The Impressions The Complete A & B Sides 1961 - 1968 Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Few groups epitomise the term 'important' like this gospel infused Chicagoan soul outfit.

Angus Taylor 2009

Few groups epitomise the term 'important' like gospel infused Chicagoan soul outfit The Impressions. This two-disc set assembles the Curtis Mayfield helmed line-up's seven inches for ABC Paramount records with album tracks, pleasing the collector and more casual listener at the same time.

The Impressions sound tracked the social upheaval of the 60s, brought Mayfield and his distinctive falsetto to the spotlight, and inspired a wealth of harmony groups around the world. Yet even if you ignore all that, you're left with a series of some of the sweetest soul sides ever heard.

Rhythmically diverse, the cuts range from shimmying Latin tinged ballads to Motown era stomps and funkier numbers. As his lyrics take on more political significance Curtis' voice moves from childlike purity to the hipper ballsier delivery familiar from his later solo work.

It's impossible to fault early hits Gypsy Woman and I'm The One Who Loves You (for the latter, Mayfield's voice is suited perfectly to the patient best friend of a lady who prefers meaner men).

However, uplifting positivity was also a big part of their message. For every forlorn lover's lament there's an exhortation of civil rights encouragement (Rolling On or We're A Winner - a clear ancestor of Curtis' Move On Up) and even transplanted hymns (Amen).

Another, oft ignored, aspect of the group's legacy was their pivotal influence in Jamaica. Their effect on the Wailers is common knowledge (People Get Ready was reshaped into One Love). But Impressions tunes also became staples for high-register reggae singers including Milton Henry, Cornel Campbell, Junior Murvin and Slim Smith.

There is the odd surplus to requirements novelty piece like Twist And Limbo; and disc two is not quite as powerful as disc one - though still well worth a spin. Nonetheless, these songs will plant a cornerstone in your collection without any hunting for scratchy old 45s.

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