Curtis Mayfield


Band members                              Related acts

- Curtis Mayfield (RIP 1999) - vocals, guitar

 

  backing musicians (1970)

- Lorne Binford -- 

- Dol Bobrob

- Harold Dessent -- 

- Clifford Davis -- 

- Leonard Druss -- 

- Patrick Ferreri  --

- Henry Gibson -- percussion

- Eliott Golub -- 

- Sam Heiman -- 

- John Howell -- 

- Harold Klatz -- 

- Ronald Kolber -- 

- Harold Lepp -- 

- Robert Lewis -- 

- John Ross --

- Donald Simmons -- 

- Robert Sims -- 

- Richard Single -

- Gary Slabo -- 

- Rudolph Stauber -- 

- Philip Upchurch -- guitar

 

  backing musicians (1971)

- Henry Gibson -- percussion

- Michael Hawkins -- backing vocals

- Leroy Hutson -- backing vocals

- Tyrone McCullen -- drums

- Craig McMullen -- guitar

- Joseph Lucky Scott -- bass

 

  backing musicians (1975)

- Henry Gibson -- percussion

- Quinton Joseph -- drums

- Joseph "Lucky" Scott -- bass

- Gary Thompson -- guitar

- Rich Tufo -- keyboards

- Phil Upchurch -- guitar

 

  backing musicians (1981)

- Dennis Belfield -- bass

- Paulimbo De Costa -- percussion

- Michael Sembello -- guitar

- Sam Small - theremin

- Fred Tackett -- guitar

- Carols Vega -- drums

 

  backing musicians (1987)

- Buzz Amato -- keyboards

- Master Henry Gibson -- percussion

- Lee Goodness -- drums

- Lebron Scott -- bass

 

 

   

 

 

The Impressions

 

 


 

Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Curtis

Company: Curtom

Catalog: CRS 8005

Year: 1970

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2823

Price: $30.00

 

 

Goodbye Impressions, hello Curtis Mayfield solo career ...

 

Interestingly, 1970's self-produced "Curtis" was intended as a Mayfield side project, rather than a permanent break from The Impressions.  The resulting attention and commercial success saw Mayfield formally leave the group the following year.   All hyperbole aside,  the results made for what is simply one of the best solo debuts ever recorded.   Song-for-song it remains the best collection he ever recorded - quite a compliment.  Anyhow, I would never suggest Mayfield had been hoarding material across the last couple Impressions albums, but the sheer quality of the debut was stunning.   The album also marked a major shift in direction for Mayfield.  Sure, his voice remained instantly recognizable and his unique style and sound remained intact.   As the same time The Impressions had occasionally touched on topical material, but they'd never espoused a social, economic, and political agenda as activist as what was found here.  I'm pretty apolitical and tend to shun heavy handed commentary, but "Curtis" is one of those rare exceptions.  Yeah, Mayfield's agenda was occasionally a bit on the preachy side ('Other Side of Town' and 'Miss Black America'), but for the most part it was hard to fault views expressed on material  like '(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go', 'The Other Side of Town', and 'Move On Up'.  Mayfield's stances weren't exactly subtle, but his soft, Gospel and funky tinged deliveries gave the material a thoughtful, rather than threatening edge.  Admittedly, in retrospect the album is saddening when you recognize so little progress has been made in many of these areas.  Anyhow, anyone listening to this album is going to have a hard time arguing against the notion Mayfield was one of the preeminent '70s protest singers.  

 

"Curtis" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) (Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go   (Curtis Mayfield) - 7:20  rating: ***** stars

Seemingly intended to voice Mayfield's growing concerns over race relations, it's amazing that a song written over four decades ago can still pack such relevance and punch.  The problem is none of us seem to be listening.  Simply one of the man's best tunes - social, economic, and political commentary for people who dislike activism.   Plus, with support from a killer backing band, you had to dance to it.  Surprising Curtom/Buddah was willing to tap it as Mayfield's debut single; admittedly in a heavily edited format:

- 1970's '(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go' b/w 'The Makings of You' (Curtom catalog number CR 1955)  # 29 pop; # 1 R&B     YouTube has a clip of a 1987 performance of the song at the Montreux Festival.  Quickly warning - the arrangement is updated and note nearly as striking at the original https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBMYzVJHRVs 

2.) The Other Side of Town   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:01   rating: ***** stars

One of Mayfield's starkest and most thought provoking songs.  You have to scratch your head and wonder how four plus decades later things remain unchanged for too many people.   

3.) The Makings of You   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:43   rating: ***** stars

Simply one of his most beautiful tunes - were I to ever get married again, this would be one of the songs I played at the party.   YouTube has a live clip (no idea when, or where is was filmed) though it looks like Mayfield was lip synching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eosXdzEMlkg  

4.) We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue   (Curtis Mayfield) - 6:05   rating: ***** stars

The extended Henry Gibson percussion solo wasn't necessary, but otherwise 'We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue ' stands as one of the '70s finest commentaries on self-empowerment. Shame the listening audience has largely forgotten these classic tunes.

 

(side 2)

1.) Move On Up   (Curtis Mayfield) - 8:50  rating: ***** stars

Classic Mayfield !!!  One of his most inspirational performances and simply impossible to sit still through.  The way he swept into the falsetto refrain was mesmerizing.   Probably the best live performance is from an appearance on the German Beat Club television show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN8Z5BQW8So   Obviously recorded later in his career (apparently for another German television performance), the band intro went on and on and on with the synthesizers being a poor substitute for the original horn arrangement, but still an impressive live performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jo50otY1nLI   The track was tapped as a single:

  7" format

- 1971's 'Move On Up' b/w 'Underground' (Curtom catalog number CR 1974)

  12" format

- 1988's 'Move On Up' b/w 'Little Child Running Wild' and 'Move On Up' (live)' (Curtom catalog number 12 CUR 101)

2.) Miss Black America   (Curtis Mayfield) - 2:55   rating: *** stars

Hard to imagine how radical this must have sounded back in 1971 ...   Sweet tune that should make ever sit back and reflect on how things change and how things need to change.

3.) Wild and Free   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:12   rating: *** stars

Hard to imagine how radical this must have sounded back in 1971

I'm not a big fan of horns, but I'll make an exception for the arrangement on 'Wild and Free'.  Nah, this one didn't even come close to some of the other tracks on "Curtis", but even as a castoff, it was worth hearing.

