Curtis Mayfield: Classic or Dud?

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Does he deserve the "god-like" status attributed to him by certain magazines or was he just a high-voiced hippie? Me, I haven't really listened enough to judge. I've got the best of the Curtom Years CD, but don't put it on very often. Is he worth any more of my time?

Phil A., Wednesday, 9 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Apparently the later material was exceptionally patchy, but c'mon...you gotta give him a classic just for the Superfly soundtrack, which is a great funk/soul record (I'm not going to say it's the best, but it's certainly my favourite).

Sean Carruthers, Wednesday, 9 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

High-voiced *hippie* ?? The guy started recording in 1959, for christ's sake. And even considering only the solo stuff... "Freddie's Dead", hippie ?

Anyway, classic for the Impressions and the solo career up to Superfly, one of my favorite R&B records, and I love the fact that he seems like an all-around good guy.

Patrick, Wednesday, 9 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Classic. Any best-of will do the job. Favorite tune: 'If there's a hell below...'

Omar, Thursday, 10 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Classic. Goes without saying he's a great singer/songwriter/producer, but he's also a v. underrated guitarist - check his red hot early 70s live dbl alb for proof - apparently a big influence on Robbie Robertson's 'mathematical' approach. Favourite tracks? 'Move on Up', 'If There's Hell Below' and 'Miss Black America'.

Andrew L, Thursday, 10 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Impressions' genre isn't my bag, but were it my bag, they'd be in it. Early-70s funk Curtis is total classic. All that wicky-wack guitar and - bonus! - lyrics that make an effort, go the extra mile, move on up! Fave tune: "Do Do Wap is Strong in Here." Whoo - that's a good 'un!

AP, Thursday, 10 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Complete classic. It doesn't matter that his songwriting is occasionally a little sloppy, his incredibly right-on and compassionate intentions always shine through. If you're looking for a slightly more cohesive album than the best of but don't want to trawl through some of the stodgier album tracks, Curtis Live! contains the best of his late Impressions and early solo years.

John Davey, Thursday, 10 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Perverse as ever, I am currently getting into the second CD of the 2CD "Indelible Impressions" 68-76 compilation - tracks done post- Curtis and with Leroy Hutson and Ed Townsend (co-writer and producer of "Let's Get It On") running things. But track 25 on CD1 - "We Must Be In Love" - is everything Saint Etienne would like to be but are too self-conscious to be.

Marcello Carlin, Thursday, 10 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

"High-voiced *hippie* ?? The guy started recording in 1959, for christ's sake. And even considering only the solo stuff... "Freddie's Dead", hippie ?"

I stand corrected. 1959, you say? I had no idea he'd been recording that long. Okay, so not a hippie at all. I couldn't really come up with a suitable negative description of him. Anyway, as I said I've not really listened to much of his stuff. Could you recommend any albums to a Curtis newbie like myself?

Phil A., Thursday, 10 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Go for the Superfly soundtrack, an awesome piece of blaxploitation-funk, as well as The Anthology 1961-1977, which includes mostly Impressions songs (you might have heard "People Get Ready", "Amen" and "Gypsy Woman") plus some (not enough) of his solo stuff ("Move On Up", "If There's A Hell Below...", "Freddie's Dead").

Patrick, Friday, 11 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

two months pass...
Curtis Mayfield is one of the most exceptional singer / songwriters of the 20th Century. There are three truly great socially-conscious songwriters of the 1970s and Mayfield is an equal with his more heralded colleagues Wonder and Gaye. All three managed to write deeply spiritual songs, powerful songs that attacked society's faults and beautiful love songs. Aside from the brilliance of the major hits Superfly and Freddie's Dead, Mayfield is also responsible for r&b gems like If There's A Hell Below and Do Do Wap Is Strong In Here amongst many, many others.

Timeless, a true classic.

Personal favourite song: People Get Ready - Mayfield said it straight: there's a train a-comin'...you don't need no baggage, you just get on board.

