I am hereby dedicated Monday’s at the office as official “wewantthefunk“, or “Soul Explosion” days. It’s an ideal way to kick start your work week and get things groovin’ on the right foot. With that being said, I’m moving onto Part 2 of this mornings funk program, the ‘Curtis’ album by Curtis Mayfield.
How can you not love an album that begins with the opening line:
“Sisters, niggers, whities, jews, crackers!
Don’t worry, if there’s hell below, we’re all gotta go!
And all over an amazing, funky, nasty bass riff.
It’s perfect Monday morning music.
This is Mayfield’s debut album, released in September of 1970. Produced by Mayfield himself, it was released on his own label Custom Records. The musical styles of this album moved further away from the pop-soul sounds of his previous group The Impressions and featuring more of a deep-rooted funk and psychedelia inspired sound. Lyrically, is deals with typical 70’s political and social subject matter and some will go so far as to refer to this album as the “Sgt. Pepper’s of 70’s Soul”.
I tend to agree.
As a producer, Mayfield embraced the most progressive soul sounds of the era, stretching them out compellingly on numbers like ‘Move on Up‘, but he also drew on orchestral sounds (especially harps), to achieve some striking musical timbres (‘Wild and Free‘), and wove all of these influences, plus the topical nature of the songs, into a neat, amazingly lean whole. There was only one hit single off of this record, ‘(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Down Below We’re All Going to Go’, from which the above lyric is taken, which made it to #3 on the Billboard chart. And I defy anyone to not get into the hip n’ funky, congo drum beat of ‘We the People Who Are Darker than Blue‘. Not possible.
On there own, each track is lush and expressive, but the album really needs to be listened as a single entity to be fully appreciated. Ideal for headphone listening while tapping out Facilitator Guides at ones desk in Corporate Hell.