4.) Give It Up   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:45   rating: **** stars

One of those Mayfield classics that's fallen through the cracks ...  Breakup as poetry "I really love you and the kids, you must agree and I've never had too much concern or interest in astrology, but as I read it must be so that invulnerable word - incompatible."

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Roots

Company: Curtom

Catalog: CRS 8007

Year: 1971

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3513

Price: $25.00

All hyperbole aside, 1971's "Roots" stands as one of Curtis Mayfield's crowning achievements. Self-produced, musically it served as a continuation of his "Curtis" debut, but upped the activist quotient, taking on a wide range of contemporary issues including anti-war commentary ('We Got to Have Peace'), black self-empowerment ('Keep On Keeping On'), and environmental concerns ('Underground').  Of course there were also a couple of songs devoted to issues of the heart - the bluesy 'Now Your Gone'.  With support from a first-rate band including drummer Tyrone McCullen, guitarist Craig McMullen and bassist Joseph Lucky Scott, this was one of those rare albums where there wasn't a single bad song.  Each of the seven tracks was a keeper with four of them released as singles ('Keep On Keeping On' was released as a 45 in the UK).  The thing that's always fascinated me about this collection is how smooth and low-keyed Mayfield's performances were. Instead of getting all up-in-your-face, his instantly recognizable voice was calm, collected, and occasionally just short of detached.  Even on the album's funkiest tracks ('Get Down' and 'Beautiful Brother of Mine'), Mayfield kept things calm and collected, which to some extent, only enhanced the album's overall funkiness

 

"Rootss" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Get Down   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:45   rating; ***** stars

Many people seem to equate the late Marvin Gaye with '60s and '70s sexy in soul.  I'd suggest those folks check out this steaming jam.  Not only was it super hot (okay the moaning and groaning sound effects were always tacky and haven't aged well), but the track also served to showcase Mayfield's first-rate guitar chops.   YouTube has a clip of Mayfield lip synching an abbreviated version of the song at a Soul Train appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjVyww_Oezo 

- 1971's'Get Down' b/w 'We're a Winner' (Curtom catalog number CR 1966)

2.) Keep On Keeping On   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:08   rating; **** stars

What a sweet, but powerful way to present a message ...  Simply one of my favorite Mayfield compositions.  Taken from a 1972 documentary entitled "Moving On Up: The Music & Message of Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions", YouTube has a nice performance of the song at:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4h4xxC0xQVc 

 

The song was tapped as a single in the UK:

 

1972's 'Keep On Keeping On' b/w 'Stone Junkie' (Buddah catalog number 2011 119A/B)

 

 

 

3.) Underground   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:15  rating: *** stars

Okay, Mayfield's pro-environmental stance was admirable (remember this was 1971), but no-matter how you looked at it, 'Underground' was a little heavy-handed.  Still, it had a killed groove and the fuzz guitar work was nice.   

4.) We Got to Have Peace   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:44   rating; **** stars

Four decades later and we're no closer to this goal ...  One of the finest anti-war songs ever written.  Mayfield at his finest.   Not sure when, or where it was recorded, but YouTube has a stunning, low-keyard live performance of the tune at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CM2YMaZSWk 

- 1971's 'We Got to Have Peace' b/w 'Love To Keep You In My Mind' (Curtom catalog number CR 1968

 

(side 2)

1.) Beautiful Brother of Mine   (Curtis Mayfield) - 7:25   rating; **** stars

Another commentary on self-empowerment, 'Beautiful Brother of Mine' was also the album's funkiest performance. It was also one of those songs it was impossible to sit still through. Clocking it at over seven minutes, if anything it was simply too short.

- 1971's 'Beautiful Brother of Mine' b/w 'Love To Keep You In My Mind' (Curtom catalog number CR-1972)

2.) Now You're Gone   (Curtis Mayfield - Joseph Scott) - 6:50   rating; **** stars

Drummer Tyrone McCullen's moment in the spotlight (check out the way he started the song), 'Now Your Gone' found Mayfiled injecting a nifty blues feel into the mix.

3.) Love To Keep You In My Mind   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:48  rating: *** stars

'Love To Keep You In My Mind' was easily the album's prettiest tune and a nice change of pace, switching from activism to affairs of the heart.   

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Back To the World

Company: Curtom

Catalog: CRS 8015

Year: 1973

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 5833

Price: $30.00

 

On the heels of the worldwide success he enjoyed with "Superfly" Mayfield had free license to do whatever he wanted.  The response was 1973's "Back To the World".  It's never been clearly to me if this one was intended as a concept piece, but the album seemingly showcased a series of socially consciousness segments covering everything from the country's shameful treatment of returning Vietnam war veterans ('Back To the World'),  ecological concerns ('Future Shock') to social and economic inequity ('Keep On Trippin'').  Yeah, the set may have aged a little around the edges, but you couldn't help but admire Mayfield's willingness to tackle these issues with grace and insight.  Funny how most of these concerns still confront us some four decades later.  Taken from the liner notes, here's Mayfield's own dedication:

 

"This album I dedicate to my children-and all children-for it's through their eyes, and the eyes of all those precious few, that maybe we, the grownups, can still make the world a better place for everyone to live. If I were only a child again, I'd speak for little people on their date of birth, and ask the grownups-when will there be peace on earth."

 

"Back To the World" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Back To The World   (Curtis Mayfield) - 6:48   rating: *** stars

Apparently the story of a Vietnam veteran trying to readjust to life in the city, 'Back To The World' sported Mayfield's patented sounded - sophisticated and catchy at the same time, it was every bit as good as Marvin Gaye's catalog, though clocking in at just under seven minutes the song would have benefited from some judicious editing.    

2.) Future Shock   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:24     rating: **** stars

Taking its title and theme from Alvin Toffler's bestseller, 'Future Shock' was interesting in a number of respects.  While it offered up another slice of Mayfield's patented social commentary, this time out the results were wrapped in a surprisingly funky melody.  Great horn arrangements and Mayfield's  excellent wah-wah guitar was showcased.   My pick for the LP's standout performance.  Easy to see why it was tapped as a single.  

3.) Right On For The Darkness   (Curtis Mayfield) - 7:30    rating: **** stars

Folks tend to forget that Mayfield was a talented guitarist and arranger and 'Right On For The Darkness' served to showcase both talents.  Starting out with a spare acoustic setting the track quickly blossomed into a highly orchestrated, full band arrangement.  There's always been something quite disconcerting and ominous about this one.   Like the title track this one would have been stronger with some editing.  The Rich Tufo orchestrated instrumental ending really wasn't necessary.   

