As the hope and optimism of the '60s gave way to the fear and loathing of the '70s, few records evoked the creeping paranoia of the post-Altamont/pre-Watergate period quite so vividly as the O'Jays' 1972 smash "Back Stabbers." Although the betrayals Eddie Levert's anguished vocals relate are specific to the two-timing and lies lurking behind friendship and romance, it's not difficult to read the song as an allegory for the insidious hypocrisies sweeping across the sociopolitical landscape as a whole. As records like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead," and the Undisputed Truth's "Smiling Faces Sometimes" (the title of which "Back Stabbers" directly quotes) attest, it was a paranoia particularly acute throughout the African-American community. It was an especially bitter pill to swallow from the O'Jays, whose next hit, "Love Train," made a 180-degree reversal to celebrate the fantasy of a global utopia. Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff's trademark Philadelphia International production is as smooth as the song's message is biting, however -- the lush orchestrations and slithering rhythm anticipate the emergence of disco, and the gorgeous harmonies cushion the blow as well.