Saturday, December 24, 2022

The Albums of 1972: O'Jays: Backstabbers


Release Date: August 1, 1972

Band Members: Eddie Levert; Walter Williams; William Powell

Produced by Gambie & Huff, Bunny Sigler

Track List: Side One: When the World's At Peace; Back Stabbers; Who Am I; (They Call Me) Mr. Lucky; Time to Get Down

Side Two: 992 Arguments; Listen to the Clock on the Wall; Shiftless, Shady, Jealous Kind of People; Sunshine; Love Train

The O'Jays got their start in Canton, Ohio, performing and recording steadily through the 1960s. By the early '70s only three of the core members remained and were considering disbanding. In 1972 Philadelphia International signed them and they recorded what would become their most successful record Backstabbers, producing two massive hits in "Backstabbers" and "Love Train."

The O'Jays years with Philadelphia International Records produced some of their greatest hits, exemplars of the "Philly Soul" sound. The lavish production style incorporated horns and strings, influenced by funk and Motown. 

Side One opens with the forward looking "When the World's at Peace." A plea for love and peace, the staccato horns and overlapping vocals (which hauntingly fade to echo by the end) in the production make for a powerful start to the record. Rife with paranoia and distrust, "Backstabbers" sounds as fresh and relevant as ever 50 years later, an empowering song with a message.

"Who Am I" slows the pace of the album, a mournful love ballad. "(They Call Me) Mr. Lucky" features more harmony, a jaunty track with a catchy chorus. "Time to Get Down" ends the first side on a positive note.

"992 Arguments" is about a stormy relationship, once again the vocals, piano, strings, and horns make for a magnificent production. "Listen to the Clock on the Wall" deals with an affair, both suspenseful and quietly suggesting emotional turmoil. "Shiftless, Shady, Kind of People" could be a sequel to "Backstabbers", another warning about people waiting to take advantage. "Sunshine" is a quiet, tender ballad.

"Love Train" hit number one on the R&B and Billboard Top 100 charts. Its call for universal tranquility and peace will put good vibes into any room then or now. It's been used in many commercials and films, notably as the credits played on the 1998 film The Last Days of Disco, evoking the hopes and dreams of an era.

One of the best albums of 1972, Backstabber holds up to repeated plays at any time of the year. Do yourself a favor and give it a spin.  

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