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“The Fabulous Impressions” Reviewed

There is a reason why we are reviewing the Impressions sixth album (seventh including a Greatest Hits)  and the reason is Curtis Mayfield, but The Fabulous Impressions was released in the middle of the summer of love, 1967, and Curtis Mayfield would become a soul brother, black rights, non violent avatar by the start of the 1970s and after a terrific album, he stepped back here and handed the reigns to Johnny Pate and to the other singers in the band. With revolution in the air at night and music in the air, on The Fabulous Impressions Curtis allowed Johnny Pate to release an album that was misused Curtis and allowed the lead vocals to be  sung by the inferior Sam Cash and Fred Gooden, the productions too often overanged American Standards instead of Mayfield’s steely rhythm guitar. It isn’t really an insult to claim that Fred and Sam didn’t sing as well as Curtis -what is an insult is “Isle Of the Sirens,” where the lead is shared by all three singers and when the other two sing it is as they have no right to be there, beyond inferior, you have to wonder what Curtis and Pate were thinking of.

Or perhaps you don’t have to guess. The Impressions were on a major label and this was a major commercial undertaking by a vocal soul band with a history of success, but they weren’t crossing over the way they had, so the attempt was to mainstream themselves even more. But the first two songs, a latent pre-funk funk jam “You Always Hurt Me” and a Motown sweet heartbreaking break up “It’s All Over,” promised much, much more. These two songs tower over the following nine. Even a cover of “One Hundred Pounds Of Clay” is a dog, Curtis sounds good, the backing vocals are a little intrusive and the production is The Mills Brothersly blandy “it is 67 guys, what the hell?”

It just stops working, the single on the album “I Can’t Stay Away From You” relegates Curtis to back up singing, and when Curtis takes the top over, just for a bar, it snaps to attention and then falters again. “Aware Of Love” may well be the worst song The Impressions ever released, and while “I’m Still Waiting” has a great vocal, the arrangement is neither nor, the arrangement is second hand. “She Don’t Love Me” has a funky guitar but the song isn’t much and the singing is much, much worse.

The Fabulous Impressions is a real step back after Ridin’ High,  it reached #16 on the black charts and an abysmal #184 on the pop charts.

Grade: C+


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