Various Artists

Curtom Soul Trippin'

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Owned and operated by the legendary Curtis Mayfield, the Curtom label set the pace for Chicago soul during the early 1970s -- marrying a mellow, sophisticated production aesthetic with a street-smart but poignant lyrical outlook that raised the bar for social criticism in popular music, Curtom's output anticipated not only the lush arrangements of Philly soul and disco, but also the eye-opening urban poetry of hip-hop. One in a series of compilations assembled by the British reissue label, Charly, Curtom Soul Trippin' digs deep into the vaults to resurrect some of the label's rarest sweet soul productions -- despite the number of artists involved, and the breadth of subjects they explore, this music is clearly of a piece, connected by the uncommon beauty and nuance of the grooves, and by the uncommon intelligence and feeling of the messages. Highlights include Mayfield's "No Thing on Me (The Cocaine Song)," Mystique's "Fill You Up," the Notations' "Make Me Twice the Man," and Dewi Cheetum and Howe's "Impossible Decision."