Curtis Mayfield

Movin' on Up 1965-1974

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This two-plus hour documentary centers on the immortal music of Curtis Mayfield, both as a solo artist and member of the Impressions. In between the 22 full-length vintage clips are first-person tales assembling an all-star cast of folks who knew Mayfield best, as well as those who were directly influenced by his music. Among the key contributors who help to place Mayfield's far-reaching influence in proper perspective are Johnny Pate (producer/arranger), who had helped craft the majority of the Impressions' hits as well as those on the Superfly (1972) Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and fellow Impressions Fred Cash (vocals) and Sam Gooden (vocals). Decidedly more intimate portrayals and memories of the cultural icon at home as a father and husband are portrayed via the artist's wife Altheida Mayfield. In terms of his lasting effect on the community at large, Carlos Santana, Chuck D, and civil rights Ambassador Andrew Young all eagerly pay homage to their mentor and musical and spiritual advisor. Plus, there are several insightful segments from interviews with the man himself from 1972, 1987, and 1988. As is true with any compendium of a legend, his canon of work should be the primary focus of attention. And it is with that mandate that Reelin' in the Years have outdone even themselves. As the masterminds behind projects such as Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding (2007) and the Stax/Volt Revue: Live in Norway 1967 (2007), this might seem practically unfathomable. More than anything else, Movin' on Up (2008) is an audio-visual repository of classic Curtis Mayfield. Bandmates Cash and Gooden comment on the "People Get Ready" clip showing the trio lip-syncing in a boat for the September 1965 episode of the Dick Clark-produced Where the Action Is. Refreshingly, the vast majority of the tunes are done live, either in front of a studio audience or in a concert hall type setting. As for those cuts that are shown of the Impressions faking their own lead vocals as a tape or record spins in the background, "It's All Right," "I Need You," the aforementioned "People Get Ready," and "Meeting Over Yonder" have all been remastered and given a pristine audio track of the original recordings. Otherwise, the contents are spontaneous in front of the unblinking eyes of the camera. Transcendent are the unique versions of "We're a Winner" coupled with "Amen" from 1968. Clifton Davis joins up for a very special spoken recitation written especially to accompany the Impressions singing "This Is My Country." Equally inspired is "Choice of Colors" from a 1969 guest spot on the Joey Bishop Show. Cash and Gooden confirm the infamous story that the Impressions were told that they were not going to be allowed to sing the tune on network television because of its racial implications. Literally minutes before going on the air, Bishop himself intervened and told the combo to play "Choice of Colors" as planned. There is an abundance of '70s footage. Top of the list are the extended concert renditions of "We Are the People Who Are Darker Than Blue" which is linked up with "Give Me Your Love," as well as the essential Superfly entries "Freddie's Dead," "Pusherman," "Eddie You Should Know Better," and, of course, the main theme itself, "Superfly." Additionally, among the extras are complete performances of "We're a Winner," "Might Mighty (Spade and Whitey)," "We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue," "Movin' on Up," and "Freddie's Dead." Accompanying the DVD is a 28-page fact-filled booklet. The informative essay by Rob Bowman is surrounded by formerly unpublished photos from the Mayfield family's archives.

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