Curtis Mayfield: We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue
From Curtis (Curtom, 1970)
Curtis Mayfield: Right On For the Darkness
From No Place Like America (Curtom, 1975)
Curtis Mayfield: Hard Times
From Back to the World (Curtom, 1973)
As my man Noz pointed out, I’ve never (personally) done a Curtis Mayfield post here at Soul-Sides, though both Noz and Mark Anthony Neal both guest-posted Mayfield songs in the past. It’s certainly nothing personal, I guess I tend to focus on more obscure artists to the point where I neglect the obvious ones (note: I have yet to do an Al Green post despite the fact that he is, hands-down, my favorite soul artist of all time. I will rectify this eventually). Since it pains me to think that the world might believe that I don’t care for Mr. Mayfield (when in fact, I’m quite in awe of the man and his musical legacy), here’s the corrective:
“We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue,” which appears on Mayfield’s self-titled solo album – his first after leaving the Impressions – isn’t simply an amazing song (listen to that opening horn chorus. Good gawd) but it has one of the best titles ever. Also, the way that the song shifts from ballad to uptempo percussion jam midway through is a mind-blower.
“Right On For the Darkness,” is an even more impressive composition and arrangement – one of the best songs he ever put together in his post-Impressions days, in my opinion. If you can’t feel this, you simply can’t feel.
Last, but not least, “Hard Times” was recorded a few years earlier by Baby Huey and the Babysitters, one of Mayfield’s backing groups, and in contrast to the hard-edged funk of Huey’s version, once it came time for Mayfield to lay down his take, he chills it out to this smoky, slick ballad. Sink into it.