 

(side 2)

1.) If I Were Only A Child Again   (Curtis Mayfield) - 2:53    rating: **** stars

Side two opened up with the album's more commercial and radio friendly selection.  With a breezy melody and some punchy horns, ' If I Were Only A Child Again' was one of Mayfield's most optimistic tracks, it was one of those  rare songs that effortless brought a smile to your face.  Great pick for the album's second single.  Shame it wasn't longer.   

2.) Can't Say Nothin'   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:20  rating: ** stars 

The first real disappointment, 'Can't Say Nothin'' sounded like incidental movie music, or a jam that was never sharpened.  It got a little better as it progressed, but overall struck me as great background music.  Nowhere near as good as the rest of the album ....   

3.) Keep On Trippin'   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:16   rating: *** stars

Unlike the urban vibe found on most of the set, 'Keep On Trippin'' exhibited an breezy and easy going vibe.  A nice showcase for Mayfield's instantly recognizable falsetto.   

4.) Future Song (Love A Good Woman, Love A Good Man)   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:00    rating: **** stars

In spite of the cumbersome title, 'Future Song (Love A Good Woman, Love A Good Man)' showcased Mayfield's Gospel roots.  Another wonderful and uplifting number.

 

The album was tapped for a series of singles:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- 1973's 'Future Shock' b/w 'The Other Side of Town' (Curtom catalog number CR 1987) # 39 pop

- 1973's 'If I Were Only A Child Again' b/w 'If I Were Only A Child Again (instrumental)' (Curtom catalog number CR 1991) # 71 pop

- 1974's 'Can't Say Nothin'' b/w 'Future Song (Love A Good Woman, Love A Good Man)' (Curtom catalog number CR 1993) # 88 pop

 

Even though it lacked a killer single, the album continued Mayfield's string of commercial successes, peaking at # 16 on the pop charts.  Summary - Mayfield recorded so much stuff that the market basically became saturated and over the years this one's simply been forgotten.  Shame since it's one of his best and can still be found at a reasonable price.  

 

 


 


Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Curtis In Chicago Recorded Live!

Company: Curtom

Catalog: CRS 8018

Year: 1973

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5123

Price: $25.00

Cost: $66.00

 

 

To be honest about it, most double album live sets leave you wishing they'd been severely edited down.  In contrast, here's a single album concert that leaves you wishing for more ....

 

Cut live at Chicago public television station WTTW, 1973's "Curtis In Chicago Recorded Live!" was billed as a Mayfield solo album, but in actuality should have been marketed as an Impressions family reunion.  In addition to the original Impressions line-up (Jerry Butler, Fred Cash, Sam Gooden, Mayfield and Reggie Torian), the album gave a nod to the post-Mayfield Impressions line up in the form of Leroy Hutson (who was given a solo shot on 'Love Oh Love').  Musically the album also showcased a mixture of Mayfield solo efforts, Impressions numbers and a couple of solo spots for Butler, Gene Chandler and Hutson.  Highlights included an abbreviated 'Superfly', Butler's lead vocal on 'For Your Precious Love', and the collaborative closer 'Amen'.  As mentioned earlier, other than the cloying spoken word interlude on 'If I Were Only a Child Again', the only real complaint was that the set was simply too short.  A modest seller the album peaked at # 135 on the pop charts.

 

"Curtis In Chicago Recorded Live!" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Superfly   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:24

2.) For Your Precious Love   (A. Brooks - R. Brooks - Jerry Butler) - 2:40 

3.) I'm So Proud   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:18

4.) Once In My Life   (Miller - Miller) - 2:48

5.) Preacher Man   (Richard Tufo) - 3:16

 

(side 2)

1.) If I Were Only a Child Again   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:50

2.) Duke of Earl   (Edwards - Williams - Dixon) - 3:32

3.) Love Oh Love   (Leroy Hutson - Hawkins - Hetson) - 4:42

4.) Amen   (Johnny Pate - Curtis Mayfield) - 3:00

 



Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Sweet Exorcist

Company: Curtom

Catalog: CRS 8601

Year: 1973

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5582

Price: $30.00

 

I'll be upfront and tell you that 1973's "Sweet Exorcist" ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack as far as Curtis Mayfield's catalog goes.  Chronologically the set had a 'stapled together' feel with the best song 'To Be Invisible' having previously appeared on his "Claudine" soundtrack.  Elsewhere half of the songs carried 1969-1972 copyright dates indicating Mayfield was raiding his musical stash.  The two new songs 'Sweet Exorcist' and 'Kung Fu' were clearly inspired by current popular trends.  So much for the bad news.   The good news remained Mayfield was simply too talented to turn in a completely lame LP and by my count , three of these tunes were classic Mayfield - the slinky  'Ain't Got the Time', 'To Be Invisible', and 'Power To the People'.  True, nothing here was particularly original, but even second rate Mayfield was better than most of the competition.

 

"Sweet Exorcist" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Ain't Got Time   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:10  rating: **** stars

Complete with wah wah guitar and Latin flavored percussion 'Ain't Got Time' was instantly recognizable Mayfield and would have sounded right at home on the "Superfly" album.  Great cut with a fantastic chorus.

2.) Sweet Exorcist   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:50  rating: *** stars

'Sweet Exorcist' was probably better known for the Gladys Knight version featured on the "Claudine" soundtrack and I'm guessing that's her on the background vocals this time out.  Pretty song and Mayfield did the song credit, making it one of the standout efforts on the LP.

3.) To Be Invisible   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:12  rating: **** stars

The most personal song on the collection, this slinky ballad was one of my favorite songs on the album. 

4.) Power To the People   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:26  rating: **** stars

'Power To the People' was another of Mayfield's patented slices of social commentary.  Great melody and funky beat even if the lyrics were a little bit on the lame side.  Would have made a nice single. 

 

(side 2)

1.) Kung Fu   (Curtis Mayfield) - 6:02  rating: ** stars

Even though it wasn't a great Mayfield track, 'Kung Fu' was worth hearing.   Yeah, it was a fairly pro-forma effort sounding like something Mayfield might have tossed off in a couple of minutes, but it did have a nice groove and released as a single provided Mayfield with a top-40 hit. 

