Curtis Mayfield – Curtis / Live! (140 Gram Vinyl, Colored Vinyl, Brick & Mortar Exclusive) —— Album Review

Curtis Mayfield – Curtis / Live! (140 Gram Vinyl, Colored Vinyl, Brick & Mortar Exclusive)

Throughout the 1960s, soul legend Curtis Mayfield wrote and sang songs of hope, beauty and love. As part of the vocal trio the Impressions, Mayfield delivered Black pride anthems like “Keep on Pushing,” love songs like “Gypsy Woman” and big hits like “It’s Alright.”

As the calendar flipped to 1970, Mayfield wanted to do something different, on his own. The opening track on Curtis, Mayfield’s solo debut was unlike anything in the Impressions catalog. A fuzz bass introduces Mayfield’s vocals, drenched in echo, sounding like a prophet on a mountaintop. Wah guitar, aggressive drums and funk horns fuel “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Going to Go.” The upbeat “Move On Up,” the album’s other single, is powered by a horn line so infectious that Kanye West sampled it 30 years later for “Touch the Sky.”

These two songs comprise nearly half of Curtis’ run time, but there are even more gems tucked behind the singles. “We the People Who are Darker Than Blue,” “Wild and Free” and “Miss Black America” are affirming anthems of Black power. Ballads “Makings of You” and “Give It Up” celebrate the joy of a long- term romance.

Mayfield didn’t rest on his laurels, releasing the double-album Curtis/Live less than a year later. Impressions material such as “Gypsy Woman” and “Mighty Mighty (Spade and Whitey)” get new arrangements that match Mayfield’s funky new direction, while “People Get Ready” is stark and intimate. A pair of new songs blend well with the songs from Curtis. Several monologues provide insight into Mayfield’s mindset at the time. Curtis/Live not only does a nice job summarizing Mayfield’s career to that point, but illuminates the path he’d travel for the next several years. -Joel Francis