Curtis Mayfield

We Come in Peace/Take It to the Streets

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We Come in Peace, With a Message of Love, as the album's full title reads, was Curtis Mayfield's first studio album in three years when it was released in 1985. Assembled from tracks cut and written over as much as a decade apart, it included a complete re-recording and musical reconsideration of "We Gotta Have Peace" from the Roots album, and one song ("Bodyguard") recorded for the Heartbeat album six years before this. The latter is a disco-style track, but it's been remixed here from its original heavy beat, and fits in with the rest of the post-disco sound. "Breakin' in the Streets" is the most unexpected track here, an almost reggae-style number with a great sax solo by Hank Ford. The emphasis here, however, is on lyricism rather than the beat, important as the latter is -- "Everybody Needs a Friend" (which features a smooth and lyrical solo by Ford) is the stylistic centerpiece of the album, a hauntingly beautiful, lyrical piece of music with a stunning chorus. The slow ballad "This Love Is True" and the catchy, anthem-like "We Gotta Have Peace," which finished out the original LP's second side, are part of this same core, with substantial lyrics and messages that put Mayfield completely in his element as a singer and songwriter. Take It to the Streets (1990) was Curtis Mayfield's first new studio album in five years -- during that time, following the commercial disappointment of We Come in Peace, Mayfield had toured Europe (where his popularity never faltered) twice and appeared extensively on British television. So this was to be his comeback to the arena of creative, as opposed to re-creative musicianship, but his accident and paralysis in August of 1990 tragically cut short the process. The album itself is a winner, a lively, bracing, topical work embracing in-your-face politics ("Homeless"), Mayfield's old, achingly lyrical Impressions-era balladry ("Do Be Down"), dance numbers ("Who Was That Lady"), and even a flashback or two to his early-'70s glory days ("Superfly," etc.) with "He's a Fly Guy," written for the blaxploitation movie parody I'm Gonna Git U Sucka -- but all of it wrapped around Mayfield's meld of sophisticated musicianship and heartfelt lyrics. The sound is leaner than his earlier works, and a lot more electronic in nature, in terms of the keyboard work and the solo instruments. The remastering of these two albums, from the '80s and '90s, is flawless, not surprisingly given their recent vintage.

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