One of the truly paradigm altering albums. As far as soul is concerned, Curtis invented the 1970s, ushering it into being with a symphonic swoop and a social eye. Marvin Gaye's What's Going On gets more attention but was effectively a neutered and diluted sequel to this, and while Stevie Wonder made better music after this, he probably wouldn't have been able to without Curtis' guiding hand. And from there it just grows - Michael Jackson wouldn't have healed the world unless Mayfield had shown him that the redemptive power of soul music could go beyond the personal, into the political. Hell, people like Luther Vandross, Bill Withers, and Barry White wouldn't have been half as smooth unless somebody had introduced the symphony to the groove like this album did - something only Hot Buttered Soul had done before with anything like the same success. Would there have been any blaxploitation movie soundtracks without this? On and on it goes.
It's a lot for this album to live up to, but despite the fact that this isn't quite his best work, it does so with aplomb. In fact, it would do even this whole album consisted of just one song - the glorious, timeless, throw-every-compliment-in-the-world-at-it-and-it-sticks majesty of "Move on Up". Any list of the five greatest soul songs ever that doesn't include this song is wrong and should be stricken from the record. It should, be all rights, cast a large shadow over the rest of the album, but it doesn't - the tender and celebratory "Miss Black America", and the confrontational "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go" may not be as good, but they certainly stand up tall next to it.
It's an all-time classic.