Curtis Mayfield – 1970 – Curtis
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This is undoubtedly one of the most important albums of seventies soul. Besides the awesome opener, Curtis isn’t making stuff as funky as he does on Superfly, but I feel this is about on a par. This is probably the most sophisticated Chicago soul I’ve heard. The string arrangments sweeten up most of the tracks. Love Curtis’ singing too. What always made him a great was his songwriting. He’s truly one of the premier songwriters of the genre. This is an absolute essential for any fan of soul music.
Curtis never made the commercial inroads that marvin or stevie wonder did but “curtis” his 1st solo album is right up there with the best work of either of those men and came at least 2 years before their definitive statements .
Its basically the summation of Mayfields life and experiences at this point, highlighting inequality and black pride, but also with a broader message of unity. Musically its arrangements and detailed production (by mayfield himself) are superslick and powerful. The use of strings and harps is quite amazing and the record is full of great moments. The intro to “hell below” and the beautiful “makings of you” for a start and has their been a more funkier 9 mins than “move on up” ??
“Curtis” is one of the best solo debuts by anyone AND one of the most influential soul albums ever .
A1 (Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Going to Go 7:46
A2 The Other Side of Town 4:00
A3 The Makings of You 3:40
A4 We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue 6:00
B1 Move On Up 8:50
B2 Miss Black America 2:55
B3 Wild and Free 3:12
B4 Give It Up 3:45
Review by siren05
One of the founding members of the Impressions breaks away from the group to embark on a solo career that is still regarded as one of the most important in US Afro-American history. Curtis Mayfield releases ‘Curtis’ and introduces a brand new voice of consciousness for black Americans in a time of great change for the politically fueled environment.
What is it that makes a great Soul/Funk record?
Musically, this album covers all the bases. An inspired band effort, filled to the brim with percussion and Funky Drum and Bass rhythms along with the imposing horn and string sections giving an almost ‘baroque’ approach to the solid Afro jams.
The lyrical content defends the blue collar poverty of the United States in the late sixties to early seventies. The mistreatment of Blacks in an uneducated society. Mayfield’s evangelistic approach to shining a spotlight on the social and political problems and sharing advice and wisdom’s about unity and peace, of Pride and education for black youth sent a strong, bold and clear message to the masses.
His super cool falsetto voice, which is almost the complete polar opposite to the vocal tones and stylings we are used to hearing from Afro Soul/Funk contemporaries of the time in Barry White, Isaac Hayes and Gil Scott Heron, makes Curtis’ recordings so unique and shine through with such an identifiable and pleasing sound.
Add all of this to the fact that these songs are some of the most funky, groovin’ catchy tunes of the time and you have an instant classic. Tracks like ‘Move On Up’ and ‘(Don’t Worry), if There’s a Hell Below, Were all Gonna Go’ truly are Funk staples in any DJ’s collections. And Mayfield didn’t stop there.
According to sources, Mayfield, on his managers advice, never was intending to leave The Impressions permanently, but with the massive and instant success of ‘Curtis’ the US was caught up in the whirlwind that was this new and courageous voice of the oppressed. He eventually made the break from The Impressions official in 1971 after the release of a fantastic Live album (Curtis/Live) followed by the extraordinary release ‘Roots’. Just in time for him to record the groundbreaking Blaxploitation cult classic soundtrack to the movie ‘Superfly’.
In my opinion, his first four solo releases all deserve attention but this, his debut is such an exceptional way to reinvent himself as an artist onto the scene and make his mark on the History of Afro-American music.
This is essential listening.