Curtis Mayfield 1942-2000:
A Beginner's Guide
Curtis Mayfield wasn't just a genius, he was a hero. He even
managed to record 1996's creditable New World Order as a
quadriplegic. But as geniuses go he was pretty spacy, his solo work
radically inconsistent. As with so many groove artists, his albums
only improve with time. Even so, however, accessing his higher-than-gospel
croon, stealth guitar riffs, utopian-millenarian
political vision, and erotic-domestic romanticism is a messy,
compilation-ridden project certain to involve the purchase of
multiple versions of "Keep On Pushing" and "Freddie's Dead." Oh
well--record collecting holds many worse fates. Herewith a
beginner's guide to paying your money without exactly taking your
PEOPLE GET READY: THE CURTIS MAYFIELD STORY
This high-end option is the only effective way to find out how good
Mayfield could be beyond his acknowledged canon. The final disc of
the three-disc box consists entirely of post-'76 dribs and drabs,
some merely hard to find, others--"Homeless," "She Don't Let Nobody
(But Me)"--vintage. Only 12 Impressions songs, though.
THE ANTHOLOGY 1961-1977
Credited to Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions because the stellar
harmony group provide 30 of the double-CD's 40 tracks. A few you've
never heard are generic postdoowop r&b, Chicago-style. Others
you've never heard vividly demonstrate why Mayfield is mentioned in
the same breath as Smokey Robinson.
As everyone knows, this is the seminal blaxploitation soundtrack.
You don't need the alternate-laden 25th anniversary double. You
probably don't need the two (brief) instrumentals, either. In
addition to showcasing the oft-compiled "Freddie's Dead,"
"Pusherman," and "Superfly," it includes the harder-to-find classic
"Give Me Your Love" and a worthy opener called "Little Child,
Running Wild." And it's history.
Cut for cut, Mayfield's solo debut is stronger than Superfly.
Linked in this version with 1974's Got To Find a Way, which isn't,
it's worth scrounging or waiting for. Rare items: the achingly
empathetic "Other Side of Town" and "Miss Black America," featuring
one of his many children.
Mysteriously, this 1971 follow-up is easier to come by than Curtis.
Its great curiosity is the extended mixed metaphor "Underground,"
which signifies hell, mines, revolutionary cadres, and sub-rosa
discrimination, among other things. Or so it seems.
THE VERY BEST OF THE IMPRESSIONS
Sixteen career-spanning songs, including three dubious post-Mayfield
THE VERY BEST OF CURTIS MAYFIELD
Sixteen more career-spanning songs, all good and most great. Also
Rolling Stone, Feb. 3, 2000