CURTIS MAYFIELD — There's No Place Like America Today (review)

CURTIS MAYFIELD — There's No Place Like America Today album cover Album · 1975 · RnB Buy this album from MMA partners
2/5 ·
dreadpirateroberts
The obvious highlight, anti-gun song ‘Billy Jack’ isn’t enough to salvage this album, which at first glance, has the potential to be one of Curtis’ most biting and hard-hitting releases since ‘Superfly,’ released just three years ago in 1972. The wonderful cover art and the title just beg for a protest album to rival works by Sly, Gaye or something from Curtis’ own back catalogue.

Of course, it’s unfair of me to expect an artist to look over their own shoulder or to judge ‘…America Today’ in terms of what it could have achieved. And while this is a step away from previous works, it’s not a large one nor a wholly exciting one. While the almost torpid tempos and lethargic funk that infuses the songs here can be effective, a few blasts of horns in ‘Billy Jack’ or ‘Love to the People’ don’t balance out the largely unmemorable melodies and arrangements seen elsewhere. Probably what’s most surprising (or not, based on his previous two releases) is that the vocal arrangements are not very strong – a case in point being ‘Jesus,’ a song which is a candidate for the most bland song he’s written.

‘When Seasons Change’ and ‘Hard Times’ are a little better and the minor hit ‘So in Love’ is classic Curtis, it’s nice to hear the organ and the horns playing full and bringing some extra soul to the album. However, I do miss the lush strings in some of these songs, and the grittier funk so satisfying in other albums. With regret I have to remind myself that ultimately two or three great songs, even two or three great Mayfield songs, certainly don’t make a masterpiece, or even a career highlight.

I’d urge people new to Curtis’ work to start elsewhere, perhaps ‘Curtis’ or ‘Superfly.’
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