Curtis Mayfield - Curtis (Vinyl)

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Curtis is the debut album by American soul musician Curtis Mayfield, released in September 1970. Produced by Mayfield, it was released on his own label Curtom Records. The musical styles of Curtis moved further away from the pop-soul sounds of Mayfield's previous group The Impressions and featured more of a funk and psychedelic-influenced sound. The album's subject matter incorporates political and social concerns of the time.

Like with some of his later Impressions work, Mayfield's lyrics reflected the social and political concern rising in black America at the time. Mayfield was one of the earliest artists to speak openly about African-American pride and community struggle. Mayfield reflected upon this time as a "happening era...when people stopped wearing tuxedos...people were getting down a little more."

The album had a more hard edged sound than the Impressions had before. On this new sound Mayfield claimed it was something he "long wanted to do...but were out of category of what was expected of me and the Impressions. What I got off in the Curtis album allowed me to be more personal for myself." The two singles off the album "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go" and "Move on Up" showcased Mayfield's new funk musical style, while the rest of the tracks were much softer soul based songs. Not having any traditional music lessons, Mayfield claimed his backing band would occasionly comment "gosh, this is a terribly strange key to play in", but still played it accordingly as written. According to Joseph L. Tirabassi of Tiny Mix Tapes, "We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue" exemplified the "gliding soul" and "hard-hitting funk" the rest of the album veered between.


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.

By: Lai

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

Arranged By – Gary Slabo, Riley Hampton
Contractor – Marvin Heiman
Engineer – R.J. Anfinson*
Engineer [Vocal Overdubbing Assistant] – Danny Turbeville
Engineer [Vocal Overdubbing] – Tom Flye
Lacquer Cut By – HL*
Musician – Robert Lewis*, Clifford Davis*, Donald Simmons, Elliot Golub*, Gary Slabo, Harold Klatz*, Harold Dessent, Harold Lepp, Henry Gibson, John Howell, Johnny Ross (2), Leonard Druss*, Loren Binford, Patrick Ferreri*, Philip Upchurch*, Richard Single, Robert Sims*, Ronald Kolber, Rudolph Stauber, Sam Heiman, Sol Bobrob*
Photography By, Design – Bob Cato
Written-By, Producer – Curtis Mayfield