Tim Roxborogh, Tuesday, 24 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Dunno, I'd be suspicious if a train conductor insisted I didn't need any baggage. Like, where are we going, Belsen?

dave q, Tuesday, 24 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

don't know that much by curtis mayfield, but what i have heard is very good. Superfly soundtrack in particular is excellent. amusingly, the popularity of said soundtrack caused much plot-ruining hilarity at a screening of Superfly i was at in dublin recently ... when this guy walked on screen and someone said "hi, Freddie", everyone in the audience cracked up.

rener, Tuesday, 24 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

on the reissue of 'curtis' the bonus tracks are almost better than the actual album. almost. 'we are the people who are darker than blue' is one of the most amazing things i've ever heard.

ethan, Tuesday, 24 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

one year passes...
Classic, classic, classic.

Agree with Andrew and John - 'Curtis Live!' is a great place to start, one of my favourite live albums. Most of his best songs, performed beautifully in a low-key setting.

Also search 'Curtis', 'Superfly', 'Roots', 'There's no place like America today', and any Impressions albums you can get your hands on. (I've not heard a bad one yet.)

They've got the 'Soul Legacy' box set in Fopp for £20. Should I buy it even though I've got a lot of his individual albums?

James Ball (James Ball), Wednesday, 21 May 2003 09:37 (seventeen years ago) link

Yes. So classic, my hero. I have just bought the Curtom Years cds which have some Curtis as well as some great Five Stairsteps and Linda Clifford stuff. His last album wasn't bad either (though a bit dodgy in places). Much missed at Nordic Towers. :(

Nordicskillz (Nordicskillz), Wednesday, 21 May 2003 09:59 (seventeen years ago) link

My God, is this a serious question?! So Classic! Classic to the nth degree! "High voiced Hippie"?! Them there are fightin words.

J-rock (Julien Sandiford), Wednesday, 21 May 2003 10:09 (seventeen years ago) link

I agree. Utterly fuckin' classic. "Curtis Live" is fantastic, despite the fact live albums suck and live soul albums (mainly) suck harder, this is just headspinningly unbelievable. Worth it for "Mighty Mighty" alone...and it's all uphill from there.

M Specktor (M Specktor), Wednesday, 21 May 2003 15:21 (seventeen years ago) link

Eh, I like his stuff with the Impressions infinitely more than his solo stuff.

amateurist (amateurist), Wednesday, 21 May 2003 15:35 (seventeen years ago) link

The definition of Classic---if only for his immense influence on JA singers.

oops (Oops), Wednesday, 21 May 2003 16:37 (seventeen years ago) link

Yeah, Curtis Mayfield is to late 60s JA pop what Chuck Berry was to mid 60s English pop. Better to say "The Impressions" though since it was the vocal harmonies as much as the songwriting that made such an impact.

amateurist (amateurist), Wednesday, 21 May 2003 16:40 (seventeen years ago) link

Better to say "The Impressions"

Word

oops (Oops), Wednesday, 21 May 2003 16:46 (seventeen years ago) link

Neudonym in "Curtis Mayfield Was Probably God Himself In Human Form Warts And All" non-shocka

Neudonym, Wednesday, 21 May 2003 17:36 (seventeen years ago) link

After a quick check I find I have 25 Curtis/Impressions albums. It's not enough!

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Wednesday, 21 May 2003 19:46 (seventeen years ago) link

five months pass...
I came across this thread a few days ago, and wanted to add my comments. First of all, Curtis is an absolute classic. Anyone interested in getting into him should NOT listen to those who say a greatest hits will do. Believe me, it won't. I'd say start with Superfly, Live!, Curtis and Roots, and if you're dying for more (and you most likely will), then look into his curtom catalogue that isn't as easy to track down. As for the impressions stuff, all of the albums with Curtis are classics, so you really can't go wrong. Anyone who has been putting off buying impressions albums should note that Kent, who has reissued the first 8 albums as 2-fer CDs has supposedly stopped printing them. Just something to keep in mind.

