They say that Curtis Mayfield fell off after he released his 4th studio album “back to the world” in 1973. *They*, as Uma Thurman quipped in Pulp Fiction, talk a lot, don’t they? They certainly do and in this case it seems that the “they” in question talk through their backsides as this here album is a genuine lost gem for both Mayfield and Blaxploitation soundtrack devotees.
“Short eyes”, his 1977 soundtrack to the flick of the same name, was released at a time when fellow heavyweights such as James Brown and Isaac Hayes had fallen victim to over-polished disco kitschness and, thus, surely must stand as one of the last great 70s soul/funk albums as it’s drenched in everything that makes those first 4 Mayfield albums so damn good : that sweet falsetto almost as a ringmaster to the rest of the proceedings; commanding the dirty funked up wah-wah guitar, lush arrangements, heartstopping strings, wailing double-tracked backing vocals and trippy backwards fx to do backflips and weave their way in and out of macked-out horns and throbbing bass grooves (no homo!) while crisp snares and reverberating bongos underline the whole experience.
The bizarrely monikered “Do do wap is strong in here” is probably the most well known song here as it tends to appear on yer standard Mayfield best ofs.., funk compilations and has been heavily sampled by hip hop producers and, while it is possibly the finest composition here, the rest of the album is equally as stellar. The title track is as instantly thrilling and unforgettable a theme as any other notable Blaxpolitation title track you can name and the rest of the album is a miscegenation of fuzzed-up Chicago blues-funk and rich soulful arrangements, usually in the same song. Business as usual, then.
A must for all Mayfield fans and i’d say it’s slightly better overall than “back to the world” and up there with “curtis”, “superfly” and “roots”. Of course there has to be a catch involved with something this good that’s somehow managed to thwart reappraisal by funk-fans, the breakbeat generation and the NYC/Chicago hipsterati set until now : not domestically available here in America you can only find this on import vinyl or as part of a now deleted double-disc 90s reissue of “superfly”, both of which will set you back at least $40. It’s an album that’s quality justifies such a hefty price tag if you’ve searched hell and highwater and still can’t find it cheaper but, really, let’s have a remastered cd reissue of this, please.
Curtis Mayfield-SHORT EYES (1977 OST)