Monday, September 14, 2015
Curtis Mayfield kept on pushin' through to a feeling darker than blue in this socially conscious psychedelic soul symphony. After a dozen albums (The Impressions in 1963, The Never Ending Impressions and Keep on Pushing in 1964, People Get Ready and One by One in 1965, Ridin' High in 1966, The Fabulous Impressions in 1967, We're a Winner and This Is My Country in 1968, The Versatile Impressions and The Young Mods' Forgotten Story in 1969, and Check Out Your Mind! in 1970) with The Impressions, Mayfield was ready to cut a new path to satisfy “a feeling in me that there need to be songs that relate not so much to civil rights but to the way we as all people deal with our lives.”
He had formed Curtom Records in 1968 with the manager of The Impressions Eddie Thomas, which became one of the first record labels owned by an African-American recording artist. Mayfield would express: "I was always in search of knowing how I might own as much of myself as possible, I had heard stories of guys selling songs for twenty-five dollars; [music] publishers were hitting the lottery off of people’s material. Of course, what was considered Black money was a Cadillac and $2,500 in fives, tens, and twenties. Nigger rich. When I started recording, I saw very few people who owned themselves. There were so many fights with record companies. They couldn’t understand it. ‘He wants his publishing!’ they would say to each other. Like it wasn’t mine to have."
His solo debut 'Curtis' was produced by Mayfield at at RCA Studios in Chicago with co-producers Riley Hampton and Gary Slabo and engineers R.J. Anfinson and Tom Flye. The sessions featured musicians Leonard Druss, John Howell, Harold Lepp, Loren Binford, Clifford Davis, Patrick Ferreri, Richard Single, Rudolph Stauber, Donald Simmons, Robert Lewis, Harold Dessent, Ronald Kolber, Harold Klatz, John Ross, Sol Bobrob, Sam Heiman, Elliot Golub, Henry Gibson, Robert Sims, Gary Slabo, and Philip Upchurch.
'Curtis' moved on up to number thirty in the UK, nineteen on the US popular album chart, and number one on the US R&B album chart. Mayfield explained: "I would get most of my ideas from meditations or by the laughter and happiness of the moment, or just good down-to-earth, one-on-one conversation...All the hurt and reflecting on life, that also went into the songs. Whatever you’re feeling, whatever your moods, whatever you were trying, whatever you had observed, whatever made you laugh—all of that was inspiration for my songs....There were some things I long wanted to do, but they were out of the category of what was expected of me and the Impressions...When I got off in the Curtis album, it allowed me to be more personal for myself....Music was changing so much, it was the ’70s, and there was a new freedom to the music. People like Isaac Hayes, Gamble and Huff, and myself were trying to get away from just R&B as we looked upon it; we wanted to be freer. When I first started making music in 1958, a song was two minutes and forty-five seconds at the longest. As time went on, FM radio and flower power happened; people got into smoking herb...I wasn’t dropping acid, but I guess it’s safe for me to say that I too smoked herb. It was no big deal. I didn’t do nothing until I was twenty-seven years old, and smoking herb didn’t seem like a heavy cost to pay to cure my curiosity.”
"Move On Up" charted at number twelve in the UK
"(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go"
All songs written and composed by Curtis Mayfield.
1. "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go" 7:50
2. "The Other Side of Town" 4:01
3. "The Makings of You" 3:43
4. "We People Who Are Darker Than Blue" 6:05
5. "Move On Up" 8:45
6. "Miss Black America" 2:53
7. "Wild and Free" 3:16
8. "Give It Up" 3:49