Gamble and Huff song, but rather one by Gil Scott-Heron. The second track on the poet-songwriter’s influential sophomore album Pieces of a Man, “Save the Children” was a timely and passionate plea from the socially conscious artist. Gamble and Huff’s production and Lenny Pakula’s arrangement didn’t reinvent the wheel but subtly fleshed out the spare original chart (highlighted by Hubert Laws’ fluttering flute) with cascading harmonies, wistful horns, a gentle bed of strings, and the rock-solid rhythm of MFSB at its finest. The result made a powerful song even more potent, and indeed, radio-friendly. But “Save the Children” wasn’t released as a single; in fact, all four of the album’s A-sides were issued between July and October 1972, months before the April 1973 release of Save the Children.
Two further tracks were plucked from outside the PIR family. “Mother and Child Reunion” was the lead single from Paul Simon’s self-titled post-Simon and Garfunkel solo debut in 1972. Lenny Pakula replaced the Jamaican-flavored soul of the Simon original with a more straightforward Philly groove while retaining the song’s mystique. “Teardrops” was popularized in 1957 by doo-woppers Lee Andrews and the Heart, and faithfully rendered by The Intruders and arranger Bobby Martin.
Group member Phil Terry penned the ballad “Memories Are Here to Stay” with T.G. Conway and T. Life, while Gamble and Huff themselves contributed four songs to Save the Children including the positive “Happy is the Real Thing,” the reassuring, lightly Latin “Hang on in There,” and the smooth and lush doo-wop throwback “I Wanna Know Your Name.” The latter boasted Norman Harris’ sole arrangement for the LP. Harris’ mournful brass blasts added a touch of tension to the song, though nothing could top Sam “Little Sonny” Brown’s spoken word rap for sheer drama. Best of all was the sweet, ebullient “I’ll Always Love My Mama,” co-written by Gamble and Huff with Gene McFadden and John Whitehead, and arranged by the prolific Martin. It struck a universal chord with listeners to take The Intruders to the Pop top 40 and No. 6 on the R&B survey. The full-length album version features playful banter between the group members that only adds to the track’s heartfelt, ingratiating nature.
Big Break has added four bonus cuts to Save the Children including the non-LP single “(Win, Place or Show) She’s a Winner” in its original single mix and a Tom Moulton remix; non-LP cut “Traveling Home;” and Moulton’s remix of “I’ll Always Love My Mama.” (A Japanese CD reissue also had “Traveling Home” and the original “She’s a Winner,” as well as a couple of tracks pulled from 1974’s Energy of Love.) Moulton’s artfully-crafted extended remixes, as always, are a highlight as they showcase the immense musicality of MFSB by isolating and highlighting individual instrumental contributions and MFSB’s killer rhythms.
Christian John Wikane retells the group’s history in his liner notes, while reissue producer Wayne A. Dickson has newly remastered. BBR’s reissue of Save the Children is housed in a Super Jewel Case, and boasts original Philadelphia International Records labels. (Though first released in the U.S. on the Gamble Records label, the album was indeed a PIR release upon dropping in the U.K., and soon U.S. pressings reflected the familiar olive green label, as well.) It makes a stellar addition to Big Break’s library of classic PIR titles.
- Save the Children
- Mother and Child Reunion
- I Wanna Know Your Name
- To Be Happy is the Real Thing
- I’ll Always Love My Mama
- Memories Aren’t Here to Stay
- Hang On in There
- (Win, Place or Show) She’s a Winner (Single) (Gamble single G-4019, 1972)
- Traveling Home (included on Sony Japan CD EICP 894, 2008)
- I’ll Always Love My Mama (A Tom Moulton Mix) (from Philadelphia International Classics: The Tom Moulton Remixes, Harmless HURTXCD 112, 2012)
- (Win, Place or Show) She’s a Winner (A Tom Moulton Mix) (from Philadelphia International Classics: The Tom Moulton Remixes, Harmless HURTXCD 112, 2012)