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The Impressions “One By One” Reviewed

A busy 1965 for The Impressions, there was album # 5, People Get Ready, album # 6 Greatest Hits,  and album # 7, this one, One By One. The biggest interest on Greatest Hits is that it misses “People Get Ready,” though it includes all the biggies from “Gypsy Woman” to “It’s Alright” to “Amen”. However, those first three albums must be listened to completely to appreciate where Curtis was at so, yeah, I see why but not for me.

Album # 7 followed the death of perhaps the single greatest figure in 60s jazz, the crossover jazz superstar and television personality, Nat King Cole. The Impressions cover  three Nat King Cole masterpieces and if you want to know everything you need to know about One By One, listen to Johnny Pate and Curtis failure to do them duty. “Mona Lisa” is aided by providing Curtis  a little room to sing it, but both “Nature Boy” and especially “Answer Me, My Love” are nowhere nearly good enough. None of them cut it but what is worse is “My Prayer” and “I Wanna Be Around,” here for some ridiculous reason, Mayfield doesn’t sing lead and the album flops around and dies. nearly is bad is a three piece harmony on “It’s Not Unusual”.

One By One was Johnny Pate padding their catalog, and this is a Johnny Pate record. The arrangements are excellent over the course of the record, the way the three original Mayfield songs morphed into this context is brilliant. It is also them reaching back to that whole post-Mills brother thing. The opening track, “Twilight Time,” was gorgeous although very irrelevant. The entire record is very irrelevant. And for history, its only importance is Curtis  being a very relevant voice, he had just done “People Get Ready” and on some level how do you follow that up? You can’t doit. This record comes out and “People” is still being played on the radio. You can’t write “PGR 2”. This album was a place holder, and while I really enjoy hearing Curtis sing these songs, what a beautiful vocalist he was, as good as any of those guys, great singing and  really wrapping himself around a lyric, it’s great, but when the others take the lead,  then it’s like “eh”, you only get to do that because you are in the Impressions but  you’re not Curtis, and it is not a unique enough sound to make any difference.Finally, Curtis doesn’t play a lick of guitar and the entire rhythm section is absent. This makes no sense at all, except that it is what Pate wanted and Curtis was just picking up a check.

Nothing here belongs in the Mayfield upper echelon but maybe you could except  “Falling In Love With You,” which though over arranged is a fine song. Consider One By One a must have for historians, the rest of you take a pass.

Grade: B-

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