Curtis Mayfield – Curtis: #795 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Curtis Mayfield - Curtis

Why is Curtis Mayfield’s Curtis on my best 1,000 albums ever list?

If there is a hell below, at least we’ve got Curtis in the meanwhile in the here and now.

What does Curtis Mayfield’s Curtis mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?

From the opening, funked out and fuzzy bass notes of “(Don’t Worry) If There Is a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go,” we hear something iconic, exciting, groovy, compelling, and slightly unsettling all at the same time.

And that’s even before we get to hear Curtis Mayfield’s peerless tenor voice for the first time. Overall, it’s a nearly eight-minute journey that builds on that funk groove, replete with the accompaniment of string instruments. Like with so many great Curtis Mayfield songs, he’s a keen observer of what’s going on both in his personal experience and more broadly in society. Mayfield’s lyrics are simple but effective, and his singular voice sells it.

Educated fools
From uneducated schools
Pimping people is the rule
Polluted water in the pool
And Nixon talking about don’t worry, worry, worry, worry

“Move On Up” has a classic R&B and soul feel to it. It’s interesting that the album cut on the “expanded edition” of Curtis runs close to nine minutes, whereas the “Move On Up” single is a tight 2:45. My strong suspicion is that the idea is this is a song – along with songs like the slower, funkier “We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue,” which runs over six minutes – that is meant to be danced to, one in which the participants are in no particular hurry to move on (up) to the next song.

“Power to the People” is a gentler track that emphasizes Mayfield’s powerful vocals and the song’s message of empowerment.

Pop culture stuff that has something to do with Curtis Mayfield’s Curtis

As with all-time great television series The Wire, show creator David Simon along with creative partner and novelist in his own right George Pelecanos utilized different music as part of the opening credits for each season of The Deuce (and possibly Treme as well, if memory serves).

For Season One of The Deuce, “(Don’t Worry) If There Is a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go” helped to set the mood for the story of prostitutes, hustlers, cops, and the early days of the porn industry in New York City.

In my view, The Deuce was one solid notch below The Wire in terms of how good it is overall.

Which makes it better than the vast amount of television shows ever produced, and well worth checking out if you are open to this kind of storytelling.

For more on TV, check out the best 100 TV shows ever.

Some stats & info about Curtis Mayfield – Curtis

Curtis Mayfield’s Curtis on Spotify

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.