For many years, the party line among white rock critics was that 1970s soul was inferior to 1960s soul -- as they saw it, R&B peaked with Stax, Sam & Dave, Percy Sledge, and Wilson Picket and went way downhill after 1969. But history would be much kinder to the soul, funk, and disco of the 1970s. The 1990s found young hip-hoppers sampling 1970s R&B to death, and many R&B historians of the 1990s were quick to exalt the 1970s as a great era for Afro-American music. As one of the many collections of early to mid-1970s soul that came out in the 1990s, this CD illustrates the richness of that period. Some of the selections are definitive hits, including Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly," William DeVaughn's "Be Thankful for What You Got," and the Four Tops' "Are You Man Enough." Others are lesser-known classics that weren't major hits but deserved to be, such as James Brown's "Down and Out in New York City" and Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street," a moving commentary on a Harlem resident's struggle to fight his way out of the ghetto. The Impressions' "Make a Solution" is an appealing Philadelphia-style number that the Chicago group recorded after Mayfield's departure, and "Sweetback's Theme" is an infectious soul-jazz instrumental which Earth, Wind & Fire provided before Philip Bailey came on board and before it enjoyed supergroup status. Not everything on Players & Hustlers of the '70s is essential; casual R&B fans would be better off with Rhino's excellent series Soul Hits of the '70s: Didn't It Blow Your Mind. Also, the absence of liner notes is frustrating. Even so, this is a collection that seasoned R&B lovers will enjoy.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson