Another one from FUNK MY SOUL. I’m done biting their stylie for the night. But oh man, they have it all! This rip beats any of the CD versions I’ve heard! -Ian!
I often wonder what ever happened to the brothers who’d remained on active duty after serving in Nam and with whom I served in the mid and late seventies. Wherever I was stationed during that time period one of them was sure to be playing this album every evening. I worked with a number of them, women too – one troubled man gave me his bootleg album shortly before he died from alcohol poisoning.
We played “Back to the World” at the EM Club at the remote post in South Korea I was stationed in the mid 70’s; at the height of cold war juxpositioning and feeling like sitting ducks it seemed the thing to do especially for the many men and women among us who’d recently returned from ‘nam. Here was a popular successful singer and musician who cared about us, understood how we felt, how our returning brothers and sisters were being treated.
It’s been almost thirty years since I first heard this album, that first copy was lost long ago in a move. It thrills me to find it again as I remember dusty evenings with friends in a quonset hut barracks room singing “back to the world” with tears in our eyes as stories were told and too many drinks were drunk.
He spoke for those who served.
Curtis Mayfield-BACK TO THE WORLD (1973)
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, allmusic.com
Curtis Mayfield-NEVER SAY YOU CAN’T SURVIVE (1977)
I grouped these two together because Curtis Mayfield wrote and produced these soundtracks in the space of a year! And who doesn’t love Pops Staples and Gladys Knight? I haven’t seen CLAUDINE but LET’S DO IT AGAIN is a great movie. -Ian!
The Claudine movie soundtrack sported the jammin’ million-selling single “On and On” by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Written and produced by Curtis Mayfield and featured in the classic 1974 family drama starring Diahann Carroll, James Earl Jones, and Lawrence Hilton Jacobs (Welcome Back Kotter, Alien Nation, Cooley High), it parked at number two R&B for four weeks, going to number five Pop on Billboard’s charts in 1974. Claudine is the least celebrated of songwriter/producer Mayfield’s soundtrack albums (Superfly, Sparkle), though it’s the most poignant of them. “Mr. Welfare Man” lays out the dehumanizing effect of being on welfare, while still being enticing and majestic in its dynamic arrangement. As much airplay as the track garnered, oddly it was never released as a single. “To Be Invisible” spoke to a child character’s need to escape her depressing surroundings. Originally recorded by Mayfield on his Curtis LP, “The Makings of You” is a heart-tugging, strings-cushioned ballad that Knight sings wonderfully. Other LP tracks that received airplay are the upbeat, beautiful title track and the sweet “Make Yours a Happy Home,” which curiously wasn’t issued as a single until 1976. Claudine went gold, hitting number one on the R&B charts in summer 1974.
This is a must-have cd for fans of Curtis or the Staples Singers. It is a slight detour from most SS albums, in that this one is all about love, lust, and funky good timing. Curtis really teases out beautiful performances here, highlights include the smooth title track and the sexy workout “Funky Love.” I really love “New Orleans,” and was hoping it would get remade or re-noticed in the wake of Katrina. The song where it all works, though, is “I Want to Thank You,” where Curtis’s groove, funk, backbeat, and production meet the overtly spiritual nature of the lyrics (more traditional SS territory). A great album.
Ed Hogan, allmusic.com and some guy on amazon.com
Gladys Knight & The Pips – CLAUDINE (1974 OST)
The Staple Sisters – LET’S DO IT AGAIN (1975 OST)
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)