Mayfield Remixed: The Curtis Mayfield Collection
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2005, Volume 12, #4
Written by T.J. Simon
As the lead singer of The Impressions in the 1960s and a solo artist in the 1970s, Curtis Mayfield left his stamp upon the music industry largely because of the manner in which he laced his funky, soulful songs with lyrics that addressed the social concerns of the urban community. Along with his musical contemporaries Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, Mayfield redefined what it meant to be a black artist by elevating the level of discourse in popular African-American culture.
Sadly, Mayfield died in 1999 after spending nearly a decade in paralysis caused by the freak collapse of a lighting rig, which fell on him during a performance in New York City. To honor his memory, co-executive producers Ron Weisner and Brad LeBeau (along with Mayfield’s son Kirk) assembled an all-star team of DJs and producers to radically re-mix Mayfield’s hits for today’s hip-hop and club music cultures. The resulting 10-track effort Mayfield Remixed: The Curtis Mayfield Collection is an innovative compilation that deserves credit for being a noble and ambitious pursuit. Three of its tracks were drawn from the soundtrack to the 1972 film Superfly, Mayfield’s most popular outing. New York City house music DJ Louis Vega souped up and modernized the title tune by adding a Latin percussion bed, while MixMasterMike, formerly of the California turntable-ist crew Invisibl Skratch Piklz, throws a bone to the hip-hop crowd with a scratch-heavy reinterpretation of Pusherman. Unfortunately, Freddie’s Dead is given a lackluster house music treatment by the New Jersey production team Blaze.
The best re-invention on Mayfield Remixed: The Curtis Mayfield Collection comes from hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash who takes The Impressions’ We’re a Winner and re-works it with percussion that was lifted from Washington D.C.’s "go-go" funk scene of the early 1980s. People Get Ready, the other number from The Impressions included on the collection, finds the re-mixer Stonebridge placing a sample of Mayfield’s voice over house beats, and the effect is ghostly. On the other hand, the album’s poorest moments include Little Child Runnin’ Wild, which is marred by an self-indulgent guitar solo by Philadelphia’s King Britt and We’ve Got to Have Peace in which DJ Eddie Baez adds little to the mix other than a thumping drum loop.
Most of the DJs and producers contributing to Mayfield Remixed: The Curtis Mayfield Collection come from a club/house music pedigree, which means long, extended re-mixes are laid over repetitive, syncopated beats. Accordingly, this album probably will have little appeal to those who can’t stomach modern dance and club grooves. Furthermore, most tracks push towards the seven-minute mark, which works well for those getting their freak on in a sweaty night club, but it may prove tiresome in the confines of one’s living room. Nevertheless, this collection does successfully transform Mayfield’s classic tunes into something unquestionably new and oftentimes exciting. ½
48th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical
Superfly (Louie Vega EOL Mix)
Of Further Interest...
Mayfield Remixed: The Curtis Mayfield Collection is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box