The Intruders - A Love That's Real
So here we are, it’s Monday night, long past the usual Funky16Corners “bedtime”. I generally like to get the entries posted fairly early so that the desk jockeys of the world (starting with the East-coasters) can grab a dose of soul with the soul-destroying cubicle-tainted air they (we) have to breathe all day long. However, family obligations kept me quite busy during the daylight hours, and it was only after sending the little Funky16Corners dude off to dreamland that I was able to sit down and start laying down today’s groove. And a groove it is. Regular visitors to this space will already be aware that although the corners around here are labeled “funky”, the music that we feature has run the gamut from raw R&B, hard-hitting funkers, Northern Soul, and the occasional ballad. Today, I’m adding sweet soul to the menu, and with any luck it will become a regular entry on the specials board. I’ve stated preciously that I am a Philly Soul fiend, and you just can’t dig the sounds of Philadelphia without hitting a deep, deep vein of sweet soul. Beginning in the mid-60’s groups like the Four Larks, the Formations and the Ethics recorded some of the finest group soul sides, laying the groundwork for the early-70’s explosion of Philadelphia-based harmony soul (which is what folks usually think of when they hear the words “Philly Soul”). The group that really started that revolution (at the hands of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff) was the Intruders. Formed in the early 60’s as a doo-wop group, the Intruders, Sam “Little Sonny” Brown, Phil Terry, Robert Edwards and Eugene Daughtry recorded locally for Gowen Records, and nationally for Musicor before signing with the fledgling Gamble records in 1965. They had their first R&B Top 20 hit in 1966, ‘(We’ll Be) United’, and for the next few years, as Phil Terry was quoted in 1975’s ‘The Sound of Philadelphia’, the Intruders “…were Gamble Records.” They released their first LP, ‘The Intruders are Together’ in 1967, and managed to place records in the R&B Top 40 with regularity. Their tight harmonies, along with outstanding Gamble/Huff songs and production made some of the finest soul sides of the era, including upbeat Northern-styled cuts (like '(You'd Better) Check Yourself') , ballads and sunny, pop-inflected harmony numbers. The finest example of the latter is today’s selection ‘A Love That’s Real’. Strangely enough, it was the flip side of ‘A Love That’s Real’, ‘Baby I’m Lonely’ that was released first, and ultimately had a better run on the charts. ‘Baby I’m Lonely’ made it to R&B #28 in September of 1967. It wasn’t until the end of 1967 that DJs started to flip the record over, with ‘A Love That’s Real’ making it up to R&B #38 in early 1968. Opening with the group imitating wedding bells over a smooth, string-laden arrangement, the verse comes in on a strong beat, with tightly arranged horns and guitar bubbling under the Intruders’ ringing harmonies. The lyrics, mentioning Jack & Jill, Romeo & Juliet and Cinderella are delivered with Little Sonny’s distinctive lead. ‘A Love That’s Real’ - and many of the other early sides by the Intruders – are an important bridge between 60’s group soul and the slicker, smooth sounds that Gamble and Huff would create a few years later. It’s interesting that the Intruders very next single, ‘Cowboys to Girls’, was their biggest hit (R&B #1, Pop #6) and the record that really ignited the Philly Soul revolution (allowing Gamble and Huff to launch Philadelphia International).Between 1966 and 1975 the Intruders placed 24 records in the Top 100 (most of them in the Top 40), all but two of them for Gamble (the last two for TSOP). In 1970, Little Sonny was replaced by Bobby Starr, but returned in 1973, bringing the group back into the Top 10 with ‘I’ll Always Love My Mama’. They broke up a few years later, with Little Sonny Brown eventually losing his battle with substance abuse some years later.
If you dig these sounds, the Intruders 45s (even the earlier Gamble sides) aren't too hard to come by, and their best stuff is available in reissue.