Curtis Mayfield
Curtis


4.5
superb

Review

by Louis Arp EMERITUS
January 17th, 2006 | 25 replies


Release Date: 1970 | Tracklist


Just like Rodney, Curtis Mayfield don’t get no respect. No regard, either. Or at least, not enough. He wasn’t as efficiently pop as any of his peers from Detroit, so he simply doesn’t scan as a perennial hit maker. But like Smokey Robinson, Mayfield made a name in his era as a creative focal point, writing and producing dozens of now-obscure legends of Chicago soul. His contributions to funk, psychedelic soul and by default, hip hop, are truly impressive in context.

Curtis is Mayfield’s debut album is the culmination of his previous tenure with Chicago soul group, the Impressions. The album features a determined Mayfield running through some of the finest tunes he would ever pen; it’s all black pride anthems, songs of freedom, moral sermonizing. And although the album does address the specifically concern itself with the issues of the “people who are darker than blue," Curtis is not about racial polemics.

Mayfield offers the olive branch right away, calling out to all races and creeds on the infectiously funky “(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go." The song is one of two extended workouts on the album and it, along with the utterly classic “Move On Up," show a shift in Mayfield’s song structures. Both songs are just about the grooviest, yes, grooviest mother***ers you’ll ever hear.

The multi-instrumentalist’s pop aesthetic holds strong as edited single versions of “(Don’t Worry)" suggest but the idea is that Mayfield, given free reign over his compositions, is not going to holding back. Consequently, not only do the dance tracks get extensions, so do the ballads. “We The People Who Are Darker than Blue" is the prime example on this album, clocking in at over 6 minutes. Just as exceptional as the first two mentioned, the track begins as a typically elegant uptown soul song with strings and the works. However, it shifts at around the 3 minute mark into a wonderfully rhythmic jam before settling back into the emotional atmosphere.

Mayfield was never one to shy away from socially conscious themes even with the Impressions, so unsurprisingly Curtis is a big step away from the veiled politics of 60's soul. The album proved to be the impetus and inspiration for hundreds of soul albums that came afterwards, both musically and thematically. He’s less vehement than Gil Scott-Heron, more so than Marvin Gaye. And although Mayfield doesn’t have vocal presence of the latter nor the poetic grace of the former, his lovely high register is a joy to listen to and the themes are pulled off with subtle finesse. Most of the time.

In fact, the only real misstep on the album comes with “Miss Black America," a song that comes off a more than a little goofy. I suppose it’s admirable in a way. But even if your heart is in the right place, some topics simply aren’t suited for songs. It not like “Thank You, Miss Universe!" or “*** yeah, Little Miss Springfield!" would fare any better. The tune sounds only the more ineffectual after the raucous horns of “Wild and Free" start blaring. And compared to some of the more musically intriguing rough demos from the same sessions, you’ve got to wonder how it got through the final cut.

Curtis is a decided shift even from the latest era of Impressions tunes, much harder, funkier and progressive. It’s still roughly elegant but hand drums and bongos make the songs more voluptuous than cordial. As good as it all is, though, Mayfield’s third album, Superfly, overshadows this more-than-modest debut, rightfully so. Superfly is Mayfield’s perfect moment, flawless where Curtis is still working on the footing. But be sure, at this point, he was already an incredible song writer and an all-around outstanding leader and innovator in the genre of soul.



Recent reviews by this author
Times New Viking Rip It OffCaribou Andorra
Lee Hazlewood Cowboy in SwedenOf Montreal Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
OutKast IdlewildJohn Cale Fear
user ratings (92)
Chart.
4.3
superb

Comments:Add a Comment 
ocelot-05
January 17th 2006


807 Comments


Excellent review, Crumb.

Iai
Emeritus
January 18th 2006


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Surely one of the 100 best albums ever.

Zebra
Moderator
January 18th 2006


2647 Comments


Nice review, I love the way you write.
I'm not much of a Curtis Mayfield fan, but since you gave the rating a 4.5 I might have to look into it.

Iai
Emeritus
January 18th 2006


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I prefer this to Superfly, by the way.

Jawaharal
December 18th 2007


1832 Comments


Move On Up is a ridiculously awesome song.

RoshanC
May 25th 2008


219 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The bass on this album is incredlble. It makes Miss Black America listenable. Does anyone know who the bass player was, the album only lists musicians involved, not stating who played what

peaks40
February 4th 2013


2774 Comments


so much soul!

pissbore
February 4th 2013


9934 Comments


how does this sound compared to superfly?

porch
March 23rd 2013


8460 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this one's fuller sounding, lots of strings, a bit more bombastic, less funky overall. i prefer super fly but it still rules

Havey
July 2nd 2013


9753 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

curty ilu

Cygnatti
July 2nd 2013


21826 Comments


U2?

Digging: Autechre - Chiastic Slide

Havey
July 2nd 2013


9753 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

fuck U2

pissbore
July 2nd 2013


9934 Comments


early U2 doesnt suck

Havey
July 2nd 2013


9753 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

curty >

Cygnatti
July 2nd 2013


21826 Comments


I used to think U2 and REM were the same band when my parents would play their records in the car.

pissbore
July 2nd 2013


9934 Comments


well duh

pissbore
July 2nd 2013


9934 Comments


dude imagine if curtis was still alive and they had another grotesque reunion with him as guest vox

Funeralopolis
August 2nd 2013


11751 Comments


sweet

Digging: Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt

sonictheplumber
August 2nd 2013


4731 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

fuckin lol @ piss's comment

Digging: Steve Roach - The Magnificent Void

peaks40
August 3rd 2013


2774 Comments


U2 rules, so does this album. haters gon hate



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy