Percy Mayfield

Blues Laureate: The RCA Years

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When Percy Mayfield's contract as composer and performer with Ray Charles -- a business association that lasted seven long years -- because of disagreements with Brother Ray's manager Joe Adams, Mayfield cut an album for Brunswick in 1968, and then signed with Andy Stroud -- husband and manager of Nina Simone -- at RCA. The albums Mayfield cut for the label in 1970 and 1971 (Percy Mayfield Sings, Percy Mayfield, Weakness Is a Thing Called Man, and Blues and Then Some) were excellent. Mayfield's writing and voice were in great shape, and he was surrounded by both crack and sympathetic studio talent on these sides -- Eric Gale, Chuck Rainey, Pretty Purdie, Snooky Young, and Richard Tee to name a few -- as well as full horn sections and female backing vocalists. While it would have been great to get these albums in their entirety on a double-disc, Australia's excellent Raven imprint has compiled 25 tracks from them for Blues Laureate: The RCA Years. The bottom line is that this material is fantastic. It may be of a particular period, but it's timeless. Whether it's one of the funky sides like "You Wear Your Hair Too Long," or the shuffling, funky soul-blues of "Live Today Like the Day Before," the Chicago blues ballad "The Highway Is Like a Woman," the deep, mournful soul of "Weakness Is a Thing Called Man," or the audacious street corner, trash-talking poetry of "The Devil Made Me Do It" (not a novelty song), the result is the same. These tunes reflect the changes the blues were going through, but were anchored by the solid, deeply focused vision of a singer and songwriter who understood the trends; unfortunately, not all the people at his record companies always did.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:41
2 2:40
3 2:59
4 3:00
5 2:57
6 3:47
7 3:00
8 3:03
9 3:46
10 2:31
11 2:28
12 2:29
13 3:45
14 2:49
15 2:43
16 3:02
17 3:38
18 3:02
19 2:28
20 3:03
21 4:19
22 2:54
23 4:08
24 4:06
25 2:52
blue highlight denotes track pick