- 'Kung Fu' b/w 'Sweet Exorcist' (Curtom catalog number CR-1999)   For anyone interested, YouTube has a 1974 live performance of the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZLRHdLJUpU

2.) Suffer   (Curtis Mayfield - Donny Hathaway) - 4:06  rating: *** stars

Mayfield's collaboration with the late Donny Hathaway, 'Suffer' was the most atypical effort - sophisticated soul that would have sounded right at home on one of Hathaway's jazz-soul releases.  Very nice.

3.) Make Me Believe In You   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:32  rating: ** stars

'Make Me Believe In You' was instantly recognizable as a Mayfield effort, but sounded like he was simply going through the motions.  

 

All told, not his best, not his worst.  Worth hearing, though only hardcore fans need bother adding it to their stockpiles.  Propelled by the single, the parent LP peaked at # 39.

 

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Curtis/Live!

Company: Curtom

Catalog: CRS 8008

Year: 1971

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+

comments: double LP; gatefold sleeve; split sleeves along bottom

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5582

Price: $10.00

 

Capturing Curtis Mayfield in his prime, this one regularly appears on "best of" lists, but you have to wonder how many folks singing its praises have actually listened to it.    it really is one of the best live albums every recorded.   

 

Recorded in 1971 at a series of four shows at New York's Bottom Line, "Curtis/Live!" found Mayfield working with a small, tight band consisting of percussionist Henry Gibson , drummer Tyrone McCullen, guitarist Craig McMullen, and bassist Joseph Lucky Scott.  The small, intimate setting suited Mayfield and company well.

 

"Curtis/Live" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Mighty Mighty (Spade and Whitey)   (Curtis Mayfield) - 6:56   rating; **** stars

Most artists wouldn't think twice about sacrificing their bands (and their families) to sound as good as Mayfield did on this blazing opener.  Simultaneously slinky and thought provoking (showcasing a previously unheard final verse), the live version of 'Mighty Mighty (Spade and Whitey)' actually crushed The Impressions original studio version (from 1969's "The Young Mods' Forgotten Story").  Kudos to percussionist Henry Gibson.

2.) Rap - 0:26

Pastor Mayfield ...

3.)  I Plan To Stay a Believe   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:16   rating; ** stars

'I Plan To Stay a Believer' was a new composition.  A bit stark and heavy handed, this one sounded a bit like a work in progress.   

4.) We're a Winner   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:47   rating; **** stars

A crowd pleaser (check the audience sing-along on the refrains), 'We're a Winner' found Mayfield reaching back into The Impressions catalog (1968's 'We're a Winner').  People tend to forget what a great guitarist Mayfield was ...

 

(side 2)

1.) Rap - 0:51

2.) We''ve Only Just Begun   (Paul Williams - Roger Nichols) - 3:22  rating: ** stars

This is just one of those songs that I've always disliked.  Mayfield's jazzy cover did nothing to improve the tunem or make it more palatable.   The album's biggest disappointment ...

3.) People Get Ready   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:47   rating; **** stars

I can understand Mayfield must have reached a point where he was simply tired of having to perform 'People Get Ready' everywhere he went.   It kind of shows on his perfunctory version of the tune.  That's not to take anything away from what is a soul classic.

4.) Stare and Stare   (Curtis Mayfield) - 6:12   rating: *** stars

Another new tune, the extended opening guitar work was kind of interesting, but the song sounded kind of unfinished and the highly politicized lyrics seemed clunky.   

 

(side 3)

1.) Check Out Your Mind   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:53   rating: *** stars

Kicked along by drummer Tyrone McCullen, the jazzy opening has to be heard ...  Unfortunately, after that the song proves a shallow version of The Impressions original.  

2.) Gypsy Woman   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:48   rating: *** stars

As nice as Mayfield's remake was,  the Impressions version (originally off of 1963's "The Impressions"), remained the classic take.   

3.) The Makings of You   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:28   rating: *** stars

'The Makings of You' was one of three tunes off Mayfield solo debut.  One of the prettiest, if most pedestrian tunes he ever wrote.  Imagine Mayfield writing the words for a Hallmark card.

4.) Rap - 2:01

Mayfield introducing the band ...

5.) We the People Who are Darker Than Blue   (Curtis Mayfield) - 6:46   rating: *** stars

The second track off of 1970's "Curtis", I've always loved the studio version, but here the song went off the rails when percussionist Gibson took over the spotlight.  

 

(side 4)

1.) (Don't Worry) If Thre's a Hell Below We're All Going To Go   (Curtis Mayfield) - 9:27

2.) Stone Junkie   (Curtis Mayfield) - 8:05

 

 

 

 

Year Chart Chart position
1971 Pop Albums #21
1971 Black Albums #3
1971 Jazz Albums #9
Curtis/Live! is, simply, one of the greatest concert albums ever cut on a soul artist, and one of the legendary live albums of all time. Cut in January of 1971 during four nights at The Bitter End (then Greenwich Village's leading music venue) in New York, the resulting double LP transcended any expectations in both its programming and execution -- Mayfield performed numbers off of the Curtisalbum ("[Don't Worry] If There's a Hell Below We're All Going to Go"), as well as exciting and urgent new versions of songs originally performed by the Impressions ("We're a Winner," "People Get Ready," "Gypsy Woman"), plus a very moving R&B version of "We've Only Just Begun." This is all beautifully stripped-down work by a quintet consisting of Mayfield (vocals, guitar), Craig McMullen (guitar), Tyrone McCullen (drums), "Master" Henry Gibson (percussion), and Joseph "Lucky" Scott (bass) -- a solid, intense performance, with quietly elegant guitar playing against a rock-solid rhythm section, asImpressions hits are rethought and reconfigured in a new context, and Mayfield's early solo repertory comes to life in newer, longer live versions. [The British import from Sequel adds the complete contents of 1973's live Curtis in Chicago.]

 

For better or worse, Curtis Mayfield is destined to forever be identified with Superfly. Never having been much of blaxploitation film buff, or funk disciple, I’d more or less shelved him under “important, but not for me”. Then one day – one misbegotten, hungover Sunday of yore, a friend unassumingly dropped the needle on Curtis/Live and blew what was left of my delicate mind. In the moment, the sounds emanating forth felt like a godsend – the only thing that could have possibly soothed my shattered and disheveled mind. This was music beamed down from the cosmos, painstakingly prepared by benevolent hands. This may sound like a lot of hyperbole, but I’ve kept myself honest, revisiting the record months and years after the point of impact, and the results remain the same: this record is a stone-cold masterpiece.

