The O’Jays – 1972 – Back Stabbers

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A landmark album for the O’Jays – a set that moved them from the indie ranks to 70s megasoulstatus! After years of bumping around on a variety of labels, and in a variety of styles, the group really exploded with this wonderful set – an album that has them soaring along in the righteous Philly groove of the early 70s – a sound that turned out to be a perfect foil for the trio’s sublime, yet earthy harmonies. Arrangements are by some fo the best of the core Philly scene – Thom Bell, Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker, and Bobby Martin – and the album’s overflowing with great tunes that completely redefine the sound of group soul in the 70s! Includes megahits “Back Stabbers” and “Love Train“.

Tracks
A1 When The World’s At Peace 5:21
A2 Back Stabbers 3:07
A3 Who Am I 5:14
A4 (They Call Me) Mr. Lucky 3:20
A5 Time To Get Down 2:53
B1 992 Arguments 6:09
B2 Listen To The Clock On The Wall 3:48
B3 Shiftless, Shady, Jealous Kind Of People 3:36
B4 Sunshine 3:42
B5 Love Train 2:59

Soul music is easily distinguishable by label and by region, perhaps more so than any genre. The most notable of the sounds that emerged to prominence in soul music was for one, the Stax, southern soul sound that was gritty and raw and heavily influenced by blues, and for another Motown in Detroit, the most pop oriented sub-genre that often, but not always featured a simpler structure and catchy melody. Chicago and Miami also deserve mention for their distinct sound, but they were never as popular as the others mention, nor as prominent as the sub-genre that continually pushed the genre’s limits, Philly Soul. The analogy that is most commonly used to describe its sound is that it was soul music dressed in a tuxedo. I was lavish, almost always featuring a full orchestra, slick and more polished than most other music. The sound and the label behind it, Philadelphia International, produced many landmark albums, but title of their greatest album has to go to “Backstabbers” by The O’Jays.

Before I get into the album’s quality, its importance is necessary to note. The album has not one, but two hits that just about everybody is familiar with. Thirty-eight years after the album’s release, you can hardly turn on the television without hearing its most popular tune “Love Train,” and though not as much so, the album’s title track makes many appearances in pop culture as well. Something can be said for these songs’ longevity. It is doubtful that they have been adopted for advertising campaigns because they happen to fit their message, but more likely that the feel-good vibe the emit and the meaningful lyrics they contain could are universally well-liked.

Though it is one of their first albums for their own label (Philly Intl.) Leon Huff and Kenneth Gamble, two of the most deserving members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame I might add, are on the top of their game here. While towards the end of the ’70s some of their material seemed tired, the song writing and composing is fresh and original. It was almost entirely their working, but they did have some assistance from figures who were sort of disciples of themselves, Bunny Sigler, Gene McFadden, and John Whitehead. “Love Train,” “Time To Get Down,” “Backstabbers” and “Mr. Lucky” represent the sound that so distinctively belonged to them. Credit is also due to their closely knit studio musicians, Vincent Montana, Earl Young, Norman Harris and Ron Baker. The O’Jays themselves were too at the top of their game at this early stage in their lengthy career. The trio’s vocal interaction is at its best at the smooth, somewhat eerie “Who Am I” which features a great vocal arrangement that everyone participates in. The last half of the song hardly features a real word, but still at this point Eddie Levert’s is at its most pleasant. Unlike many other vocal groups with multiple members, all three of the O’Jays are just about equally valuable. It is good to hear them sing in unison, take for example in their effort on the chorus of “Love Train” which almost forces you to join in and sing along.

Gambel & Huff took a risk by going for this sound in the early ’70s. The popular sound was funk, and there would have seemed to be no room for their clean shaven soul sound. There obviously was though as Philly International grew to become one of the most successful entirely soul labels that the genre had to offer. We are certainly lucky that they did take the risk though, as the label provided so many great albums, this one perhaps being the best, and made crucial developments such as the advent of disco, which if you listen carefully to “Backstabbers” you may hear a hint of .

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20 Comments
  • SwedSoul
    Posted at 21:31h, 05 October 2013 Reply

    Having myself the original LP, I look forward to listen to this classic record transferred.

  • Grumpy
    Posted at 22:53h, 05 October 2013 Reply

    Thank you!

  • Nuno
    Posted at 01:53h, 06 October 2013 Reply

    Great record!

  • Joeboy
    Posted at 13:28h, 06 October 2013 Reply

    Thanks for this awesome album…. The O’jays are fantastic!

  • Leonard
    Posted at 21:22h, 06 October 2013 Reply

    this is my favorite song from the 70’s. too bad my friends don’t even know who these AMAZING men are!!!….sad

  • Andreas
    Posted at 21:26h, 06 October 2013 Reply

    Just listening to the beautiful, timeless harmony of a Philly classic. Thank you.

  • Bertil
    Posted at 21:29h, 06 October 2013 Reply

    THE PHILADELPHIA SOUND!!!

  • Santiago
    Posted at 21:36h, 06 October 2013 Reply

    Perhaps the greatest intro in the history of popular music and things only got better from here.

  • Ray
    Posted at 22:53h, 06 October 2013 Reply

    A magic time when you could dance to cool music like this.

  • Carolyn
    Posted at 08:58h, 07 October 2013 Reply

    Growing up always liked this song and i still like it.

  • Pam
    Posted at 19:02h, 07 October 2013 Reply

    one of the best groups, EVER!

  • Juan
    Posted at 19:20h, 07 October 2013 Reply

    one of a kind!

  • Joe
    Posted at 21:41h, 07 October 2013 Reply

    man i love the o’jays.CLASSIC

  • Linda
    Posted at 21:53h, 07 October 2013 Reply

    Nothing compares to that Gamble and Huff sound.
    :-)

  • Kim
    Posted at 22:14h, 07 October 2013 Reply

    Masterpiece!!!

  • Rob
    Posted at 09:19h, 08 October 2013 Reply

    Real shit rite here!!!!

  • Shine
    Posted at 10:37h, 08 October 2013 Reply

    So classic! You really dont realize how good music can be until you listen to how good music was. lol

  • angrybob
    Posted at 11:29h, 08 October 2013 Reply

    i am loving this site and come here everyday digging threw the digital crates you have… thank you so much for all your efforts,

  • Mercedes
    Posted at 18:43h, 12 October 2013 Reply

    Simply Marvellous!!!

  • JM
    Posted at 09:24h, 16 October 2013 Reply

    Powerful music, Afros, Bellbottom Pants, Sitting on the porch and Jammmming. I miss those days. Thank you for this upload.

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