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Soul - Released November 1, 1972 | Curtom Classics, LLC

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Soul - Released August 1, 1975 | Curtom Classics, LLC

The title is intended in an ironic way, as illustrated not only by the cover -- a grim parody of late-'40s/early-'50s advertising imagery depicting white versus black social reality -- but the grim yet utterly catchy and haunting opening number, "Billy Jack." A song about gun violence that was years ahead of its time, it's scored to an incisive horn arrangement by Richard Tufo. "When Seasons Change" is a beautifully wrought account of the miseries of urban life that contains elements of both gospel and contemporary soul. The album's one big song, "So in Love," which made number 67 on the pop charts but was a Top Ten soul hit, is only the prettiest of a string of exquisite tracks on the album, including "Blue Monday People" and "Jesus" and the soaring finale, "Love to the People," broken up by the harder-edged "Hard Times." The album doesn't really have as clearly delineated a body of songs as Mayfield's earlier topical releases, but it's in the same league with his other work of the period and represents him near his prime as a composer. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 1977 | Curtom Classics, LLC

Never Say You Can't Survive was the last Curtis Mayfield album done in a pure soul vein for the next three years -- its style and sound place it in a direct continuity with the rest of his output right back to 1958. The singing on love songs such as "Show Me Love," "Just Want to Be With You," and "When We're Alone" is among the most achingly lyrical and passionate of his career. The title track boasts ravishing backup singing by Kitty & the Haywoods (who also perform outstandingly on "I'm Gonna Win Your Love") and a beautiful arrangement by James Mack. The album's final track, "Sparkle" (written for Sam O'Steen's movie of the same name, starring Philip Michael Thomas, Irene Cara, and Lonette McKee), gets one of three distinct treatments that the song ever received (the others from the soundtrack and Aretha Franklin's version). © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Soul - Released February 1, 1977 | Curtom Classics, LLC

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Soul - Released September 1, 1979 | Curtom Classics, LLC

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Soul - Released April 26, 1981 | Boardwalk Records

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Soul - Released April 26, 1981 | Boardwalk Records

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Soul - Released April 26, 1982 | Boardwalk Records

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Soul - Released April 26, 1982 | Boardwalk Records

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Soul - Released April 26, 1982 | Boardwalk Records

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Soul - Released July 1, 1987 | Curtom Classics, LLC

Although Curtis Mayfield's album sales had decreased significantly by the late '70s, the smooth Chicago soul veteran remained a popular live attraction well into the '80s. Audiences still longed to hear gems from both his years with the influential Impressions and his early solo hits, and he gives them exactly what they want on this album (released as both a single CD and a two-CD set). Mayfield reminds us just how great the Impressions were on heartfelt versions of such '60s classics as "Gypsy Woman" (which greatly influenced the Isley Brothers), "It's Alright" and the inspirational "People Get Ready," and is equally captivating on incisive, early-'70s sociopolitical hits like "Pusherman," "Freddie's Dead," and "If There's a Hell Below." Live in Europe's main flaw isn't Mayfield's performances, but a band that, although decent, just doesn't go that extra mile or do this superb material justice. Horns, a main ingredient of many of his hits, are sorely missed -- especially on "Move on Up" -- and Buzz Amato's keyboards simply can't take their place. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 1990 | CAPITOL CATALOG MKT (C92)

No less than 18 years passed between the release of Curtis Mayfield's original Superfly soundtrack in 1972 and the release of The Return of Superfly: Original Soundtrack in 1990. To say that the African-American musical landscape had changed considerably during those 18 years would be a major understatement. Urban contemporary, not soul, had become R&B's dominant direction, and rap had become the music of choice for young Blacks. So this CD emphasized rap, but it also acknowledged 1970s Black culture by offering five new tunes by Mayfield, one of the era's icons. The new Mayfield material, which includes "Superfly 1990" (a duet with Ice-T) and "Showdown," isn't in a class with "Pusherman" and other gems he recorded in the 1970s, but they demonstrated that the singer could still be enjoyable. Meanwhile, all of the rap selections are by West Coast MCs, and they range from the late Eazy-E's "Eazy Street" (a menacing gangsta rap ditty) and the underrated Def Jef's "On the Real Tip" to Tone Loc's cult song "Cheeba Cheeba" (which took its share of criticism for promoting marijuana use). Also noteworthy is the Uzi Bros.' "There's a Riot Jumpin' Off," a commentary on the American prison system. To be sure, this collection falls short of the excellence of the original Superfly soundtrack of 1972, but most of the material is decent, if less than essential. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Soul - Released August 30, 1996 | Warner Records

New World Order is a touching, moving comeback from Curtis Mayfield. As the first new music Mayfield recorded since he was paralyzed in 1990, the album engenders a lot of goodwill -- it's undeniably affecting to hear him sing again, especially with the knowledge that his performances had to be recorded line by line, due to his paralysis. The joy of hearing him sing makes the inconsistency of the album forgivable, especially since he is in good voice. Narada Michael Walden, Daryl Simmons, and Organized Noize all contributed productions that are sensitive but strong, which gives the album added weight. The songs are hit-and-miss, but the main strength of the record is that it illustrates that Mayfield can make music that is still vital. © Leo Stanley /TiVo
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Soul - Released March 10, 1996 | Curtom Classics, LLC

Rhino's The Very Best of Curtis Mayfield is devoted to material the legendary soul man recorded after leaving the Impressions, focusing particularly on his classic songs from the early '70s. There are more comprehensive compilations on the market, namely the sublime double-disc Anthology and the flawed but worthwhile box set People Get Ready, but this is the best bet for anyone wanting a concise sampler of Mayfield's groundbreaking funk-soul, since it contains all of the bare-bone essentials: "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go," "Move on Up," "We Got to Have Peace," "Freddie's Dead," "Superfly," "Pusherman," "Future Shock," and "Kung Fu." Yes, Mayfield also made cohesive, frequently stunning albums during this era and his work with the Impressions was just as influential, but this disc benefits from its narrow focus, since the end result is a collection ideal for the curious and the novice, while also providing a great listen for anyone who already knows the records. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul - Released November 1, 1972 | Curtom Classics, LLC

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Soul - Released November 1, 1972 | Curtom Classics, LLC

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Soul - Released August 4, 2000 | Rhino

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The first solo album by the former leader of the Impressions, Curtis represented a musical apotheosis for Curtis Mayfield -- indeed, it was practically the "Sgt. Pepper's" album of '70s soul, helping with its content and its success to open the whole genre to much bigger, richer musical canvases than artists had previously worked with. All of Mayfield's years of experience of life, music, and people were pulled together into a rich, powerful, topical musical statement that reflected not only the most up-to-date soul sounds of its period, finely produced by Mayfield himself, and the immediacy of the times and their political and social concerns, but also embraced the most elegant R&B sounds of the past. 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 (check out "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," which made number three, but the album as a whole was a single entity and really had to be heard that way. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Soul - Released August 15, 2000 | Rhino

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Soul - Released January 1, 2003 | Memo Music

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Soul - Released August 10, 2004 | Rhino