Review Summary: For over 37 minutes of psychedelic soul, Roots takes the cake. It's album that encourages social awareness as much as it makes you want to get up and dance.
In 1971 music as people knew it had aleady changed. Two things had happened which had a profound impact on rock in general. The Beatles had stolen the attention of the youth, while Jimi Hendrix reinvented a style of music entirely. Many black musicians were experimenting with psychedelic rock and implementing a new kind of groove in their music. At the front of the line was Curtis.
By this time the one time front man of the Impressions had already released his debut album Curtis, which was dubbed the Sgt. Peppers of 70's soul. However, with Roots, Mayfield lays everything on the table. No other album could give you the sweet melody of Stevie Wonder and yet have a more righteous tone than Marvin Gaye. This album is Curtis, the artist, producer, and activist at his best. The vocals are high and are delivered in his trademark voice that almost sounds like a whisper. With them Mayfield paints the picture of life after the Civil Rights Act. This was key when experimenting with this brand of funk. Miles Davis and a few other black musicians knew this when they mixed African percussion with psychedelic guitar. They were looking for a sound that would reach out to young black kids. Curtis Mayfield had already had it down to a science.
This album has everything a sophomore effort should have. Roots flows and resonants through the listener with a harmony that is contagious. By the time you flip to the b-side and hear Now You're Gone you begin to understand why they call him The Gentle Genius. Curtis has what rappers today refer to as "flow" on this track. All of the songs on this album are written by Mayfield with the exception of this tune in which he splits credit with Joseph Scott.
Other songs like Get Down, Keep on Keeping on, and , We Got to Have Peace are Curtis classics. Everything he does on this album sounds well calculated. Serving as his own producer he surrounded himself by the best of the best. Lets face it, this may have been only the man's second solo album, but seeing how he did most of the writing for the Impression, Mayfield proves he was a man on a mission and that this was all apart of the plan. My only recommendation is to find this album on vinyl. The rest will take care of it's self.