The Harbinger Online

Deegan’s Encyclopedia of Music: C

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Hello everybody, Deegan is here, and I’m back with another entry of my encyclopedia. Before I start, I just want to mention that Kanye’s newest album is dope. I got Tidal specifically to listen to it, and I don’t regret it. Every song is great, and it’s a tangled masterpiece, check it out if you can. But that’s not what I’m writing about today. Today I’m writing about the letter C.

For the first time in this blog, I’m going to write about a solo artist as opposed to a band. That solo artist is the one and only Curtis Mayfield. He was basically the Renaissance Man of soul music in the ‘60s and ‘70s – an amazing singer, great songwriter, special guitarist and unique record producer, he could do it all. He sang almost exclusively in falsetto, with a paradoxically fragile but strong voice. He wrote pop hits, film soundtracks and generational anthems. His guitar style was understated yet incredibly soulful, and his playing influenced Jimi Hendrix. He produced much of his own work, creating and refining a new sound in soul music. He was an influential and amazing artist.

Curtis Mayfield began his career in a group called The Impressions, who had many hits in the ‘60s. He was the lead singer and chief songwriter. Their songs were mainly poppy soul songs, but some of them had Gospel influences. These influences came through most in some of their most popular songs, which became civil right anthems. One of these is “People Get Ready,” which is a slow Gospel songs with lyrics that address racism and the rising Civil Rights movement. It’s a stunning song, with a beautiful flowing and sparkling guitar part and a melody like a prayer. Their other pop songs were very good and well-written as well, but his solo career is where Curtis began to shine.

When he went solo in 1970, Curtis Mayfield started off by releasing a string of phenomenal albums. The first of these was Curtis, which began his move from pop soul music to a harder, funkier sound. It features two great funk singles and some softer, beautiful soul tracks. The first single was “(Don’t Worry) If There Is A Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go,” which was the first sign of his new sound. It starts with a rallying cry and a scream, then it transitions into his new, signature sound. It’s a sound that combines hard rhythms from the drums and guitar with horn and string sections, forming a grand sound that, with Curtis’ singing, is funky but sweet too. The other single was “Move On Up,” which is a personal favorite. It has a more cookin’ rhythm than the other song, and it has a horn line that is one of the catchiest things he did. It was also sampled by producer Just Blaze in Kanye West’s hit “Touch the Sky.” The rest of the album is filled out by more grand soul music, however no other track has quite the funky rhythms of those two other songs. His second album, Roots, is much the same way. However, no song quite combines the funk with the ornate like “Hell Below” and “Move on Up” did, and it has more of the softer soul sound. His full length-combination of these two sounds came on his next album.

Superfly, Curtis Mayfield’s third album, was where everything came together. It was written as a soundtrack for the movie of the same name, so it was able to comfortably combine the more cinematic aspects of his sound with the harder sound he was honing. And here it’s not just on a few tracks, it’s a sound that spans the whole album. It combines this with some of his best and most socially conscious lyrics, talking about drug addiction and how it can destroy one’s life and other hard subjects. The grooves and the melodies come together perfectly, and overall it’s his masterpiece. There’s no track that stands out more above any of the other amazing songs, but Mayfield had hit singles in “Freddie’s Dead” and “Superfly.”

After this album, Mayfield started releasing music more sporadically, and he passed away in 1999. But what he recorded in the ‘60s and ‘70s with The Impressions and on his own is so monumental and amazing that it doesn’t matter. If you want something with the grooves of James Brown and the sweet pop sensibilities of The Temptations, please do yourself a favor and listen to Curtis Mayfield.

Along with the works of Curtis, there are many other great albums that start with the letter C:

Here are some songs that start with C as well:

 

And that’s it for C. Thank you for reading, and if you want to check any of this stuff out, again, I have a playlist on Spotify here. See you guys later with the letter D.

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