Wednesday, February 16, 2011
CHICAGO SOUL BREAKS
Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions - We're a Winner - A real uplifting springtime joint from the undisputed king of Chicago Soul, Curtis Mayfield. This tune is one of those rare treasures where all of the elements work perfectly together to create a perfect jewel of sound. The slack jazz guitar, vibes, crowd vocals, syrupy bass, and the tub thumping drums combine to create something of pure beauty. This track also represents the beginning of the "message" music that Mayfield would embrace in the later half of the 1960s. Mayfield grew up in Chicago and was well aware of the injustices and brutality of racism, and he used his voice to help those around him strive for something better. This tune is all about working for equality at a time of immense change, and Mayfield's words and voice bring that message home.
Young Holt Unlimited - Hey Pancho - A funky little soul strutter from the Young Holt Unlimited. Young Holt created some of the most iconic Chicago soul music ever recorded, scoring huge hits with tunes like "Whack-Whack" and "Soulful Strut". The group began as a trio and played funky, cabaret style piano grooves that were popular in the Chicago's many cocktail lounges in the early 1960s. Organ and piano trios were the staple of the Chicago lounge scene, and The Young Holt Trio, and Ramsey Lewis were the kings of the genre. On this track the Holt gets pretty funky for their album of Curtis Mayfield composed Superfly covers. The track is a loose, funky soul number with hard electric piano, drums and a fierce groove. The Holt was getting a bit long in the tooth when this was recorded, but these old cats played the funky new stuff with confidence and hustle.
Major Lance - Um Um Um Um Um Um - This tune is the quintessential Chicago soul number. Cut in 1964 for the Okeh label, the track was penned by Curtis Mayfield and delivered by Major Lance. From the beginning bass drop in the first measure of the tune, a slinky mood is set, and it doesn't relent throughout the two minute masterpiece. Mayfield's loose, funky guitar style can be heard throughout the track, and the latin percussion and jazz influenced horns in the bridge scream Chicago. In the early sixties, immigrants from Latin America were just beginning to migrate to midwestern industrial centers like Chicago, and as they came, they brought with them fierce rhythms and percussive elements. This tune incorporates those rhythms and layers them with the Chicago blues and jazz feel that was popular at the time. While the music is impeccable and lovely, this tune's message is kind of radical for a pop number. This is a tune about an old cat who is still taken aback by the beauty of a fine female, and a young man who is just beginning to understand what romance is all about. This is a song about sex for sure, but it's also about wisdom, understanding, and how somethings in life just never change.