The O'Jays, Back Stabbers

A provocative landmark of soul from title to tracks. Yes, you have the hit singles like "Back Stabbers" and the instant hook of "Love Train," but the album cuts and B-sides are almost just as solid, particularly the feel-good grooves like lead-off "When The World's At Peace" and the effervescent "(They Call Me) Mr. Lucky." Some clever lyrics are on offer here too, my favourite being the thoughtful infidelities of "Listen To The Clock On The Wall" as an interesting emotional foil to the album's more acerbic offerings (the title track for sure but also "Shiftless, Shady, Jealous Kind of People," which doesn't mince any words with its opinions). The fifth star falls off partially for "Back Stabbers"' core riff turning up too many places but largely for its carefully considerated sedateness; while this is also its strength, it also means some otherwise better cuts take longer to get cooking than they ought to ("992 Arguments" and ironically "Time To Get Down" in particular). But other than that the rest is sublime, and I've got no qualms saying so right to their faces. The 2011 remaster adds the abridged single of "Back Stabbers," and as such is largely pointless by definition, but the six-minute remix of "Love Train" is as close to a 12-inch as you'll get of a song that really deserves one. (Content: adult themes on "Listen To The Clock On The Wall.")