The Impressions

People Get Ready

Song Review by

A sublimely spiritual track from one of the masters of soul, Curtis Mayfield, and his legendary group, the Impressions. Written by Mayfield, "People Get Ready" is a direct link between gospel music and its secular progeny, soul. It is actually just a well-produced crossover gospel track, as the theme is a ringing religious metaphor with no obvious secular interpretation: "People get ready/There's a train a-coming/You don't need no baggage you just get on board/All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming/Don't need no ticket you just get thank the Lord." Mayfield noted in the liner notes to the fantastic Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions: The Anthology 1961-1977 (1992): "That was taken from my church or from the upbringing of messages from the church. Like there's no hiding place and get on board and images of that sort. I must have been in a very deep mood of that type of religious inspiration when I wrote that song." But surely the message would have had a wider resonance in the civil rights era, as did many church promises of redemption, justice, and peace. Themes such as these were what Bob Marley must have identified with when he quoted lines from "People Get Ready" in his own "One Love": "There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner/Who would hurt all mankind, just to save his own/Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner." Riding a relaxed bass line groove, with staccato guitar up-strums, glockenspiel, muted horns, and pizzicato strings, the verses are sung in an ensemble call-and-response style with Mayfield and the Impressions' Fred Cash on tenor vocal and Samuel Gooden on bass vocal. In between are some extremely tasteful guitar lines from Mayfield himself. On the second of these figures, Mayfield modulates the track up in key for a heightened sense of drama. The title track from the group's 1965 album, "People Get Ready" was produced and arranged by Chicago soul/blues legend Johnny Pate at Universal Recording Studios in Chicago and went to number three on the R&B chart and 14 on the pop chart. "People Get Ready" has been covered many times by artists ranging from the Housemartins -- Norman Cooke's (also known as Fatboy Slim) original band -- to former GOP chairman Lee Atwater. The most famous cover of the song would have to be Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart's 1985 hit record from Beck's solo Flash, which suffers from horrible mainstream '80s production, but is nevertheless a pretty good version, with blistering bluesy guitar work from Beck. A better Stewart recording of the song is his 1993 Unplugged...and Seated with old mate Ronnie Wood on acoustic guitar, lush orchestration, and a gospel choir. This recording does justice to the anthemic nature of the song.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
People Get Ready [Universal] 1965 MCA 2:40
No Image 197? 2:35
Greatest Hits [1982] 1982 MCA 2:37
No Image 1983 Charly Records
No Image 1987
Various Artists
Rhino
Classic Rock: 1965 - Shakin' All Over 1989
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:39
The Definitive Impressions 1989 Kent 3:38
Rhythm & Blues: 1965 1991
Various Artists
Time / Life Music
The Anthology 1961-1977 1992 MCA 2:38
People Get Ready: The Curtis Mayfield Story 1996 Rhino / Warner Bros. 2:38
Keep on Pushing/People Get Ready 1996 Kent 2:43
The Very Best of the Impressions [Rhino] 1997 Rhino 2:39
More of Tams & Impressions Greatest Hits 1997 Universal Special Products / MCA 2:37
God, Love and Rock & Roll 1998
Various Artists
Varèse Vintage / Varese 2:40
No Image 1998
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution
Soul Inspiration 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 2:38
The Greatest Hits [1998] 1998 MCA 2:41
Solid Gold Soul: Soul Gems 1998
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:41
Gospel [Rhino] 1999 Rhino 2:39
The Summer of Peace, Love and Music, Vol. 2 [2000] 1999
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 2:40
Best Soul Album in the World 1999
Various Artists
Virgin 2:37
Positively 60's 2000
Various Artists
Capitol 2:40
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Curtis Mayfield 2000 MCA 2:40
A Tribute to the Memory of Curtis Mayfield [Edeltone] 2000 Edel America Records / Edeltone 2:47
Soul Greats 2000
Various Artists
Goldies 2:38
Back to Black: 1900-1999 2001
Various Artists
Universal International 2:40
The Classic Rhythm & Blues Collection, Vol. 2: 1964-1966 2001
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:41
Solid Gold Soul Inspiration 2001
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:39
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: Great Soul Ballads 2001
Various Artists
Goldies 2:39
Ultimate Collection 2001 Hip-O 2:39
Got Soul: 1960-1973 2001 Raven 2:38
Summer of Peace, Love and Music [3 CD] 2001
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 2:40
WQED Pittsburgh Presents Soul Anthology 2002
Various Artists
Rhino 2:39
Freedom: A History of Us 2002
Original TV Soundtrack
Columbia 2:39
Freedom: Songs from the Hearts of America 2002
Various Artists
Columbia 2:39
Chartbusters USA, Vol. 3 2003
Various Artists
Ace 2:41
History Makers: The Best of Gospel, Vol. 1 2003
Various Artists
Sparrow Records 2:38
Tribute to Curtis Mayfield [Delta] 2004 Laserlight 2:47
Gospel's Top 20 Songs Of The Century, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
New Haven 2:39
The '60s Rock Experience 2005
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 2:39
Slow Tunes: Timeless Soul Ballads 2006
Various Artists
Golden Stars 2:38
Express Yourself: Soul In The 20th Century 2006
Various Artists
Universal / Um3 2:42
The Psychedelic Sound of the '60s Movement 2008
Various Artists
Rolling Stone 2:39
The Complete A- and B-Sides 1961-1968 2009 Universal Island Records 2:42
I Have a Dream [Motown]
Various Artists
Motown Gospel 2:39
Salute to Curtis Mayfield Cool Pepper Disc 2:47
Soul of the '60s
Various Artists
Time Life 2:39