Curtis/Live gets across everything a live album should, but rarely does. For starters, Curtis had the savvy to assemble a batch of musicians who knew how to set up a vibe and dig their heels into it. The band is supernaturally in tune with each other, letting the songs expand and contract with an unhurried precision that intuitively follows Curtis’ restrained, yet highly emotional delivery. Many of his best known songs make appearances here; “I Plan to Stay A Believer,” “If There’s A Hell Below (We’re All Gonna Go), and “Superfly” all get makeovers, and are the better for it. Stripped of the flowery arrangements and porno-funkisms that could de-tooth his studio recordings, these songs are allowed to breathe and inhabit the loose-limbed bodies they deserve. The meditative readings almost border on the devotional, conjuring the same spirits as Sun Ra’s Arkestra at it’s peak, or the hazy and haunted spirituals of Rastafarian nyabinghi music. Thankfully, the recording quality matches the performances, with a room sound so stunningly balanced and alive you can almost hear a guitar pick drop onstage. The definitive Curtis effort, and a must-hear for anyone interested in music, or feeling, period. — Jonathan Treneff


 


Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Got To Find a Way

Company: Curtom

Catalog: CRS 8604

Year: 1974

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: cut out notch along bottom right edge

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4857

Price: $10.00

 

Perhaps because it was released as a follow-up to the enormously popular "Superfly", 1974's "Got To Find a Way" seems to have been overlooked by critics and fans. That's unfortunate since this collection had so much going for it. Featuring six original tunes, the sound was instantly recognizable as a Mayfield product, though this time around the collection found the man in a reflective and surprisingly downbeat mood.  Smooth, seductive and spacious, the set offered up a patented blend of social commentary ('Cannot Find a Way'), religious reflection ('A Prayer') and love man moves ('Ain't No Love Lost'). Personal favorites included the funky leadoff 'Love Me (Right In the Pocket)' and ''So You Don't Love Me.  The latter track startedd out slowly, but rewarded you with a killer refrain.  Too be perfectly honest, part of the album's appeal may lie in the fact it wasn't as well known and over-exposed as other parts of his catalog ...

 

For you completists 'Love Me (Right In the Pocket)' b/w 'Mother's Son' was pulled as a single (Curtom catalog number CR-2006)

 

"Got To Find a Way" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Love Me (Right In the Pocket)   (Curtis Mayfield) - 

2.) So You Don't Love Me   (Curtis Mayfield) - 

3.) A Prayer   (Curtis Mayfield) - 

 

(side 2)

1.) Mother's Son   (Curtis Mayfield) - 

2.) Cannot Find a Way   (Curtis Mayfield) - 

3.) Ain't No Love Lost   (Curtis Mayfield) - 

 



Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  There's No Place Like America Today

Company: Curtom

Catalog: CRS 8604

Year: 1975

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2722

Price: $25.00

 

Between The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield solo efforts, I probably own twenty LPs.  For some reason I'd never seen, or heard 1975's "There's No Place Like America Today" until I stumbled across a copy at a yard sale.  I'm not particularly political, but the fact I  found a copy a couple of days after American voted for its 45th President just seemed to be a cautionary sign.

 

First off, the stunning cover was based on a famed photograph taken by Margaret Bourke-White (''At The Time Of The Louisville Flood").  To my ears Mayfield was always at his best when he was singing about politics, social issues, or religion and this one had him hitting on all of those subjects.  The funny thing is this one tends to get dismissed, or simply overlooked by many critics. Admittedly it wasn't Mayfield's most original album, but in the wake of recent disappointments, this was his most consistent, satisfying, and enjoyable release in several years.  To my ears Mayfield sounded in top-shape, turning in a tuneful and engaging collection that repeatedly served to showcase his multiple strengths.   In fact, with the exception of the vapid 'Jesus', there wasn't a bad song on the set.  Plenty of highlights including the son-of-Superfly opener 'Billy Jack' and 'Hard Times,  but it was a love song that providedthe album's standout performance - 'So In Love' which also returned him to the charts when tapped as a single.  

 

"There's No Place Like America Today" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Billy Jack   (Curtis Mayfield) - 6:10  rating: **** stars

The lyrics have always struck me as being a continuation of "Superfly" with a rather blatant lyric taking on the risk of being a young, urban black male in mid-'70s America.  Here we are forty years later and nothing has changed ...  being born in that demographic is even more dangerous.   Joseph Scott opened up with some awesome bass and Mayfield kicked in with his nifty guitar and instantly recognizable voice.  And when you thought  it couldn't get much better, around the 3 minute mark the horns kick in.  One of his slickest and most catchy melodies.  Not sure when, or where it was recorded (obviously later in his career - mid-'80s judging by the bass player's Miami Vice outfit), but YouTube has a nice live performance of the tune (though I miss the horns found on the studio version): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0T6sHBMvEEc    Would love to hear Steely Dan take this one on.

2.) When Seasons Change   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:28   rating: *** stars

Always wondered if Prince took some of his moves from Mayfield ...  'When Seasons Change' was a sweet, thought provoking ballad that underscored the man's knack with melodies and words.   Hum, this or the new Brittany Spears album ...   Sadly for too many folks it would be the latter.   

3.) So In Love   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:15   rating: ***** stars

The glorious, slinky, and insidiously catchy, 'So I Love' was one of those rare songs that was worth the cost of the parent album by itself.   Vocally and on guitar, Mayfield at his best - it's the perfect first dance tune for a wedding.  And the horn arrangement was too-die-for great.   Easy to see why it was a single and returned Mayfield to the charts.

- 1975's 'So In Love' b/w 'Hard Times' (Curtom catalog number CHS 0105)

 

(side 2)

1.) Jesus   (Curtis Mayfield) - 6:13  rating; ** stars

The album's first disappointment, the first segment of 'Jesus' wasn't so much a song as Mayfield ruminating about various subjects.  When the song finally emerged, there simply wasn't much to it and adding a big, blustery church choir just sounded like he was trying to paper over other shortcomings..

2.) Blue Monday People   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:50   rating: **** stars

How could you not love a man who could articulate the flaws and unfairness of the system ?   Shame most civics lessons weren't as breezy and attractive.

3.) Hard Ties   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:45   rating: **** stars

Soul aficionados know the Baby Huey & the Babysitters version of 'Hard Times'.  Fewer realize Mayfield wrote the song and produced the Baby Huey LP.   In comparing the two versions of the song, the Baby Huey take had more of a rock flavor (always loved his end-of-song vamp "I'm sick and tired of paying dues baby"), while Mayfield's version went for a slinky funk feel.  How do you pick the best ?  Beats me.

