Curtis is the debut album by American soul musician Curtis Mayfield, released in September 1970. Produced by Mayfield, it was released on his own label Curtom Records. The musical styles of Curtis moved further away from the pop-soul sounds of Mayfield's previous group The Impressions and featured more of a funk and psychedelia inspired sound. The album's subject matter incorporates political and social concerns of the time.
Curtis sold well at the time charting at number one on the Billboard Black albums (for five nonconsecutive weeks) and number nineteen on the Billboard Pop albums charts. Only the single "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go" charted in the United States, however an edited version of "Move On Up" would spend 10 weeks in the top 50 of the UK Singles Chart. Curtis receives very high praise from modern day critics with Bruce Eder of Allmusic commenting that the record is "...practically the Sgt. Pepper's album of '70s soul..."
en: Curtis (Curtis Mayfield album) [info]
Since the early '60s, Curtis Mayfield had been proving to the world what a great commercial writer he was. Not only churning out hits for his own band, The Impressions, he'd also scored serious chart action with acts like Major Lance, Jan Bradley and even Brian Hyland. But while his pop soul credentials were immaculate, he'd also been carving out a name as black music's premier exponent of songs that mirrored the civil rights movement in the USA. By 1970 this strand in his music had morphed into Black power consciousness, and his first full foray into tougher territory came with his first solo album, Curtis.
While he was still ostensibly with the Impressions when he recorded Curtis, the music he laid down was a different beast entirely. Rather than the smooth pop of his former band, he chose a grittier funk nand psychedelic edge with which to deliver this missive of consciousness-raising. Recorded at a time when, as Curtis himself said: ''...people stopped wearing tuxedos...people were getting down a little more'', the album, encouraged by his manager, allowed Mayfield to spread his wings and experiment a little more.
While the juxtaposition of strings, harps and throbbing backbeats may well have sprung more from his lack of musical education, the results were startling. Mixing contemporary issues about racial pride and civic responsibility (Miss Black America, Move On Up) the albium was a heady brew of realism and danceable grooves. Only boasting one hit ((Don't Worry) If There's Hell Below We're All Going To Go), Curtis still sold well and opened up Mayfield's career to the extent that he shook off the chains of commercialism once and for all (he left the Impressions for good the following year), becoming a spokesman of his generation.