I also noticed a post upthread that says the following:

"despite the fact live albums suck and live soul albums (mainly) suck harder"

I totally disagree with this statement (at least the latter part). I can't think of any live soul albums that suck, and I have Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Mayfield, Donny Hathaway and others, and to me, they are superior to the other live albums that I own.

Jonathan (Jonathan), Monday, 3 November 2003 18:00 (sixteen years ago) link

it's pretty much all been said on this thread already - clearly the man gets (and deserves) much love as a "classic". Aside from the "canonical" stuff already mentioned (Superfly, People Get Ready, first couple solo albums) I would also add the lost gem that is the "Let's Do It Again" soundtrack: the Staple Singers, written and produced by Curtis. Gorgeous record, especially the title track.

Shakey Mo Collier, Monday, 3 November 2003 19:45 (sixteen years ago) link

I'll second that, Shakey

Will (will), Monday, 3 November 2003 20:47 (sixteen years ago) link

start with the impressions! especially the first record!

amateur!st (amateurist), Monday, 3 November 2003 21:01 (sixteen years ago) link

I was thinking of reviving this thread the other day, too, just because I've been listening to him lots. I didn't have anything to say, though, so I opted against it. "Absolutely classic, dude. You can't even argue with that."

Sonny A. (Keiko), Monday, 3 November 2003 21:08 (sixteen years ago) link

The title track on new world order (his last album) is fantastic. Apparently he recorded the whole LP a line at a time (he didn't have enough breath to sing for long), which is pretty heroic.

Chuck Tatum (Chuck Tatum), Monday, 3 November 2003 21:18 (sixteen years ago) link

it's impressive in that context but do you really listen to it much?

amateur!st (amateurist), Monday, 3 November 2003 21:22 (sixteen years ago) link

o man. any love for got to find a way? mothers son, people! the guitar playing!

gaz (gaz), Monday, 3 November 2003 21:30 (sixteen years ago) link

it's worth owning for the lead track, for sure

Chuck Tatum (Chuck Tatum), Monday, 3 November 2003 22:00 (sixteen years ago) link

Uh, I stand corrected Jonathan. You're right, of course, live soul albums don't suck--not the ones you refer to, anyway...rather a matter of rhetorical overflow in my effort to convince ppl that Curtis Live record is thoroughly kick-ass, and gets played more often than his studio records do. Although they too aren't far behind.

M Specktor (M Specktor), Monday, 3 November 2003 22:00 (sixteen years ago) link

chuck, that's cool

amateur!st (amateurist), Monday, 3 November 2003 22:22 (sixteen years ago) link

How timely. I got Curtis! Live last week, and it is of course awesome, as was most of the stuff he released 68-73. Highlight is his version of 'we've only just begun', which takes the song into areas Richard Carpenter never even dreamed of.

Billy Dods (Billy Dods), Monday, 3 November 2003 22:35 (sixteen years ago) link

seven months pass...
Classic, I love him. My favourite track is "Right on for the Darkness" from Back to the World, which demonstrates his great guitar playing as is mentioned above.

Keith Watson (kmw), Saturday, 12 June 2004 12:35 (sixteen years ago) link

Besides his huge influence in American music, he had a major effect on Jamaican music as well.

shookout (shookout), Saturday, 12 June 2004 12:59 (sixteen years ago) link

dud

peter smith (plsmith), Saturday, 12 June 2004 17:05 (sixteen years ago) link

JUST KIDDING! TOTAL CLASSIC!

peter smith (plsmith), Saturday, 12 June 2004 17:05 (sixteen years ago) link

I'm amazed that anyone could say he was dud. Particularly after hearing "Pusherman".

Bimble (bimble), Saturday, 12 June 2004 17:35 (sixteen years ago) link

No love for Jerry Butler?

(Dave Q's comment will forever change the way I hear, etc.)

