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Soul - Released August 4, 2000 | Rhino

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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
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Soul - Released February 22, 2019 | Rhino

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Soul - Released August 30, 1996 | Warner Bros.

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
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Soul - Released February 15, 2005 | Rhino

Curtis Mayfield hit a stride during the '70s that was unparalleled among R&B/soul performers from an album standpoint. He was writing, producing, arranging, and performing on great album after great album, then distributing them on his own label as well. This one included the big hit "Kung Fu," plus the title song, and once more perfectly blended rigorous message tracks and steamy love songs. Sadly, it hasn't been reissued on CD and isn't on the list to be at this time. ~ Ron Wynn
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Soul - Released February 15, 2005 | Rhino

Released just two years after the intimate club set Curtis/Live!, Curtis in Chicago consists of a different kind of show, a dream concert celebrating Curtis Mayfield's musical history and Curtom Records for which one is grateful the audio-tape machines were running properly (there was a public-television broadcast of the show, under the same name, that would be a choice video release today). Mayfield; the current Impressions; the original Impressions (including Jerry Butler), the successful mid-'60s version of the group; Gene Chandler (reworking "Duke of Earl"); and Leroy Hutson get to do their best songs, this time in a kind of big-band soul setting backed by the Curtom Rhythm Section augmented by the presence of Phil Upchurch. [A British import release from Sequel includes Curtis/Live! and Curtis in Chicago.] ~ Bruce Eder
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Soul - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

A CD reissue of an old Mayfield platter that didn't garner as much interest as some of his other solo releases, and for good reason: Mayfield was experimenting with his sound. After the first three songs nothing else really works until the last cut: "Come Free Your People," one of Mayfield's best albeit little-known message songs. The most engaging of the eight tunes are the reggae-influenced "She Don't Love Nobody Else," "Toot an' Toot an' Toot," and the lilting "Baby Doll." ~ Andrew Hamilton
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Soul - Released August 4, 2000 | Rhino

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Soul - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

Something to Believe In was the result of previous album Heartbeat's success, a great-selling comeback for Curtis Mayfield in his own style, fully in his control. The album's sales success was limited, but its musical triumphs were myriad -- the beautiful "Something to Believe In," an extended track that is one of the most personal and ambitious records in Mayfield's whole output; the exquisite solo remakes of the Impressions hits "It's Alright" and "Never Let Me Go"; and the gorgeous ballad "Never Stop Loving Me," a sensual soul outing that provides a superb finish to the album. Strangely enough, the commercial single side "Love Me, Love Me Now" is one of the less impressive sides, on a production or composition level, among the seven tracks here. [A 1999 reissue by the British Sequel label combined Something to Believe In with 1979's Heartbeat.] ~ Bruce Eder
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Soul - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

In the 1980s and '90s, some soul veterans turned to high-tech urban contemporary sounds in an effort to appeal to black radio. Curtis Mayfield, however, continued to deliver rewarding albums by remaining true to himself and sticking with the type of classic soul approach that put him on the map. Take It to the Streets falls short of the unmitigated excellence of Superfly or Sweet Exorcist, but is a respectable effort demonstrating that he could still pack a punch as a vocalist, composer, and producer. There's much to savor and admire here, including "Homeless" (which makes it clear that Mayfield hadn't lost his touch when it came to biting sociopolitical commentary), "He's a Fly Guy," the charismatic "Who Was That Lady," and an engaging remake of "On and On" (a gem he wrote for Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1973). With the re-emergence of hard-hitting blaxploitation films in the late '80s, the gritty imagery of "I'm Gonna Get You Sucka" and the haunting "He's a Fly Guy" proved quite timely. While this material could have used some horns, Mayfield generally employs technology in a soulful way -- employing "real instruments" along with keyboards and drum machines, and never letting his production sound stiff, unnatural, or forced. ~ Alex Henderson
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Soul - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

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Soul - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino

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
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Soul - Released July 12, 2016 | Rhino