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The Impressions “We’re A Winner” Reviewed

Album # 9 and around about here we run out of excuses, all the crappy songs can’t simply be Johnny Pate’s influence, Curtis had to have had a hand in it. How can an album with  songs as strong as the title track “We’re a Winner”  and “I’m Getting Ready,” and  “Nothing Can Stop Me” be filled with so much sub-Mills brothers dross? The closing of this album, “Romancing To The Folk Song” and “Up Up And Away” will have you, as it surely had me, wondering what he was thinking. “Romancing The Folk Song” is Gospel for fairies, “Up Up And Away” was a brutally and relentlessly useless cover of a MOR hit. In “Every 1’s A Winner” Curtis was back to “keep on pushing,” extolling the civil rights movement to greater and greater heights. Only “People get Ready” was better (Tomas Doncker and his Allstars covered it a couple of years ago), “I’m Getting Ready” is a mainstream evocation of People Get Ready”. And right between them is “Moonlight Shadows” which seems to have escaped off a Five Satins B-side and  “Let Me Tell The World,” where its soulfulness (and astoundingly banal) lyric seems to drift towards three coins in a fountain. It is the worst sort of compromise.

What makes it more alarming was, except for “Up Up And Away,” Curtis wrote them.

Obviously, the reasoning was that the Impressions were a mainstream black harmony band, recording on a major label, and,  to put it simply, commerce was a priority. Just a spoon full of sugar. Yet, it was 1968, and Curtis seemed to be performing a juggling act more out of habit than necessity. In 1968, Aretha released Aretha Now and Lady Soul and Jimi Hendrix released Electric Ladyland. and still Curtis held back from the deep funk and soul he had in him. He spent his energy on material, and his time with musicians, not really worthy. All these Motown bands were clawing at what it meant to be a black band, Stax were redefining the genre, but something was holding him back.

It had to be business.

Nothing else makes any sense, There is no other reason why Curtis Mayfield was refusing to release strong and powerful albums on an ongoing basis,

Grade: B

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