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Saturday, 12 June 2004 18:55 (sixteen years ago) link

"move on up" is so mind-bogglingly good.

amateur!st (amateurist), Sunday, 13 June 2004 03:04 (sixteen years ago) link

he may be my favourite EVAH.

mullygrubber (gaz), Sunday, 13 June 2004 05:45 (sixteen years ago) link

i think curtis actually wrote a higher number of great songs in the impressions than as a solo artist, brilliant as superfly, and much of his solo (up to mid) 70s albums were.

as someone else said, if you can find the demo versions of a lot of his songs on superfly and the curtis album (i got mine on a 3 cd cheapo box set love peace understanding), theyre a lot more understated than the finished versions. he didnt pretty them up with strings and extra ornamenation.

thesplooge (thesplooge), Sunday, 13 June 2004 15:44 (sixteen years ago) link

I can't decide if "Move On Up" is the best song ever or if the single edit of "Move On Up" is better

Sonny A. (Keiko), Sunday, 13 June 2004 16:45 (sixteen years ago) link

Oh I like the long one better, because it goes on longer.

And also because the break down is great.

Keith Watson (kmw), Sunday, 13 June 2004 16:49 (sixteen years ago) link

the breakdown is amazing.

thesplooge (thesplooge), Sunday, 13 June 2004 18:06 (sixteen years ago) link

Yeah, the long one is probably better. But I heard the short version first and liked how it was a perfect little pop song.
Deciding factor: when I had only heard the short version I had to listen to it on repeat to make the groove go on forever; album version = problem solved !

Sonny A. (Keiko), Sunday, 13 June 2004 18:25 (sixteen years ago) link

the great thing about that song is that its perfect whether you end it on that last snare before part 2 starts or if you let it play.

thesplooge (thesplooge), Sunday, 13 June 2004 19:03 (sixteen years ago) link

are those Impressions albums worth picking up, or should I just stick with a comp? there are so many of them and I imagine many of them are just vehicles for the singles. but, maybe I'll be surprised?

frogbs, Thursday, 22 March 2012 19:26 (eight years ago) link

The Young Mods' Forgotten Story is beautiful. Get it.

Turangalila, Thursday, 22 March 2012 20:09 (eight years ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_9Xy2JF1vo

Turangalila, Thursday, 22 March 2012 20:10 (eight years ago) link

two months pass...

if you're not doing anything else today you might listen to There's No Place Like America Today and groove the fuck out to a genius piece of music

cosi fan whitford (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Friday, 25 May 2012 18:28 (eight years ago) link

So in Love is incredible.

I wish to incorporate disco into my small business (chap), Monday, 28 May 2012 15:04 (eight years ago) link

Yeah that whole album is perfect, my second of his favourite after the debut.

Kitchen Person, Monday, 28 May 2012 18:39 (eight years ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuytQvycLag

Turangalila, Tuesday, 29 May 2012 00:11 (eight years ago) link

two weeks pass...

if you're not doing anything else today you might listen to There's No Place Like America Today and groove the fuck out to a genius piece of music

― cosi fan whitford (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Friday, May 25, 2012 2:28 PM (2 weeks ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

yes! been doing this a lot lately

horseshoe, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 23:52 (eight years ago) link

four months pass...

Curtis, Curtis Live, Roots & Superfly is a heck of a run of albums. I spent the weekend listening to all four a few times and they are just perfect. Curtis Mayfield had just about the perfect sound, it was funky, fuzzy and driving yet laid back, lovely and melodic at the same time. That is not an easy combination to pull off.

― earlnash, Sunday, June 13, 2010 10:24 PM (1 year ago)

This is totally otm.

― Only the RONG Survive (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, February 12, 2012

Was listening to these on a long car ride this weekend. Great stuff

curmudgeon, Monday, 5 November 2012 16:00 (seven years ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bi6DDa5cVMU

j., Monday, 5 November 2012 23:24 (seven years ago) link

'Back to the World,' 'Got to Find a Way,' 'There's No Place Like America Today,' 'Sweet Exorcist' and 'Short Eyes' never get enough props. Somebody needs to make those albums easily available. Mayfield is definitely my favorite soul artist.

