Friday, October 5, 2007

No. 179: The Anthology 1961-1977

Band: Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions
Album: The Anthology 1961-1977
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: "The Anthology 1961-1977" is a fantastic compilation of one of the original soul groups on the first disc, with a primer in Mayfield's work on the second disc. The Impressions were a great group and you can get the silky smooth harmonies on this one. This is where a greatest hits compilation works really well.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: This is the type of thing that should probably be higher, as well. The group made a big impression (hardy har har) on black music in the 1960s.
Best song: It's an anthology, so most of the songs are amazing. Of course, "People Get Ready" is the no. 1 stunner, though.
Worst song: I'm not in love with "Amen," due to my worship of the sun.
Is it awesome?: Yes.

The Impressions were a soul group in the 60s fronted by one of my favorite artists, Curtis Mayfield. Hugely influenced by gospel music --two of the members were in a gospel group before they started the Impressions -- the group took almost as much from doo-wop as it did from the religious music of the time.

The early hits, of course, sound a little old, but are also pretty timeless. "Gypsy Woman," "We're a Winner," "Never Let Me Go," "Talking About My Baby" and "Little Young Lover" all could be considered "dated" but are actually "classic."

The Impressions were one of the first groups to really spark social consciousness with some of their civil rights anthems. The first and most famous, of course, is the wonderful 1965 hit "People Get Ready." Later, the band put out "Choice of Colors" and "Check Out Your Mind," all with similar themes and all charted at number three or higher on the R&B charts.

Like Sam Cooke or Otis Redding, I enjoy the first disc of this compilation largely because it reminds me of the "Dusties," the oldies R&B records that were so popular on Chicago radio. I love that sort of stuff.


The second disc is basically a Mayfield solo greatest hits, which is exactly as awesome as it sounds. The tracks include the fantastic "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go" from "Curtis" to the "Superfly" highlights "Pusherman," "Superfly" and "Freddie's Dead."

Overall, it's an awesome anthology of great soul music from one of Chicago's finest artists.

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