ARTIST: Curtis Mayfield
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.