4.) Love To the People   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:07   rating: **** stars

Ah, classic Mayfield social commentary that you could think about while bopping along.  Would have been a nice single, but I'm guessing Warner Brothers (which distributed Curtom), didn't want to touch something with a social commentary lyric.  Loved Quinton Joseph's crisp drumming and the tight drums on this one.   Not to repeat myself, but this or the new Brittany Spears album ...   Sadly for too many folks it would be the latter.   Wish this one were longer.  

 


 


Genre: soul

Rating: * (1 stars)

Title:  Do It All Night

Company: Curtom

Catalog: CUK 5022

Year: 1978

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: cut out notch along top edge

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD

 

 

Normally I wouldn't even look twice at an album with such a disco-ish cover.  'Course, this one was by Curtis Mayfield, so why not take a risk for 25 cents?  

 

Well in this case I wasted 25 cents.  Produced by Mayfield, 1978's "Do It All Night" was totally devoid of artistic merit.  Hard to believe I'd ever say this about a Mayfield LP, but these six tracks espouse the very worst aspects of disco - mindless rhythms; throwaway lyrics and a complete absence of enthusiasm.  Geez, song titles such as 'Party, Party' and ' You Are, You Are' serves as a good indicator as to how uninspired this outing was.  Easy to see why this was Mayfield's last release under the Warner Brothers umbrella.  Interestingly, the album sold better than his recent catalog, but he basically pissed off all of his old school fans.  This simply set's so bad that it's hard to name a favorite track.  If pushed into a corner, I'd vote for 'In Love, In Love, In Love' simply because it's the lone non-disco number on the album

 

Two singles were pulled from the LP:

 

- 1978's 'Do It All Night' (Parts 1 and 2)' (Curtom catalog number CMS-0141)

- 1978's 'No Goodbyes' (Curtom 12" single catalog number PRO-742 CU)


"Do It All Night" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Do It All Night   (Gil Askey - Curtis Mayfield) - 8:17

2.) No Goodbyes   (Gil Askey - Curtis Mayfield) - 7:40

 

(side 2)

1.) Party, Party   (Gil Askey - Curtis Mayfield) - 7:54

2.) Keeps Me Loving You   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:24

3.) In Love, In Love, In Love   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:20

4.) You Are, You Are   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:38

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Heartbreak 

Company: RSO

Catalog: RS-1-3053

Year: 1979

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap; opened

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5890

Price: $5.00

 

I'm a big Curtis Mayfield fan and lambasting one of his albums isn't a great deal of fun for me.  That said, 1979's "Heartbreak" was a pretty hideous outing.  Like the rest of us Mayfield had bills to pay and I certainly couldn't blame the man for wanting to tap into a popular audience in pursuit of sales.  Sadly, much of the set saw him pandering to the audience's growing appetite and demand for throwaway disco grooves.  You know you're in trouble when some of the critics start off saying an album isn't as bad as they thought.  Take my word for it, this one was as bad as they thought ...

 

"Heartbreak" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Tell Me, Tell Me (How Ya Like To Be Loved)   (Norman Harris - Ronald Tyson) - 6:20

One of two tracks produced by Norman Harris and Ronald Tyson, 'Tell Me, Tell Me (How Ya Like To Be Loved)' was nothing short of a travesty.  Lame disco beat, syndrums, moaning women ...  simply sad to see the man waste his talents of a piece of mindless crap like this.   rating: * star

2.) What Is My Woman For?   (Bunny Sigler - D. Robinson) - 7:15

Buried somewhere in 'What Is My Woman For?' was a really good Curtis Mayfield song.  Unfortunately it was all but drown under Bunny Sigler's ham fisted disco-fied production.  Geez whoever thought syndrums were cool?    rating: ** stars

3.) Between You Baby and Me   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:40

'Between You Baby and Me' was a big, old school ballad spotlighting the talents of  Linda Clifford.  For some reason, at least to my ears Mayfield and Clifford never had a great deal of chemistry and on this one simply served to underscore that lack of 'kick'.  The bland MOR arrangement didn't exactly help the song.  Disappointing.   rating: ** stars

4.) Victory   (Norman Harris - Ronald Tyson) - 3:15

'Victory' was another song that could have been quite good were it not for Harris and Tyson's mind numbing production.  Soaring strings, horns, cascading backing choruses - Mayfield simply never had a chance to shine on this one.   rating: ** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Over the Hump   (Jimmy Sigler) - 5:15

Geez, hard to imagine Mayfield falling much lower than the mindless throwaway disco number 'Over the Hump'.  Yech.   rating: * star 

2.) You Better Stop!   (Jimmy Sigler) - 6:51

Forget my earlier comments.  'You Better Stop!' was even worse than ;Over the Hump'.   rating: * star

3.) You're So Good To Me   (Curtis Mayfield - Gil Askew) - 6:52

Eight songs into the album Mayfield finally turned in a number that at least recalled some of his earlier glories.  'You're So Good To Me' wasn't a classic Mayfield number, but at least exhibited one of those slinky rhythms that he seeming effortlessly churned out.  You could even overlook the irritating adult contemporary sax and background singers.  For what it was worth, this was one that Mayfield wrote and produced himself.   rating: *** stars

4.) Heartbeat   (Curtis Mayfield - Gil Askew) - 4:23

'Heartbeat' was a weird mess.  Another dance track, the song has a strange pseudo-Caribbean flavor to it.  Not that it did anything to improve the song.   rating: * star  

 

Elsewhere RSO tapped the album for a single via:

 

- 1979's 'Between You Baby and Me' b/w 'You're So Good To Me' (RSO catalog number RS-941)

 

Sadly one song ('You're So Good To Me') simply couldn't save an album.  Shameful waste of the man's talents.  

