Released – September 1970
Label – Custom Records
1. (Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Gonna Go
2. The Other Side of Town
3. The Makings of You
4. We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue
1. Move On Up
2. Miss Black America
3. Wild and Free
4. Give it Up
I bought my copy of “Curtis” from RPM Records in Newcastle. A cracking little shop with the friendliest staff and a great selection of records. Its a repress and cost around £15 but well worth it!
Upon leaving his band “The Impressions” in 1970, Curtis Mayfield began work on his solo debut record. He started to move away from the R&B sounds he had produced in his early career and onto his more recognisable funk and psychedelic sounds. Primarily, the subject matter was that of a political nature and dealt with issues around that era.
The Curtom Record label
“Curtis” was released in September of 1970 on Mayfields own record label Curtom Records. Upon its release, it sold very well staying at the top of the billboard album charts for 5 consecutive weeks. It was also met with critical acclaim and outstanding reviews.
This album was compared to “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” due to the amount of production, time and also money that went into its creation. Mayfield employed a lot of artists and musicians to play on the record allowing them to explore and for a few of them get an introduction to a new musical genre. The album is extremely powerful and Mayfield used it to write about being a proud African-American and the struggles that his race dealt with in the USA at that time. He had America in his crosshairs and wanted to describe the feelings and life for the residents living in the crumbling suburbs of these big time cities like New York City.
The record surprisingly only contained one hit single for Mayfield, and not the one everyone would expect it to be upon learning about the album. The stand out track for me is the soulful and groove-laden “Move On Up” which is now the most recognisable Curtis Mayfield track ever. Mayfield produced “Curtis” alongside musicians Riley Hampton and Gary Slabo who both took charge of the number of string and percussion arrangements on the album.
So Why Should You Own This Record?
This is a fantastic album and one that stands as a great introduction to the body of Curtis Mayfield’s work as both a solo artist and in the group “The Impressions”. The album is full of dance beats, soulful jams and fantastic lyrics and singing by Mayfield. This record started the ball rolling for a new type of “Black Soul” for the music industry. The record allows the listener to embrace his music but also gets over a strong message about social and political topics.