Curtis (Curtis Mayfield album)

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Studio album by Curtis Mayfield
Released September 1970
Recorded May - July 1970
Studio RCA Studios, Chicago
Genre Soul, funk
Length 40:28
Label Curtom
Producer Curtis Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield chronology
Singles from Curtis
  1. "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go"
    Released: November, 1970
  2. "Move On Up"
    Released: June, 1971

Curtis is the debut album by American soul musician Curtis Mayfield, released in September 1970. Produced by Mayfield, it was released on his own label Curtom Records. The musical styles of Curtis moved further away from the pop-soul sounds of Mayfield's previous group The Impressions and featured more of a funk and psychedelic-influenced sound. The album's subject matter incorporates political and social concerns of the time.[1]

Curtis sold well at the time charting at number one on the Billboard Black albums (for five nonconsecutive weeks) and number nineteen on the Billboard Pop albums charts. Only the single "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go" charted in the United States, however an edited version of "Move On Up" would spend 10 weeks in the top 50 of the UK Singles Chart.


In 1970, Curtis began work on his own self-titled debut album. Although he never intended to leave the Impressions permanently, under recommendation from his business manager Marv Stuart, and the trend for both R&B and rock artists in the seventies was to go solo.[2][3] Mayfield wouldn't officially leave The Impressions until 1971.[3]

Recording and production[edit]

Like with some of his later Impressions work, Mayfield's lyrics reflected the social and political concern rising in black America at the time. Mayfield was one of the earliest artists to speak openly about African-American pride and community struggle.[4] Mayfield reflected upon this time as a "happening era...when people stopped wearing tuxedos...people were getting down a little more."[2]

The album had a more hard edged sound than the Impressions had before. On this new sound Mayfield claimed it was something he "long wanted to do...but were out of category of what was expected of me and the Impressions. What I got off in the Curtis album allowed me to be more personal for myself.".[2] The two singles off the album "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go" and "Move on Up" showcased Mayfield's new funk musical style, while the rest of the tracks were much softer soul based songs.[2] Not having any traditional music lessons, Mayfield claimed his backing band would occasionly comment "gosh, this is a terribly strange key to play in", but still played it accordingly as written.[3] According to Joseph L. Tirabassi of Tiny Mix Tapes, "We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue" exemplified the "gliding soul" and "hard-hitting funk" the rest of the album veered between.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[6]
Christgau's Record Guide B+[7]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3/5 stars[8]
Q 4/5 stars[9]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3.5/5 stars[11]
Sputnikmusic 4.5/5[12]
The Village Voice B[13]

In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, John Wendell was disappointed by Curtis, finding much of Mayfield's music more rhythmic than melodic, "fragmentary, garbled and frustrating to listen to"; he called the lyrics haphazardly written and mealy-mouthed. "He tries to deal with some pretty serious and complex subjects by stringing together phrases that end with the same sound—whether they make sense together or not", Wendell critiqued. "Sure, it's all subjective, but I can't myself see that what we need is 'Respect for the steeple/power to the people.'"[14] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau was also somewhat unmoved by the album's "essentially middle-class guides to black pride" but qualified his judgment as reflecting a certain degree of cultural relativism on his part, making note of African-American audiences having embraced the record.[13]

Christgau revisited Curtis in subsequent years and found it far less middlebrow on further listens,[7] writing in a retrospective review for Rolling Stone, "cut for cut, Mayfield's solo debut is stronger than Superfly".[10] Bruce Eder from AllMusic said Mayfield had "embraced the most progressive soul sounds of the era" on an album that was "practically the Sgt. Pepper's album of '70s soul".[6] In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Geoff Himes wrote that the songs remained irresistibly catchy, even though sometimes Mayfield's messages were oversimplified and the production sounded excessively "ornate".[11]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Curtis Mayfield

No. Title Length
1. "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go"   7:50
2. "The Other Side of Town"   4:01
3. "The Makings of You"   3:43
4. "We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue"   6:05
Side two
No. Title Length
5. "Move On Up"   8:45
6. "Miss Black America"   2:53
7. "Wild and Free"   3:16
8. "Give It Up"   3:49
Total length:

All songs written and composed by Curtis Mayfield except where noted.

Chart history[edit]


Year Peak chart positions
U.S. Pop albums[15] U.S. R&B albums[15]
1970 19 1


Year Title Peak chart positions
U.S. Pop
U.S. R&B Singles
1970 "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go" 29 3
1971 "Move on Up" 12


  • Musicians - Leonard Druss, John Howell, Harold Lepp, Loren Binford, Clifford Davis, Patrick Ferreri, Richard Single, Rudolph Stauber, Donald Simmons, Robert Lewis, Harold Dessent, Ronald Kolber, Harold Klatz, John Ross, Sol Bobrob, Sam Heiman, Elliot Golub, Henry Gibson, Robert Sims, Gary Slabo, Philip Upchurch

Technical personnel[edit]

  • Riley Hampton and Gary Slabo – producer, mixer
  • R.J. Anfinson and Tom Flye – recording engineer
  • Curtis Mayfield - producer

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Jones, Chris (2008). "Review of Curtis Mayfield - Curtis". BBC Music. Retrieved July 13, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d Pruter 1992, p.306-307
  3. ^ a b c Thompson 2001, p. 158
  4. ^ Unterberger, Richie. Curtis Mayfield > Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
  5. ^ Tirabassi, Joseph L. (October 2, 2008). "1970: Curtis Mayfield - Curtis". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved July 13, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. Curtis > Review at AllMusic. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
  7. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Curtis Mayfield". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the '70s. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306804093. Retrieved July 13, 2016. 
  8. ^ Larkin, Colin (2006). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. 5 (4th ed.). MUZE. p. 588. ISBN 0195313739. 
  9. ^ Anon (December 2000). "[title unknown]". Q. p. 144. 
  10. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (February 3, 2000). "Curtis Mayfield 1942-2000: A Beginner's Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 13, 2016. 
  11. ^ a b Himes, Geoff (2004). "Curtis Mayfield". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 523–24. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  12. ^ Arp, Louis (January 17, 2006). "Curtis Mayfield - Curtis (album review)". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved July 13, 2016. 
  13. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1970). "Consumer Guide (16)". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  14. ^ Wendell, John (26 November 1970). "Curtis Mayfield: Curtis". RS 71. Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2 December 2007. 
  15. ^ a b Curtis Mayfield > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums at AllMusic. Retrieved 22 June 2008.
  16. ^ a b Curtis Mayfield > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles at AllMusic. Retrieved 22 June 2008.
  17. ^ Warwick 2004, p. 713.

External links[edit]