Archive for the ‘Curtis Mayfield’ Category

Donald Byrd

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Listen: Black Byrd / Donald Byrd

Apparently, purists howled with indignation when Donald Byrd released his BLACK BYRD album, a full-fledged foray into R&B that erupted into a popular phenomenon. He was branded a sellout and a traitor to his hard bop credentials, especially after it became the biggest selling album in Blue Note’s history. What the elitists missed, though, was that BLACK BYRD was the moment when his brand of fusion finally stepped out from under the shadow of his chief influence, Miles Davis, and found a distinctive voice of it’s own.

Never before had a jazz musician embraced the celebratory sound and style of contemporary funk as fully as Donald Byrd did here, not even Miles Davis, whose dark, chaotic jungle funk stood in sharp contrast to the bright, breezy, danceable music on BLACK BYRD. He gives free rein to producer/arranger/composer Larry Mizell, who crafts a series of tightly focused, melodic pieces often indebted to the lengthier orchestrations of Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield. adding a funky sense of groove that’s near irresistible.

Hence Blue Note’s decision to edit the album’s title track into an abbreviated single, given the solos are mostly melodic and in the pocket, yet allow the funk to take center stage. Despite the fact that the electric piano, sound effects, and Roger Glenn’s ubiquitous flute date the music somewhat, it’s really part of the charm.

The album and single were state of the art for 1973, when Rich Fazekas at United Artists, who distributed Blue Note, sent me a copy. BLACK BYRD set a new standard for all future jazz/R&B/funk fusions, of which there were many.

Doanld Byrd would continue to redefine his sound on equally essential albums like STREET LADY and the fantastic PLACES AND SPACES, but BLACK BYRD stands as his groundbreaking signature statement.

Thank you Rich Fazekas, Aquarianrealm, Steve Huey and Donald Byrd.

The Vibrations

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Listen: End Up Crying / The Vibrations VibrationsEndUp.mp3

Been meaning to create a section somewhere on the blog’s layout for great double siders. Once I do, this will reside in a new home. Until then….

I admit it, my knees go weak for the sight of a 60′s Okeh pressing in it’s original company sleeve. Usually I prefer a dj copy of any record, but with a few labels, Okeh being one, I love both.

These records always struggled for pop airplay in those days, well it’s still that way I guess. Just baffles me how something as good as ‘End Up Crying’ didn’t catch fire. Probably down to hindsight being 20/20. At the time, this was most likely considered just another Motown-lite, having peaked at 130 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart in May ’65. If not for that, there’d be no Northern Soul, so give thanks at the end of the day.

Listen: Ain’t Love That Way / The Vibrations VibrationsAintThatLove.mp3

To think though, Carl Davis and Curtis Mayfield were all over Okeh releases, this being just one. Talk about an insurance policy. Despite all eyes and Northern Soul book values focusing on the A side, ‘Ain’t Love That Way’ feels equally deserving of such status. It might be the one I ultimately favor. I think.

Check my previous post on The Vibrations, and how I was lucky enough to see them live as a little kid, vivid memory cells still intact of their on stage somersaults, backdrops and flips.

Until you find your own version of this 7″, I can’t recommend strongly enough getting THE VIBRATING VIBRATIONS:THE OKEH AND EPIC SINGLES 1963-1968, released last year by UK’s Ace/Kent label – if only for the booklet.

The Impressions

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

impressionswinnerus, The Impressions, Curtis Mayfield, Jerry Butler, ABC Records, Stateside

impressionswinneruka, Curtis Mayfield, The Impressions, Stateside, ABC Records

Listen: We’re A Winner / The Impressions ImpressionsWinner.mp3

Never ever occurred to me that on this single from ’68, Curtis Mayfield not only recycled the lyric ”movin’ on up” but also “keep on pushing”. He did it often. Let’s call it his style, because there are too many great qualities about the guy to imply it’s a negative. Hadn’t heard this for ages until I spent an afternoon a few weeks back spinning records at Mike Goldsmith’s. He’s getting a pretty decent 7″ collection together and wanted the above UK A label off me, I was too greedy and diseased with whatever that new condition is (ADD, ADHD or something, probably plain old addiction) to trade it away. Maybe someday. He has a few nice US Reprise Jethro Tull stocks that I need. Badly.

The Impressions

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Mighty Mighty Spade & Whitey / The Impressions

Listen: Mighty Mighty Spade & Whitey / The Impressions ImpressionsMighty.mp3

Was it by coincidence the album from which this, and it’s flip side ‘Choice Of Color’, came sported a title THE YOUNG MODS’ FORGOTTEN STORY? What fan of the under appreciated US Blues/RnB/Soul sound, so loved in the UK, would not embrace it whole heartedly? After all, the mods championed Tamla/Motown, James Brown, all things blues, ska and multi racial in the years prior to this 1969 release. Capturing the heroin chic of Harlem, glorified by endless blaxploitation films, ‘Mighty Mighty Spade & Whitey’ was the real theme of racial tensions in every inner city public school. If you lived it, you’d know. Relegated to a B side, it’s a bit of an undiscovered gem.

Impossible now not to respect, even worship, the mere sound of Curtis Mayfield’s fragile falsetto voice, his style was in extreme contrast to the sound of rollicking soul, then dominating the charts. It’s gratifying that he, along with Donny Hathaway, tended to define the mainstream almost overnight.