Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Curtis Mayfield - Do It All Night (1978)

  

Released August 1978

Curtis Mayfield totally abandoned his "message" based, socially-aware urban funk/soul and went full-on disco for this album, released in the middle of the 1977-79 disco boom. Yes, there are still a few funky guitar parts here and there and Mayfield's falsetto hasn't changed, but the album's six tracks are largely heavily orchestrated disco stompers of lush soul ballads. The Isley Brothers went the same way at the same time too. Not a Pusherman, Billy Jack or Superfly in earshot of this one. Those early/mid seventies characters are long gone, in jail or drugged-out, no doubt. It is the hedonistic disco groove that matters now, and the energy to do it all night. It is a bit of a shame that Mayfield ended up by the end of the decade doing stuff like this, but as he was still Curtis Mayfield, it was certainly classy disco. You can't help but think, however, that Mayfield would never, ever have recorded anything like this between 1970 and 1976, he would have rejected it outright. The album duly alienated Mayfield's long-time fan base and, significantly, failed to win him many new ones either.

TRACK LISTING

1. Do It All Night Long
2. No Goodbyes
3. Party Party
4. Keep Me Loving You
5. In Love In Love In Love
6. You Are You Are

"Do It All Night Long" is over eight minutes of typical disco string orchestration, rhythmic percussion, pounding drums, female backing vocals trading off against Mayfield and some funky guitar lines. "No Goodbyes" has that archetypal, sweeping disco backing that featured on so many songs and movie soundtracks. The rhythm is infectious, however, with those backing vocals again dominating. Mayfield's vocal is almost incidental to the groove of the track. The problem with Mayfield is that he wasn't poppy enough to construct perfect three minute "Disco Inferno"- type floor shakers, he was still far too sincere and serious an artist to go completely pop. What you get, then, is a strange hybrid of material that wants to be disco pop but still retains that desire to be viewed as credible. I referred to The Isley Brothers earlier, and they suffered from the same problem. "No Goodbyes" could never be a hit single. It duly wasn't.

The lively, danceable "Party Party" is virtually sung by the backing singers and is barely comprehensible as being a Curtis Mayfield track. The guitar line is decidedly upbeat and funky, though. As well-crafted disco goes, I cannot help but like it, taken in isolation. It has an addictive Chic-esque percussion and bass interplay near the end. Mayfield returns to tell us that "all we need is funk". Never mind what is wrong with America today for Curtis now, unfortunately.

The old "side two" sees the mood get a bit more laid-back and soulful with firstly, "Keep Me Loving You" and then "In Love In Love In Love", which is a bit of a throwback to Mayfield's previous romantic numbers, albeit here with even more lush orchestration and a nice piano in there too. "You Are You Are" is a slight return to the disco groove, reminiscent of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' "The Love I Lost" in its refrain and there you go, the album is over in the flash of a glitterball. It was pleasant enough, but most people accept that this was not representative of Mayfield's best work.

C

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