I remember when it was normal to get artists doing live albums, just as normal to have comedians’ record albums. That concept has somehow become a rare thing lately. One reason is because today we are a more visual people when it comes to music. You’ll get a live DVD performances of someone before you get a live audio one. One reason is because artists put so much in the what you see, blame on the VMAs, Super Bowl Halftime, AMWs and The Grammys for that. To just comes out with a tight band or at the least a few people as your musical backing are over. The One reason I still love this album is because it was four guys and the crowd sounds like it was a humble size. That album the Curtis Live album, it’s something about this that is still refreshing to me. It feels like it’s in a small club where the people could easily sit on stage with him so when he does speak you feel the give and take element between him and the audience. Something so rare these days from major stars.
From the start Mayfield starts things off with “Mighty Mighty” and the transition to “I Plan To Stay A Believer” is flawless as the previous was up-tempo and this one much slower. In “I Plan To Stay A Believer” you can how much Lauryn Hill tapped into Mayfield on her Unpluuged set. From there you get “We’re A Winner” which is “Moving On Up” and it’s cool how he mentions many of his hits in his revised version. Now here is a “Rap” that is just the most suitable way to lead into the “We’ve Only Just Begun” cover. As I said before the copy of the album I had would never play Side B so I had no idea he did a cover to that song. As I listen to it now I still find it so cool how Mayfield turned a love song into a power to the people type song. “People Get Ready” follows and slides right in perfectly. As it is really slowed and stripped down to nothing more than a drummer and a guitar and no background singer the lyrics are really all you focus on. I’ve heard that songs more times than I can count it’s only when I hear this version does it truly touch me. The side ends with “Stare and Stare” which puts and the crown on mute as they listen to a moment in life. The song is about a bus ride and the things they he witnesses on the ride. The song is more reality based than anyone may have been ready for as even when he’s finished the crowd claps aren’t as loud as they were for the previous songs, could have been it wasn’t a well known song?
The second album starts out with “Check Out Your Mind”, another song the crowd isn’t exactly jumping on but it a deep song never still. So now he gets back into the songs people know with “Gypsy Woman” which like ‘People Get Ready” to me sounds much better in this stripped down element. Side C ends with the most sampled live performance ever…. Yes “The Makings Of You” comes in and I heard this version first and so it my favorite even though I know the Gladys Knight version is simply beautiful. It’s something about the stripped version of most of the songs on this album that just gives the songs more life. Side D sets off with a roll call as he introduces the band , four members, and then breaks into just a cool version of “We People Who Are Darker Than Blue”. One the best parts of the song in general is the line “High Yellow girl/can’t you tell/ You’re just the surface of our dark deep well/ if your mind could see/you’d know your color same as me.” After the first verse the fellow named Henry Gibson gets his Tito Puente on that leads into the song getting a more up-tempo vibe for a minutes then it slows back down. Henry Gibson sets off “If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Gonna Go”. “Stone Junkie” ends the album off right.
It’s crazy because the stripped down versions of all these songs brings so much more to the lyrics and I finds myself more into this albums version of all the songs more than their original recordings. This of course was when Curtis Mayfield was really in his groove, not like he really ever wasn’t on his game, he had the crowd riding with him from beginning to end. We don’t get albums like this at all anymore and it’s a shame because there’s something about hearing artists connect with a crowd in that manner. To me this album is an artists putting on a show, no smoke and mirrors and occasional talking to the crowd we get today in live shows. If you can get this and even if you’re not a fan of Curtis Mayfield but of live music this is a album to get.