Record of the Day: Various Artists, "A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield"

Record of the Day: Various Artists, “A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield”

Various Artists
A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield (Cd Warner Bros. 936245500-2)

Among the giants of soul music, Curtis Mayfield is among those who have enjoyed the least success on a popular level even if every fan of the genre knows his songs, from “People Get Ready” to “Gypsy Woman” and the soundtrack of “Superfly” .
The intense work carried out by Mayfield behind the scenes as a producer has partly obscured the albums he made as an interpreter of his own music after his historic adventure with the Impressions; there’s something to be sorry about because the explicitly political character of the lyrics of many of his songs had a notable effect on the fiery and violent culture of the 70s, linked to the Black Panthers movement, the writings of Amiri Baraka and Melvin’s blaxploitation films Van Peebles; Mayfield’s typical falsetto voice also influenced important black music musicians such as Prince and Michael Jackson.

His compositional excellence is well represented by this album made in 1993, when Mayfield was suffering the pain of hell being paralyzed from the neck down due to a frightening accident that occurred during a concert in Brooklyn, where an entire wall of headlights enlightenment collapsed on him (Mayfield lasted six years in these conditions, still composing and singing).

So here is an army of names belonging to different generations paying homage to Mayfield’s writing mastery; self
Gladys Knight proves her class again in “Choice of Colors”, Elton John joins the Sounds of Blackness chorus for “Amen”, Aretha Franklin is divine in “The Makings of You” and Stevie Wonder paints in funky colors” I’m the One Who Loves You”. The list is very long, with big names such as Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, The Isley Brothers, Phil Collins, Stevie Winwood, Whitney Houston, BB King, Branford Marsalis and others.

The arrangements are inclined towards the high-end pop typical of 90s soul and this leads to a certain uniformity of approach which certainly represents a weak point in the collection, but the skill of all the performers allows you to enjoy excellent renditions of some masterpieces of soul music and pay the right homage to an artist whose work continues to leave traces even in the most recent generations of African-American musicians and performers.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.