The 1972 volume of Bear Family's Sweet Soul Music opens up with a blast from Joe Tex -- the wild "I Gotcha," whose gonzo rhythms don't exactly set the pace for the rest of the 25-song disc. Even with the inclusion of Otis Clay's "Trying to Live My Life Without You" and Joe Simon's "Power of Love," there's a distinct downturn on Southern soul on Sweet Soul Music: 1972, and although James Brown has a heavy presence -- his "Get on the Good Foot, Pt. 1" is here, along with "Gimme Some More" from the J.B.'s and Lyn Collins' "Think" -- funk doesn't rule the roost, either. By and large, the soul on Sweet Soul Music: 1972 is nice and smooth, whether it comes in the form of exuberant, highly decorated pop (the Main Ingredient's "Everybody Plays the Fool," the Soul Children's "Hearsay," Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose's "Too Late to Turn Back Now"), or the flood of romantic harmony groups (the Stylistics' "Betcha by Golly, Wow," the Chi-Lites' "Oh Girl") or songs that fall somewhere outside of these realms (the free-floating paranoia of the O'Jays' "Back Stabbers," Bill Withers' well-tailored "Use Me," and Bobby Womack's spacy "Woman's Gotta Have It"). Much of this is due to the rise of Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International -- the O'Jays, Billy Paul's "Me & Mrs. Jones," and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "If You Don't Know Me by Now" all came from that label -- but when Memphis titan Al Green turns toward such purely seductive material as "I'm Still in Love with You," there's a definite sense that the era of gritty Southern soul is over. Sweet Soul Music: 1972 charts this change quite effortlessly and quite entertainingly, too.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine