Tag Archives: curtis mayfield

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!


Dancing Girl – Terry Callier. Windy City Mellow.

I remember where I was when I first heard this: the local round-the-way record store.  The carpet was checkered with the maytag logo in bittersweet on brown (harkening back to the store’s past life).  There we stood in a communal experience that began with the shop owner saying, “You’ve got to hear this record”. We stood waiting.  Waiting melted away to awe.  Nine minutes later we knew life was a bit different…just wait for the progression of the track.  It blossoms and eventually bursts.

“Dancing Girl” is from the album, “What Color is Love” (Cadet, 1973).  A great record for a chilled autumn day.

Terry Callier was a childhood friend of Curtis Mayfield and co-wrote numerous Chicago Records for artists as diverse as the Soulful Strings, The Dells, and Garland Green.  He spent much of the eighties and nineties as a single father, raising his daughter, Sundiata, and working at the University of Chicago.

He returned to recording in the late nineties to critical acclaim, and released “Hidden Conversations” (his fifth album in 10 years) this year.  It features Massive Attack.

Jive on…. Jive on.


Billy Butler: Brotherly Soul

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From Jerry Butler’s little brother, Billy, it’s “I’ll Bet You”.  Jerry Butler, of course, was a member of the Impressions (as well as one of the most successful solo acts in Chicago Soul history).  Billy never quite made it out from the shadow of his superstar brother, but he made a few valiant efforts: among them, “Right Track”, and this George Clinton and Sidney Barnes-penned mover, later recorded by Funkadelic. 

Billy started his career at Chicago’s Okeh Records with a group called the Enchanters (later the Chanters).  He was a talented songwriter and guitarist who credited both his brother, Jerry, and Curtis Mayfield for sparking his interest in music.  The artists used to rehearse in the Butler living room.

Later in his career, he recorded with a group called Infinity, but ultimately ended his career solo on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records with the rare 70s groover “Sugar Candy Lady”. 


Ain’t No Love Lost…a lost Curtis Mayfield gem

curtismayfield-superfly2The year was 1972.  The Year of his “Superfly” soundtrack (arguably, one of the best albums ever to come out of Chicago), and Curtis Mayfield could do no wrong…including this record, produced by Mayfield (and arranged by Rich Tufo).  A sixteen year old Nashvillian named Patti Jo says to some Cassanova, “ain’t no love lost“.  A monster record, then and now.  Manic congas, soaring strings, symphonic piano chords, and a pulsing guitar echo the very best that the Superfly soundtrack had to offer (but “Lost” was never released on any album).  Two years later, Curtis recorded his own version of the song.   Unbelievably, neither made any impact on the charts of the time.  In fact, I went through some serious changes to get this original 45 single.

NOTE: I’ve heard multiple (reputable) accounts that Curtis Mayfield wrote the soundtrack for Superfly before he saw the completed movie, and didn’t know that the film glorified a drugged-out, masochistic lifestyle.  This may explain why the soundtrack is so against drug abuse. Rolling Stone’s Bob Donat actually said in a 1972 review of the album, that “the anti-drug message on [Mayfield’s soundtrack] is far stronger and more definite than in the film.”



Come With Khari Lemuel

khari_lemuel_morning_music_albumLocal artist/instrumentalist Khari Lemuel performing his song “Come With Me” with Yaw (video by Bobby Rocwell)….Super talented brother who I’ve seen perform live multiple times.  His voice combines some of the best elements of Chicago Soul’s legacy: rootsiness, spirituality, truth, and beauty.

Below, Khari’s composition “Good Morning Love” summons the power of Curtis Mayfield (and arranger Johnny Pate) in their Impressions days.  The bells and snare brush conjure church, smoky jazz club, and brownstone rooftop at dawn simultaneously (quite a feat).

“Good Morning Love”

(NOTE: listen to The Impressions do the bell-and-brush back in 1964, below)

“Long, Long, Winter” (from the album “Keep on Pushing”)

According to Khari Lemuel’s official Bio:

[He] knows he will one day rise into heaven on a cloud of musical composition. For him music is a daily meditation; an alter where he can unfold the purpose of his life. Above all, Khari Lemuel is an artist painting with sound, composition and the mystical force of creation. Since the age of 3, Lemuel has been studying the instrumental aspect of music. First on cello then moving to flute, bass, guitar, violin, keys, trumpet and voice.

click here for more snippets of his album, Morning Music, or to purchase tracks.


We the People (Who are Darker than Blue)

Curtis Mayfield performing “We the People” and “Gimme Your Love”, plus archival tape of folks vibin’ in various Chicago parks back-in-the-day.  From the classic film “Save the Children” (1972).  The film chronicled PUSH Expo ’72 (at the International Amphitheatre** in Chicago), touted as the biggest gathering of black business in history.  When black power was green!

from TIME magazine:

Black Expo in Chicago

Monday October, 11, 1971

“Black Expo in Chicago Black Expo was billed as the largest gathering of black businessmen in history. When the five-day trade fair opened in Chicago last week, there were representatives of nearly 400 black firms on hand to prove the premise. But before the week was out, Black Expo proved to be more than a display of the products of America’s fledgling black capitalism. It turned out to be an unofficial convention of entrepreneurs and politicians in search of power at the polls as well as in the marketplace.

the Rev. Jesse Jackson, black businessmen from 40 states gave their backing to Jackson’s assertion that economic development —”green power”—is the way to black power. Self-sufficiency, Jackson said during the opening-day ceremonies, is the first step in breaking out of the ghetto. Said Jackson: “We do not want a welfare state. We have potential. We can produce. We can feed ourselves.” Despite the enthusiastic speeches, however, black capitalism is still in an initial stage of development. Aware of that, Jackson proposed a “domestic Marshall Plan” to help black neighborhoods develop their economic potential….”

**the Ampitheatre was also where the Democratic National Convention took place (in 1968) as well as countless concerts.
 


This Love’s For Real

This is a Local Chicago record also recorded by The Impressions (and written by Leroy Hutson).  Very obscure.  Very Lincoln-Continental-with-the-suicide-doors Gangster.  Enjoy.

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Danger, She’s a Stranger!

The Five can’t-say-too-much-good-stuff-about-them Stairsteps recorded this petite cherie in 1967.  Local Chicago record co-written by Curtis Mayfield (check the cartoon Marina Towers on the record label).  When I listen, I always picture a blustery autumn day, a’la that sad, sad Cliff Huxtable Thanksgiving episode.

NOTE: When Cliff is just a soggy silhouette in the doorway, Play the Cosby Show clip on mute with the Five Stairsteps record as a soundtrack….


Leroy Hutson: Love the Feeling (of good old Chicago Lean)

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Originally from New Jersey, Leroy Hutson attended Howard University, eventually majoring in Music.  It was during those years that Hutson met Roberta Flack, Herbie Hancock, Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad, and Chicago’s own Donny Hathaway (who would become Hutson’s roommate).

Hutson collaborated with Hathaway on “The Ghetto”, a smash 1970 hit (Hathaway’s first).

In 1971, three months out of college, Hutson replaced Curtis Mayfield as lead singer of The Impressions. He  recorded two albums with the group before going solo.

In 1976, Leroy Hutson released his third album: Hutson II.  Recorded at Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Studios (on North Lincoln Ave. in Chicago), he predated D’Angelo by twenty odd years in the sheer smoothness category.  “Love this Feeling” (below) is just a taste of what Leroy Hutson  is made of.

 

Love the Feeling