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  And Here's Something To Believe In 

Company: RSO

Catalog: RS-1-3053

Year: 1980

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap; opened

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 5890

Price: SOLD $9.00

 

As you can tell from my other Curtis Mayfield reviews, I'm a big fan, but I'm also honest enough to admit that a lot of his later-'70s output was simply lousy.  (I challenge anyone to find much merit in stuff like 1978's "Do It All Night", or 1979's disco-dominated "Heartbreak".)    The good news here was that 1980's "And Here's Something You Believe In" was a step back from the musical abyss.  Co-produced by Gil Askey and Mayfield (Keni Burke co-produced one track), the album didn't totally abandon Mayfield's exploration of popular dance music, but tracks like 'Tripping Out' found him seemingly rediscovering his knack for crafting smooth and catchy melodies; adding a touch of funk to the extended opener 'Love Me, Love Me 'Now.  The other good news was that Mayfield's instantly recognizable voice was once again upfront and center.  Mayfield certainly wasn't breaking any creative barriers this time out (witness his decision to include two remakes of Impressions ballads ('Never Let Me Go' and 'It's Alright'), but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

 

back cover photo

 

"And Here's Something To Believe In" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Love Me, Love Me Now   (Curtis Mayfield) - 7:56

Opening up with Latin percussion, whistles, pop bass, and a pounding beat, my initial thought was that 'Love Me, Love Me Now' would be a continuation of Mayfield's disco moves.  Luckily that wasn't the case.  Instead, the song shifted into a wonderful, light-funk groove with some hysterical lyrics.  Yeah, it was a dance track, but one that actually sported a memorable melody.  Always loved the bubbling synthesizers and the ominous police sirens parked at the rear of the arrangement.   RSO tapped the track as the lead-off single.  rating: **** stars

2.) Never Let Me Go   (J.W. Scott) - 3:07

'Never Let Me Go' found the album downshifting into an old-school ballad.  As a remake of an Impressions track it certainly recalled his The Impressions catalog.  Personally I love the results - short track too boot.  rating: *** stars

3.) Tripping Out   (Bunny Sigler) - 6:59

Hard to imagine Mayfield spent more than a couple of minutes tossing out 'Tripping Out', but the breezy, upbeat melody was vintage Curtis.  Built on a cool little scratch guitar riff (I'd love to figure the pattern out), Mayfield spent most of the song repeating the refrain, but the melody had staying power and when the funky horns kicked in ...   ahhh   rating: *** stars

4.) People Never Give Up   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:50

From the opening chords, 'People Never Give Up' sounded like vintage Mayfield.  And nobody but Mayfield wrote lyrics like this.   Very 'Keep Pushing'-styled retro-Mayfield.  I love stuff like this.   rating: **** stars

 

(side 2)

 It's Alright   (Curtis Mayfield) -3:53

'It's Alright' stood as the album's second Impressions remake.  Backed by what sounded like a kids chorus, Mayfield's remake didn't really mess with the original all that much.  That meant it was a funny listen, but why would you pick this over the original?  rating: *** stars

2.) Something To Believe In   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:45

Not to sound naive, but part of Mayfield's appeal to me has always been his outlook on life - his sense of spirituality, his strong support for the family unit ...  I guess it sounds kind of dated in this day and age, but 'Something To Believe In' was a perfect example of Uncle Curtis espousing his basic philosophy on life ...  and when surrounded my a killer melody and those bubbling synths, how could you disagree?  My pick for the album's standout performance  "money blues, you lose the family, and that ain't for me" ...  Yeah, that captures it.   rating: ***** stars

3.) Never Stop Loving Me  (Keni Burke - D. Burke - Curtis Mayfield) - 3:34

The lone Keni Burke produced track, 'Never Stop Loving Me' was built on a beguiling guitar hook and refrain 'we just make good love together' that crawled into your head and wouldn't leave.   Damn, that lick's back in my head as I write this.   Classic Mayfield.   rating: *** stars

 

Two singles spun off the album:

 

 

- 1980's 'Love Me, Love Me Now' b/w 'It's Alright' (RSO catalog number  RS-1036)

- 1980's 'Tripping Out' b/w 'Never Stop Loving Me' (RSO catalog number  RS-1046)

both of them every night.   rat

No, it wasn't classic Mayfield, but there were enough treasures to warrant the investment (you can still find cheap copies).  Added bonus, Ernie Barnes' cover painting was great - I've spent hours staring at it.

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Curtis Mayfield Live In Europe

Company: Curtom/ Ichiban

Catalog: CUR2-2901

Year: 1987

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: double LP; gatefold sleeve

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 1527

Price: SOLD $25.00

 

Well, the title was apparently accurate - "Curtis Mayfield Live In Europe"  capturing Curtis Mayfield and a small band during a 1987 European tour.   Produced by Mayfield, the collection was a double album, sixteen track compilation.  Unfortunately the album included little or no information on the actually performances - when, where, who ...  Lots of tour photos taken throughout Europe on the inner sleeve, but that was it in terms of information.  Backed by keyboardist Buzz Amato, percussionist Master Henry Gibson, drummer Lee Goodness (for some reason not credited), and bassist Lebron Scott, the track listing featured a hits-heavy mixture of Impressions and early solo material.  There wasn't a single tune from his most recent studio sets; 1983's "Honesty" or 1985's 'We Come in Peace With a Message of Love".  In Mayfield's defense, the hits were what the crowd wanted to hear, so he really couldn't go to far off target.  That said, my biggest complaint with the album was the haphazard editing.  Songs simply stopped and started abruptly and you got the impression the song order was determined by simply throwing the tapes on the floor and picking them in an arbitrary fashion.  Al those criticisms aside, the album was certainly decent, but you couldn't help but wonder what it could have been with a bit of additional case.

 

For hardcore fans, the album was released with at least one alternative cover:

 

 

 

"Curtis Mayfield Live In Europe" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Introduction - 0;38

2.) Ice-9  (instrumental) - 3:44

The long non-original, 'Ice-9' was a jazzy instrumental intended to showcase percussionist Master Henry Gibson.  Decent, but had kind of a supper club jazz vibe to my ears.   rating: *** stars

3.) Back In the World    (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:43

Well the French guy doing the introductions was wrong in that Mayfield wasn't from Atlanta, Georgia (he was born in Chicago).  The title track off one of his classic '70s albums, Mayfield turned in a breezy version of 'Back In the World'.  Only real complaint were the irritating synthesizer efects which were apparently intended to mimic the sound of a jet taking or, or landing.   rating: *** stars

4.) It's Alright/Amen    (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:53

Might as well get it over and reach back into The Impressions catalog early.  Crunching tone of his best known songs into a brief medley sold it short, though I guess I can understand the love-hate relationship he must have had having to play it every night.  Nice enough performances with the audience chiming along, but Mayfield really sounded like he was going through the motions.  Nice guitar at the end.   rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Gypsy Woman    (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:13

Okay, the synthesizers were a little heavy, but it was a nice, easy going take on the tune - amazing how good Mayfield's voice still sounded.   rating: *** stars

