Monday, 20 May 2019

Curtis Mayfield - Back To The World (1973)


  

Released May 1973

After the huge, and somewhat unexpected success of the ultra-funky blaxploitation soundtrack, "Superfly", this album reverted to the heavily-orchestrated, lush, brassy soul sounds of Mayfield's first two solo albums, "Curtis" and "Roots". There is still some solid funk around, but it is less gritty and pounding than on "Superfly", which is a shame, to be honest. Mayfield's message is still one of concern for the contemporary world, both societal and environmental. The album is only seven tracks long, and is decidedly uncommercial. In that respect, it is considered something of a failure, which is unfair, as it contains some credible songs, just no catchy "Superfly"-style numbers. Mayfield was certainly not going to let up on his message, and indeed, didn't until 1977, when he started to dabble in disco. It was hard-hitting, urban, conscious funk/soul all the way.

TRACK LISTING

1. Back In The World
2. Future Shock
3. Right On For The Darkness
4. Future Song
5. If I Only Were A Child Again
6. Can't Say Nothin'
7. Keep On Trippin'                                          

"Back In The World" is a typical pice of smooth, falsetto-dominated lush Mayfield soul, similar to some of the material on "Curtis" and "Roots". "Future Shock" features some delicious funky wah-wah guitar and some punchy horns. It is one of the album's tracks that is most similar to the "Superfly" material. This time though, Mayfield is saying "we got to stop the man from messing up the land...". Inspired by Alvin Toffler's 1970 book, the song contains warnings for more than just drug dealers, but for the whole world. "Right On For The Darkness" is a deep, industrial strength funky chugger, lightened only by some sweeping strings. Personally, I would have preferred it without the strings, just keeping the funk, which is heavy.


"Future Song" is  religious-themed, laid-back slice of sweet soul that a probably a minute or so too long. The tempo is upped, however, with the "Move on Up"-ish fast groove of "If I Only Were A Child Again". The horns and the percussion rhythm are great on this one. "Can't Say Nothin'" is a wonderful helping of brassy funk, with an almost swamp-blues style riff underpinning it. Mayfield's vocals are only incidental on what is essentially an excellent instrumental. A few more vocals arrive at the end, however, but it is still largely a musical outing. "Keep On Trippin'" ends the album with a melodic and soulful number that sees Mayfield's falsetto hitting those top notes once more. There is a hint of Motown in the song's verse structure.

While this is not a Curtis Mayfield essential, it is certainly not inessential either, if that doesn't sound too silly. It is not a poppy album, but, as with all his early/mid seventies offerings, it has serious credibility.

B-

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