Tag Archives: curtis mayfield

Reggie Torian of The Impressions gives his impressions of Curtom, Curtis Mayfield, and more.

The-Impressions-Finally-Got-Myself-Together-LP-Back

In this installment of Reclaimed Soul (sort of the radio version of this blog), check out host Ayana Contreras’ interview with Reggie Torian of The Impressions (that’s him sitting on the bumper of that antique Rolls Royce). He’s been a part of Chicago’s own Impressions (“Keep on Pushin”, “Gypsy Woman”, etc.) for 40 years. And he’s got a lot to say. He talks about the group, Curtom Records, and more. We also hear some of the music he helped to create.

The Impressions counted Curtis Mayfield as both member and principle songwriter during the 1960s and early 1970s before he went solo. Curtom Records was Curtis Mayfield’s Chicago-based record label that was home to the Impressions for nearly a decade. It was also the one-time label of The Five Stairsteps, The Natural Four, Leroy Hutson, The Jones Girls, Linda Clifford, Rasputin’s Stash, Baby Huey and the Babysitters, The Staple Singers, and more.

Catch Reclaimed Soul Thursdays at 8pm (CST) on vocalo.org or over the air on 89.5fm (NWI) and 90.7fm (CHI)

 

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Kitty & the Haywoods: a slice of Chicago Sister Funk.

kitty and the haywoodsThe Emotions were not the only sister group to come out of Chicago. It was all in the family for Kitty and the Haywoods, as well (although they actually consisted of three sisters and a niece). Before Kitty and the Haywoods’ self-titled debut album, Kitty had a long recording history as a background vocalist for such acts as Curtis Mayfield and Terry Callier. She was also a member of The New Rotary Connection (along with Shirley Wahls) after Minnie Riperton departed from Rotary Connection.

1974, Kitty and the Haywoodweiss recorded a single as Kitty Haywood & the Haywood Singers called “Big Black Cloud”. It was produced and arranged by Charles Stepney (who was the creative force behind Rotary Connection). Kitty had also previously released a solo record on the Weis label.

In 1976, the sisters sang back up for Aretha Franklin on the “Sparkle” soundtrack, which was written and produced by Curtis Mayfield. Before that, they recorded quite a few jingles in town.

The album Kitty and the Haywoods (1977) was produced by Mercury Records label mates The Ohio Players, and it sounds like a gumbo of the Ohio Players and Labelle at their silver-lame-wearing best.

What I appreciate most about Kitty and the Haywoods is that they were quite literally part of the backbone of the Chicago Recording scene. Too many background vocalists faded away into the shadows, remaining anonymous. But these ladies were able to shine.  Jive on!


I’m a sucker for colored wax; but this is more than just a pretty face.

 

clear curtis mayfield 45

I just found this lovely promo record. As you can see, it’s Curtis Mayfield’s “We Got to Have Peace”. It’s from the album Roots that he released back in 1971. The album was released months before Superfly, and it is just as wonderful.

Released on Curtom Records (Curtis’ own label), this promo is pretty rare. Colored vinyl (especially on 45) from this period is quite rare, in fact. Rarer still is a vanity label (unique to the release). Generally speaking, colored vinyl promos were created to make people (DJs particularly) stop and take notice.

And notice I did, 40 some years later.

In the year following the epic 1970 album Curtis, Mayfield was mounting a campaign to fully express himself as a solo artist in ways he couldn’t as a member of the arguably more conservative Impressions.

In his initial solo outings, the songs were markedly longer, basslines were funkier, African percussion became prominent, and horns a bit jauntier. But Mayfield’s commitment to exploring the full spectrum of black experience (something very evident in Impressions records) never wavered. Curtis was particularly keen at expressing voices of Urban Black Men: those who struggled, scratched, loved, dreamed, and believed. His expressions are still relevant today, wrought with eloquent and earthy simplicity. As far as I’m concerned, “Move on Up” is a Black National Anthem.

Witness an artifact.

Jive on.


Waxing Poetic at Dorchester Projects.

Above, a bit of video from my Artistic Residency last year with Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects, in which I wax poetic about Chicago’s own Mercury Records, Jerry Butler, and the Impressions.

I love sharing the stories behind the music I love with the general public; and was reminded of that as I embark on Hosting and Producing “Reclaimed Soul” (a weekly radio show on Vocalo.org) which premieres tomorrow night at 8pm CST. The show, of course, will feature stories as well as music. For more about Reclaimed Soul, click here.


Betty Everett: there’ll come a time

It was last summer. I was privileged enough to hear the iconic (and prolific) arranger Tom Tom Washington play a few chords of  the tune “There’ll Come a Time” on a piano stationed at a Recording Studio on 80th and Stony Island, where in the vacant lot next door they grew cabbage.

It was electric, especially because Betty Everett’s “There’ll Come a Time” (released in 1969 on Uni Records) was one of the first Chicago Soul albums I ever owned. It was also exciting because Tom Tom Washington arranged some of my favorite cuts on the album (we both agreed on our favorite: “1900 Yesterday” (below), sort of an off-kilter swinging 60s dance cut).

