Street Soul 1990 (Live 1990)
1990 was meant to be the comeback in Curtis Mayfield’s career. It started off that way too. A new studio album, his best in a while, and wiping the taste from the 1985 flop; like a lot of artists that made their name and rewrote the rules of music across the 1960s and 1970s he struggled to find his place in the 1980s. But you felt his influence in the music of Prince, Terence Trent D’Arby and Lenny Kravitz among others. And those Blaxploitation soundtrack cuts were hipper than ever when DJs played them or found secret hooks for hip-hop songs; the work of the Impressions was timeless of course. But Curtis needed to reinvent himself. Needed to start again.
Here on this archived live set it’s to the 70s soul/funk hits (Superfly, Freddie’s Dead, Pusherman) and some of the best songs from The Impressions (Gypsy Woman, People Get Ready) and it’s a pretty hot band too. Okay, some of the keyboard and synth stabs remind you of that late-80s/early-90s pastel-coloured swab of sound but it’s still a kick-ass feel all up, killer group and that fine, fine falsetto is soaring.
The political push of Mayfield’s songs – sadly – was still needed then. And now. To that end one of the highlights on this set is 1971’s We’ve Gotta Have Peace and the slightly more obscure When Seasons Change (from 1975) which is all gospel-soul and holiness is the perfect closer.
It’s impossible though to listen to this and enjoy it on any level knowing what was about to happen. This was the start of the comeback. And then a freak accident saw a lighting rig cripple Mayfield; leaving him without the use of his limbs, his back broken, wheelchair bound and unable to play guitar. He managed one further studio album and a few public appearances, including singing live one final time.
He was only 48 at the time of this concert and the accident that took his career, and nine years later, his life. This concert brims with what-could-have-been.
He was simply one of the greatest to ever grace a stage, he wrote and performed some of the best songs you could ever hope to hear.
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