^this.
I picked up vinyl of 'Let's Do it Again' OST, produced by Curtis with Staple Singers on at least one track. Also recommended.

A True White Kid that can Jump (Granny Dainger), Tuesday, 6 November 2012 01:58 (seven years ago) link

How did I previously miss "There's No Place Like America Today"? Had seen it, but never listened till last night on Spotify.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 6 November 2012 15:34 (seven years ago) link

I think it may have been one of the first of his lps I heard about since it was on the mid 80s NME best 100 lps of all time list if I remember rightly. Took me a lot longer to get my hands on it and I really need to give it another ear soon.
Iconic cover.

I have most of the solo lps up to about '75. Really need to grab the 2fer cd of Sweet Exorcist/Got to Find a Way and could do with a new copy of the s/t lp Curtis. Think my last copy is in pretty naff state.

Still wish there was more performance footage of him around.

Stevolende, Tuesday, 6 November 2012 20:12 (seven years ago) link

two years pass...

How had I never heard this before?!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy56BvFDgEE

MaudAddam (cryptosicko), Monday, 29 December 2014 14:13 (five years ago) link

this is the shit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sBQPVnKO_Y

The Reverend, Monday, 29 December 2014 18:50 (five years ago) link

"Do Do Wap" was a common pick of mine when I dj'd out. Love that song. I had never heard the Patti Jo one, really diggin' my first listen.

The Thelonius Monk of nu-ki? (Dan Peterson), Monday, 29 December 2014 19:03 (five years ago) link

Doo Doo Wap is one of my favourite Curtis songs. Short Eyes is his most underrated album.

He did his own version of Make Me Believe In You on Sweet Exorcist but I think the first version I heard of it was Amerie's cover in 2007.

Kitchen Person, Monday, 29 December 2014 19:26 (five years ago) link

Never heard short eyes. Title always weirded me out a bit

Οὖτις, Monday, 29 December 2014 19:27 (five years ago) link

I assume he meant something else besides pedophile

Οὖτις, Monday, 29 December 2014 19:35 (five years ago) link

the first version I heard of it was Amerie's cover in 2007

same tbh

The Reverend, Monday, 29 December 2014 20:01 (five years ago) link

mayfield's records are pretty damn strong until the end of the 1970s, then they start getting soporific pretty quick.

I dunno. (amateurist), Tuesday, 30 December 2014 00:06 (five years ago) link

XP - Cusrtis' Short Eyes album is a soundtrack to a prison flick which details how child molesters are treated in prison.

So, yes, it is a pedo reference.

austinato (Austin), Tuesday, 30 December 2014 00:33 (five years ago) link

*Curtis'

austinato (Austin), Tuesday, 30 December 2014 00:34 (five years ago) link

two years pass...

75th Birthday Tribute event in Washington DC

*Curtis Mayfield tribute with Professor Aaron Cohen and DJ Jahsonic at 11 am Sunday December 17th at the National Gallery of Art East wing Theatre for free followed by movie Urban Soul at 1:30pm

curmudgeon, Sunday, 17 December 2017 06:15 (two years ago) link

An interesting presentation. Professor mentioned Mayfield's use of f sharp, and how Hendrix learned some from Mayfield when Jimi opened for him. He played a demo from when Mayfield was 15 and showed a video clip of Mayfield acting in a movie

curmudgeon, Monday, 18 December 2017 21:52 (two years ago) link

Looking forward to Cohen’s book, although I also need to read that one by Mayfield’s son

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 19 December 2017 16:03 (two years ago) link

Over the years, I've become to really love "Here but I'm Gone". That tune is so lovely, sad and true. It even takes a whole other trip when you consider the circumstances that Curtis wrote and sung it. It is a rare piece of music that if considered, makes you check yourself.

