Category: Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield – Superfly

ARTIST: Curtis Mayfield                220px-CurtisMayfieldSuperfly

TITLE: Superfly

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 R&B, #26 UK

SINGLES: Freddie’s Dead (#4 US, #2 R&B), Superfly (#8 US, #5 R&B, #52 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Pusherman

LINEUP: Curtis Mayfield, Joseph Lucky Scott, Master Henry Gibson, Morris Jennings, Carig McMullen. Tyrone McCullen played drums on one track. They used session strings and horns.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A soundtrack that was much better than the movie. An iconic funk album perfect for the mood in summer 1972 (which was dark and dingy).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While Curtis Mayfield definitely had some appeal thanks to his work with the Impressions and his solo work, it was this album that thrust him into the stratosphere as a musical innovator, producer, and arranger.

Mayfield’s high, pleading voice was perfect for the story of the movie and how he told it, which was a grim tale of drugs in the inner city – a lot grimmer than the film to be honest. Yet, as impressive as Mayfield’s vocals were, it was his use of funk, coupled with horns and an orchestra, that captured the perfect sound for these songs.

On all accounts, this is a powerful testament, and highly influential. Mayfield was always writing about positivity and empowerment, and through the bleakness there is hope. Musicians should still study this album for the impact that melody and arrangement can have in creating a mood and feel, while still enjoying the funk.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Many executives didn’t think this was going to be a hit. Oh, how wrong they were.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. A version with working demos and studio outtakes exist. Intriguing to hear the process of the record.

GRADE: A+: A perfect soundtrack for the times, and the movie.

Curtis Mayfield – Roots

ARTIST: Curtis Mayfield    220px-curtis_mayfield_-_roots_album_cover

TITLE:  Roots

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION: #40, #6 R&B

SINGLES: Get Down (#69, #13 R&B), Beautiful Brother of Mine (#45 R&B), We Got to Have Peace (#32 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Curtis Mayfield, Craig McMullen, Joseph Scott, Tyrone McCullen, Henry Gibson, Leroy Hutson, Michael Hawkins

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second studio solo studio side from Mayfield moves his funk vision forward.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Curtis Mayfield’s move from the Impressions vocal magic toward being a funk auteur is complete with this great 1971 album. A hot ensemble featuring some great bass work by Joseph “Lucky” Scott creates outta site grooves, while Mayfield’s voice floats above it all.

Even though Mayfield still has his social conscious side, he’s also moved into the carnal with the salacious “Get Down”. His vocals adapt from that randy funk to “Keep On Keeping On”, a great ballad about perseverance.

Mayfield wouldn’t strike retail gold just yet, but while this album isn’t as well known as others by him, it’s definitely funky enough to have in your collection.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The female vocalists aren’t credited, and one of them definitely did some ‘work’ on “Get Down”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, single edits and a demo.

GRADE: A:  Solid songs, arrangements, and vocals, and then there’s the funk. Always with the funk.

Curtis Mayfield – Curtis/Live!

ARTIST: Curtis Mayfield                   220px-Curtis_Mayfield_-_1971_Live_album_cover

TITLE:  Curtis/Live!

YEAR RELEASED: 1971

CHART ACTION: #21, #3 R&B

SINGLES:  Mighty Mighty (Spade and Whitey)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: We’re a Winner, We’ve Only Just Begun, People Get Ready, Gypsy Woman, (Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Going to Go

LINEUP: Curtis Mayfield, Craig McMullen, Joseph Scott, Tyron McCullen, Henry Gibson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Live album from one of the premier soul artists of the early 70’s is a good representation of Mayfield’s vocal skills and personality.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While it may seem odd to release a live album after just one solo album, this live album doesn’t seem superfluous. Filled with long (even longer!) versions of songs from his debut solo album, a few cuts from the Impressions and a surprise cover, it’s a great document of Curtis Mayfield’s early 70’s prowess.

Most of the time, the vamps and raps to the audience are exiled. Here, though, they’re vital as they explain where he’s coming from and what each song means personally and politically. Mayfield is a pleasant showman, yet he’s not afraid to allow his band to get down with the funk.

This captures the time and place in soul music perfectly. Mayfield was a great creative force in this time; it’s great to have it documented.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Five songs are from the Impressions, three from his solo album, one cover, and three brand new Mayfield songs that didn’t appear on a studio album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a live version of “Superfly” recorded with a different band at a later time, and the single cut for the single (naturally).

GRADE: A-: Curtis Mayfield, live. I wish I could have seen him.

Curtis Mayfield – Curtis

ARTIST: Curtis Mayfield 220px-Curtismayfield-1970lp

TITLE:  Curtis

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #19 US, #1 US R&B, #30 UK

SINGLES: (Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go (#29 US, #3 US R&B), Move on Up (#12 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not unless you loved 70’s soul and funk

LINEUP: Curtis Mayfield and a whole bunch of session guys

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First solo album from the former Impressions leader takes his socially conscious and political songs to the next level, as well as updating his sound to a soul-funk-psychedelia hybrid with plenty of chances for him to show off his voice.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Mayfield’s bright tenor gave the Impressions their signature vocal sound for years, and their last few albums with Mayfield in charge moved towards a socially conscious idiom. Here, though, Mayfield goes all in, keeping it real about America in general, and the plight of the city in general.

Musically, he took notes from Isaac Hayes and James Brown, and added some definite psychedelic touches and strings to sweeten the sound and give the records some depth. It’s pert near a perfect example of early 70’s soul funk with a lot of socially conscious soul ballads thrown in there, too.

I don’t think the message is dated, either. What Mayfield was singing about still resonates today, since the problems of racial tensions and the inner city residents still haven’t gone away. The funk is strong as is his voice.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Jam covered “Move on Up” in their later incarnation.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with demos and backing tracks.

GRADE: A: This is a definite record to own. The songs are strong, and it shows the soul / funk evolution.