I love a good reissue. On a whim last week I came across one of those limited edition colored vinyl reissues that have been popping up lately (Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, etc.). But this one wasn’t an underground rock cult classic for the USB turntable generation. This was the first solo album by music legend Curtis Mayfield. According to the Wiki: “Curtis sold well at the time charting at number one on the Billboard Black albums and number nineteen on the Billboard Pop albums charts released in September 1970.”
Somehow, I didn’t own this album and the price was fair ($12 new, sealed). Plus there was an appealing sticker on the back of the shrink wrap indicating that the album was manufactured by Rhino. Knowing that the good folks at Rhino generally do excellent work on their releases I sprang for it.
I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I’m really pleased. From the opening fuzz bass on “Don’t Worry (If There is a Hell Below We’re All Gonna Go)” I knew this was going to be a keeper. What a great album! Of course it features Curtis’ classic hit “Move On Up” in its full length glory, which extends into a jam that would not feel out of place on Paul Simon’s Graceland tour. It is a killer groove that makes you want to get up and dance around the room. The rest of the album rocks, swings, and sways like nobody’s business.
I can hear where John Lennon probably got some ideas for his string arrangement ideas on later albums like Imagine and Mind Games. Topically, its an important record that sits easily alongside efforts by Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye in terms of social documentation and inspiration. It also sets the stage for his awesome Superfly soundtrack a couple years later.
The sound on this disc is remarkably lively, with nice separation and good tone on the multitude of percussion instruments, saxes, horns, and strings. Curtis’ simple clean electric guitar rhythm cuts through the mix nicely too. The drums have a fantastic live room sound. This sounds very much like a big band playing together. And yet Curtis’ peace-inducing falsetto is alway right in your face where it should be.
The bonus for me — and the impetus for buying it — is that it’s on colored vinyl: beautiful clear and pretty thick red vinyl. It’s like a having a giant red lifesaver candy you can play on your turntable. The original Curtom label is reproduced wonderfully, so this disc just looks as great as it sounds. The disc feels quite solid. The pressing is quiet and perfectly centered. This is a very happy addition to my collection. And for just $12 it’s a no-brainer. Seems all the other Curtis Mayfield albums have been reissued like this. I will have to check more of them out soon!
You should too. What are you waiting for? Go out and get this.