earlnash, Wednesday, 20 December 2017 04:03 (two years ago) link

Future Song (Love a Woman) slays

https://open.spotify.com/track/3hi078NgfqTvFj98hbECFR?si=tzu63FwrQ6-jDkJX5p824A

calstars, Sunday, 31 December 2017 01:51 (two years ago) link

Shit is tight

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpJtb3rL2SU

calstars, Sunday, 31 December 2017 01:59 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

HAWTT uncut '72 set from Beat Club:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pk4n52qwwlI

Soundcheck from same:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF1uF-28MZE

a large tuna called “Justice” (C. Grisso/McCain), Thursday, 28 February 2019 23:33 (one year ago) link

absolute perfection.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Friday, 1 March 2019 17:10 (one year ago) link

damn, curtis is so good

tylerw, Friday, 1 March 2019 17:14 (one year ago) link

inner city blues, holy shit!

voodoo chili, Friday, 1 March 2019 17:16 (one year ago) link

yeah this set is radical. whole band smokes.

tylerw, Friday, 1 March 2019 17:28 (one year ago) link

XP IKR Silly me never realized until now how much of a Curtis song it is.

a large tuna called “Justice” (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 1 March 2019 18:02 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSoULq1pOsE
The Notations - Superpeople

Heard this and thought wow that's the most Curtis Mayfield-y thing I've ever heard. Turns out they were on the Curtom label. Dope song.

A True White Kid that can Jump (Granny Dainger), Wednesday, 20 May 2020 20:08 (two months ago) link

So classic. I'm no expert or completist, but did Curtis ever sing in anything other than his falsetto?

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 20 May 2020 20:12 (two months ago) link

Tuomas being so dense itt.

Is Lou Reed a Good Singer? (Tom D.), Wednesday, 20 May 2020 20:30 (two months ago) link

hmm. I mean I'd say technically he goes out of a true falsetto a lot but I can't think of anything that wasn't in a high register.

A True White Kid that can Jump (Granny Dainger), Wednesday, 20 May 2020 20:32 (two months ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOzlCJDPjV0

This song has the lowest register vocals from him that I've heard, and he still does a semi-falsetto in the chorus.

Tuomas, Wednesday, 20 May 2020 20:50 (two months ago) link

two weeks pass...

Anyone know anything about the Rhino reissue of his first 4 solo albums that happened last year?

Heez, Saturday, 6 June 2020 02:55 (one month ago) link

Yeah that one. Reading some good things

Heez, Saturday, 6 June 2020 14:01 (one month ago) link

hard to beat that price tbh

budo jeru, Saturday, 6 June 2020 14:18 (one month ago) link

Looks good, be prepared, tho, that Sweet Exorcist isn't quite as good as the first three. That and his other 1974 album Got to Find a Way are okay, then There's No Place Like America Today from 1975 raises the bar again, but that one is pretty much his last truly good album. The ones after that are still worth listening because they usually have one or two great songs, but his peak creative period as a solo artist was those five years from 1970 to 1975.

Tuomas, Saturday, 6 June 2020 14:43 (one month ago) link

wrong, "sweet exorcist" is amazing

budo jeru, Saturday, 6 June 2020 14:55 (one month ago) link

one month passes...

Oh lord that long LP version of "Move On Up" is one serious bongo jam.

earlnash, Saturday, 25 July 2020 04:21 (one week ago) link

https://www.amazon.com/Keep-Keeping-Curtis-Mayfield-1970-1974/dp/B07KLS2XDZ/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=curtis+mayfield&qid=1591438979&sr=8-1🕸

This one? It is a nice set.


Oh FYI I got this and had to return it because the vinyl was skipping so much

Heez, Saturday, 25 July 2020 13:10 (one week ago) link

boooo!

Oh lord that long LP version of "Move On Up" is one serious bongo jam.

― earlnash, Friday, July 24, 2020 9:21 PM

alltime jam.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Thursday, 30 July 2020 04:06 (six days ago) link


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