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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 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 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, 1980 | Curtom Classics, LLC

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

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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 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 November 1, 1972 | Curtom Classics, LLC