Curtis Mayfield Curtis Review

Released 1970.  

BBC Review

It opened up Mayfield's career to the extent that he shook off the chains of...

Chris Jones 2008

Since the early '60s, Curtis Mayfield had been proving to the world what a great commercial writer he was. Not only churning out hits for his own band, The Impressions, he'd also scored serious chart action with acts like Major Lance, Jan Bradley and even Brian Hyland. But while his pop soul credentials were immaculate, he'd also been carving out a name as black music's premier exponent of songs that mirrored the civil rights movement in the USA. By 1970 this strand in his music had morphed into Black power consciousness, and his first full foray into tougher territory came with his first solo album, Curtis.

While he was still ostensibly with the Impressions when he recorded Curtis, the music he laid down was a different beast entirely. Rather than the smooth pop of his former band, he chose a grittier funk nand psychedelic edge with which to deliver this missive of consciousness-raising. Recorded at a time when, as Curtis himself said: ''...people stopped wearing tuxedos...people were getting down a little more'', the album, encouraged by his manager, allowed Mayfield to spread his wings and experiment a little more.

While the juxtaposition of strings, harps and throbbing backbeats may well have sprung more from his lack of musical education, the results were startling. Mixing contemporary issues about racial pride and civic responsibility (Miss Black America, Move On Up) the albium was a heady brew of realism and danceable grooves. Only boasting one hit ((Don't Worry) If There's Hell Below We're All Going To Go), Curtis still sold well and opened up Mayfield's career to the extent that he shook off the chains of commercialism once and for all (he left the Impressions for good the following year), becoming a spokesman of his generation.

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