2.) Freddie's Dead    (Curtis Mayfield) - 6:16

I have no idea how much post-production went into this album, but 'Freddie's Dead' sounded remarkable for a four piece arrangement.   Again, the synthesizers sounded a bit dated and Master Henry Gibson's percussion was a bit heavy handed, but it was nice to hear the crowd singing along.   rating: **** stars

3.) Pusherman    (Curtis Mayfield) - 6:42

Nice version of the tune, but once again the solos (Gibson on percussion and Amato on synthesizers), added nothing to the classic tune.   rating: *** stars

 

(side 3)

1.) We've Gotta Have Peace    (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:07

Originally recorded for 1971's "Roots",  'We've Gotta Have Peace' has been a longtime personal favorite.   The original rolled along at a good clip, but here Mayfield seemingly felt the need to roll through the song at hyper-speed and the crowd seemed completely bored with the tune.   It took me awhile to figure out what else was missing, but eventually it struck me - no horns on this version.   rating: *** stars

2.)  We've Only Just Begun    (Paul Williams - Roger Nichols) - 3:54

No idea why he felt the need to cover this Carpenters hit.   Plodding and dull.   rating: ** stars

3.) People Get Ready    (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:38

One of those magical songs and recognizable from the opening chords.  An album highlight.  rating: **** stars

 

(side 4)

1.) Move On Up    (Curtis Mayfield) - 8:11

Another early classic (it first appeared on 1970's "Curtis"),  Mayfield and company turned in an energetic version of the tune.  As good as Mayfield's performance was (the shout and response section was a blast), it  would have been even better without Gibson's hyperactive percussion.   rating: **** stars

2.) If There Is a Hell Below    (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:25

Another tune off of "Curtis",  'If There Is a Hell Below' has some interesting echo effects, but didn't match the studio original.  rating: *** stars

3.) When Seasons Change    (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:19

'When Seasons Change' originally appeared on 1975's "There's No Place Like America Today" and was kind of a ponderous way to end the set.   rating: ** stars

 

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Love Is the Place

Company: Boardwalk

Catalog: 

Year: 1981

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap; opened

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2340

Price: $10.00

 

It's always struck me as an odd pairing, but in 1981 Curtis Mayfield became one of the first acts to sign with Neil Bogart's newly formed Boardwalk Records.  In an equally odd move, fr his first Broadway project Mayfield was teamed with producer/songwriter Dino Fekaris.  Perhaps intended to modernize Mayfield's sound, 1981's "Love Is the Place" included four Fekaris compositions - surprising given Mayfield's credentials as a songwriter.  Fekaris certainly wasn't someone I would have pegged as a Mayfield collaborator and the opener 'She Don't Let Nobody (But Me)' and the droopy ballad 'Babydoll' didn't exactly build confidence in the album..   Mayfield was obviously a talented an artist, but he wasn't without blame on this set.  Normally a surefooted writer,  'Ease My Mind' sounded like a bad Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show tune, while 'You Mean Everything To Me' went off the rails in the direction of anonymous adult contemporary make-out music.   So at this point you're asking "was there anything good" on this album ?   There was.  The biggest surprise came in the form of the Fekaris-penned title track.   Totally unexpected, Fekaris turned in an old-school soul tune that was near perfect for Mayfield.   The other highlight was Mayfield's "message" tune 'Come Free Your People'.   Nah, it wasn't going to make you forget 'People Get Ready', but it was pretty darn impressive.   

 

"Love Is the Place" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) She Don't Let Nobody (But Me)   (Dino Fekaris - Curtis Mayfield) - 4:13

In my book any song that starts out with a scatting segment is at a disadvantage and that meant 'She Don't Let Nobody But Me' started way in a hole.  The funny thing is Mayfield's silky sweet delivery quickly pulled it out of the hole, but just as he was about to win my approval, he ended the song with some more scatting.  Boardwalk tapped it as the lead-off single:

- 1981's 'She Don't Let Nobody (But Me)' b/w 'You Get All My Love' (Boardwalk catalog number NB7-11-122)  rating: *** stars

2.) Toot an' Toot an' Toot   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:07

'Toot an' Toot an' Toot" captured Mayfield at his funkiest with a bit of his "Superfly" influences seemingly showing through ... Great horn charts on this one.    It was also tapped as a single:

  7" single

- 1981's 'Toot An' Toot An' Toot' b/w 'She Don't Let Nobody (But Me)' (Boardwalk catalog number NB7-11-132)

  12" single 

- 1981's 'Toot An' Toot An' Toot' b/w 'She Don't Let Nobody (But Me)' (Boardwalk catalog number NBS-008)    rating: *** stars

3.) Babydoll   (Dino Fekaris) - 5:31

Songs that start with spoken word segments don't do much for me either - especially when those vamps go on and on ... 45 second on this one.  And when Mayfield stopped talking 'Babydoll' turned out to be a plodding, heavily orchestrated ballad that sounded like Fekaris had strung it together from a bunch of Mayfield's earlier songs.   rating: ** stars

4.) Love Is the Place   (Dino Fekaris) - 5:02

As mentioned above, I couldn't figure out why Mayfield would have turned over writing to a someone like Dino Fekaris ...   If Mayfield wanted to write and record an album full of mindless, throwaway disco-tinged numbers, he certainly could have done so on his own.   And just when I'd about given up on this album, along came the totally unexpected title track.  Kudos to Fekaris for coming up with the glorious, old-school sounding title track that would not have sounded out of place on a Impressions album.  rating: **** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Just Ease My Mind   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:26

I can remember wondering how I'd managed to put a Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show album on ...   seriously, 'Just Ease My Mind' had the same quivery country-feel Dr. Hook and company trafficked in.   rating: ** stars

2.) You Mean Everything To Me   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:51

Silky smooth make-out music and totally soulless.   Mayfield could have been selling Lexus sports cars for all it mattered.  And there was a bit of scatting on this one as well !   rating: *** stars

3.) You Get All My Love   (Dino Fekaris) - 3:39

Kudos to Fekaris for writing one of the album's more commercial oriented efforts - it wasn't anythign to get excited about, but was certainly better than some of the Mayfield originals.  rating: *** stars 

4.) Come Free Your People   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:15

Thankfully, Mayfield redeemed himself with the closer ...  'Come Free Your People' followed in the long tradition of Mayfield "message" tunes and while it wasn't as good as some of his earlier efforts, it was good enough to stand as the album's best performance.   rating: **** stars

 

 

 

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