Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions
The Best Of — The Millennium Collection
As a one-man recording industry unto himself, Curtis Mayfield was the undisputed architect of ’60s Chicago soul. Singer/songwriter/producer/A&R man/label owner and leader of the Impressions from 1961-69, Mayfield’s sweet, yearning tenor, classy productions, and soulfully melodic ballads were infused with positive messages, not to mention gobs of gospel. Considering the breadth of his influence as a member of the Impressions, and even more so as a solo artist, this budget-priced, eleven-track collection, clocking in at an embarrassing 32 minutes, can’t hope to adequately profile an artist whose career was essential to the understanding of American soul music.
That said, the nine Impressions’ tracks and two solo Mayfield songs (not surprisingly, “Freddie’s Dead” and “Superfly”) cover the absolute basics of the artist’s catalog, and simply put, no soul CD collection is complete without these beautiful, proud and righteous tunes. Interestingly, the smooth yet edgy funk of Mayfield’s solo work sounds a bit jarring next to the Impressions’ exquisite, heartfelt, gospel ballads like “People Get Ready,” “Amen” and “Keep on Pushing,” leading to the obvious conclusion that Mayfield’s tracks are best heard on their own disc (see Rhino’s excellent Very Best of Curtis Mayfield). As a primer, this’ll do, but go ahead and splurge another ten bucks on MCA’s fabulous double-disc The Anthology 1961-1977, which, at 40 tracks, is nearly four times more comprehensive than this exasperatingly slim compilation. Even that collection doesn’t cover all the highlights of Curtis Mayfield’s extensive oeuvre, but it goes a lot further in delineating the many facets of a musician whose consistently thrilling work continues to reverberate through the complex tapestry of American soul music.
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