On the album, Betty’s sassy-yet-classy salty mezzo-soprano voice was perfectly augmented by swirling strings, staccato horns, shuffling doo-wop background vocals, and rollicking piano. Featuring compositions by Eugene Record (of the Chi-Lites), Curtis Mayfield, and Eddie Sullivan (of the Classic Sullivans), the album serves as a snapshot of Chicago Soul at the time.

Above, listen to Betty Everett’s classic “There’ll Come  Time”. You can hear the cut “1900 Yesterday”, by clicking the “continue reading” icon below… Jive on!

Continue reading


Groove Conspiracy… coming this Thursday.

Join DJ Ayana and Simeon Viltz (of the Primeridian) as we stretch out musically at Morseland.  I’ll be spinning with a Chicago accent, as always, and will be featuring local treasures including a cut or two by Leroy Hutson.  A college friend of both Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack (all attended Howard University), Hutson was on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records in the 1970s (listen below to 1976’s “Lover’s Holiday”, and for more on Leroy, click here).

Groove Conspiracy. All vinyl, no cover. Jive on!


Curtis Mayfield wanted to get a little bit.

 

This 1976 record by Chicago’s own Curtis Mayfield used to be a favorite spin in my College Radio days.   It’s been back on my radar in recent days. “Give a little bit, Get a little bit, Take a little bit” picks up on the theme of the classic “Give Me Your Love” with an offer for a more even exchange. Very lean groove, yet it somehow still has a whole bunch going on (check the masterful guitar work). Jive on!


Eight Minutes: straight outta chicago’s soul cradle

The Eight Minutes were yet another family based kiddie soul group out of Chicago.  Oh yes, there were a bunch. For those just joining us, let’s recap:

There’s The Five Stairsteps: The Burke Family is of course best known for “Oooh Ooh Child”, but recorded a number of classy Chicago cuts on Curtis Mayfield‘s stable of labels in the sixties (some of which were penned by Mayfield himself)

Of Course, Gary, Indiana gave rise to The Jackson Five a few years later… The first cut was “Big Boy”, cut on Steeltown records well before Motown took notice

By the late sixties/early seventies came a slew of others, including Brighter Side of Darkness (known for “Love Jones”) and The Eight Minutes.  Phew…..

Anyway, the Eight Minutes mainly consisted of the children of two families: the Sudduths and the Goggins, plus Juwanna Glover and Carl Monroe.  They started out in the late sixties  on the Zago/Porter family of labels here in Chicago, releasing a bunch of rare, funky, danceable cuts, including: “Here’s Some Dances” and “Ain’t got Time”.  They put out a couple more singles, both related to Perception Records out of New York, who also released a very rare LP by the group, titled “American Family”.  Even though the group had a very high level of quality in their records, they never really impacted the charts, disbanding soon after the release of their only album.

Eight Minutes Discography:

Jay Pee 100 – Take My Love And Set Me Free (Part 1) / Take My Love And Set Me
Free (Part 2) – 1968
Jay Pee 125 – Oh Yes I Do / Time For A Change –
1968
Jay Pee 130 – Will You Still Be Mine / Here’s Some Dances – 1968
Jay
Pee 200 – Take My Love, Don’t Set Me Free / Let’s Sign A Peace Treaty –
1969
Perception 511 – Next Time He’ll Be Good / I Can’t Wait –
1972
Perception 533 – Looking For A Brand New Game / Find One Who Loves You –
1973


Nolan Chance and the Beach: i’ll never forget you.

(photos: Labor Day 1936 at 31st Street Beach, Chicago) found at bvikkivintage

I love “I’ll Never Forget You” by Nolan Chance.  Released here in Chicago in 1969, its creation was a collaboration between Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, and Leroy Hutson (arguably the patron saints of Chicago Soul for the decade that was to come).  The song has aural dream sequences: One moment, Nolan is reminiscing the sand-in-shoes good times spent with his lost love.  The music is floaty, featuring dreamy keys and a güiro, the same scraping percussion instrument in the Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk”.

The next moment, Nolan is snapped back into reality and the music features rhythmic, ebbing horns that recede like the tide.  It makes me want to go to the beach.  Enjoy the pictures and the music….

NOTE: Nolan Chance (born Charles David) was raised in LaGrange, IL, and was at one time a member of the Artistics.  Another record of his that I picked up based on my love for “I’ll Never Forget You” is “I’d Like to Make it With You”, the B-side of “Sara Lee” (released in 1972, and NOT the same song as the similarly titled “Make it With You” by Bread).  Great sassy Chicago brass and pulsating rhythm.  Jive on.


Gone Away: a one-two-three chicago-bred punch of soul

Performing below (in Ghana, circa 1971) is Roberta Flack.  She is singing “Gone Away”… a cool, loping soul record from her album “Chapter Two”.  This record was written by the one-two-three Chicago-bred punch of Leroy Hutson, Curtis Mayfield, and Donny Hathaway (before his own breakout single “The Ghetto”).  “Gone Away” was also recorded by The Impressions and Lovelace Watkins (in a Chicago recording session) around the same time, 1970.  Look for the crescendo around 3:00 (sampled for T.I.’s hit “Whatchu Know About It”).  Jive on!