Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Curtis Mayfield: Curtis [Curtom, 1970]
Initially I distrusted these putatively middlebrow guides to black pride--"Miss Black America" indeed. But a lot of black people found them estimable, so I listened some more, and I'm glad. Since Mayfield is a more trustworthy talent than Isaac Hayes, I wasn't too surprised at the durability of the two long cuts--the percussion jam is as natural an extension of soul music (those Sunday handclaps) as the jazzish solo. What did surprise me was that the whole project seemed less and less middlebrow as I got to know it. Forget the harps--"Move On Up" is Mayfield's most explicit political song, "If There's a Hell Below We're All Gonna Go" revises the usual gospel pieties, and "Miss Black America" has its charms, too. B+