The Impressions – 1968 – We’re A Winner / This Is My Country
Curtis is easily and rightly recognized as one of the principal architects of soul music. He developed such distinctive styles out of his gospel backgrounds, that in turn contributed greatly to the shaping of black music in general, both acting as a member of The Impressions and later running his own solo career.
The Impressions – 1968 – We’re A Winner
A new level of pride and power for The Impressions as you might guess from the bold statement of the title track! It may seem hard to believe from the perspective of the 21st Century, but back in the mid 60s, a message like “We’re A Winner” was quite a strong one — a new anthem of righteous identity that was one of the first truly political statements from a young Curtis Mayfield, and a great precursor of the genius to come in the 70s! But even at this early state, there’s still plenty of genius going on not just in Mayfield’s sublime songwriting, but also in the harmonies of the group, and the beautiful treatment they get in the studio from arranger Johnny Pate. The album’s one of their key classics from the ABC years.
A1 We’re A Winner (2:22)
A2 Moonlight Shadows (3:08)
A3 Let Me Tell The World (3:10)
A4 I’m Getting Ready (2:30)
A5 Nothing Can Stop Me (2:40)
B1 No One To Love Me (2:30)
B2 Little Brown Baby (2:35)
B3 I Loved And I Lost (3:10)
B4 Romancing To The Folk Song (2:35)
B5 Up Up And Away (2:55)
Review by Groovy Emmanuel
In 1968 The Impressions were an already ten years veteran group, and that year proved to be their most successful with the release of their final album for ABC “We’re A Winner” and the formation of Curtis’ new label Curtom Records. And what a turning point that was! The motto “We’re A Winner” was to be printed under the word “Curtom” on the label ever since, and The Impressions were the first artists to be signed.
But more important were the songs. Deeply humanistic songs that represented strongly the highest ideals and aspiration of African Americans, songs delivered to underline the power of love, pride, respect and self-achievement in their daily lives in American society. The hit single “We’re A Winner” with its driving funky beat, inspired by the civil rights movement, stands proudly as a strong demand in these changing times for African Americans in asserting themselves as equal human beings in American society, despite the fact that black radio didn’t really support it back then! In Curtis’ own words: «That was a song locked in with Martin Luther King, and easily could have caused the controversy, but it was a song with an inspiring message, and that wasn’t really what radio was all about in those times.». But what can we say then about “I Love And I Lost“, the album’s other hit single. A fine ballad for sure.
The Impressions – 1968 – This Is My Country
This Is My Country has The Impressions wearing their politics much more on their sleeve than before with a cover that shows them standing in the rubble of the ghetto, and a title that is both a bold proclamation of ownership, and a sad comment on the state of affairs. Curtis Mayfield’s pen is in perfect form here, and the group hits that perfect mix of sweet soul and politics that make these late 60s efforts some of their (and Curtis’) strongest work, with harmonies that far surpass the earlier years, and which still kind of make us wish that Curtis hadn’t gone solo, because we just love the sound of his sweet raspy voice next to the deeper style of Fred Cash.
A1 They Don’t Know (2:45)
A2 Stay Close To Me (2:02)
A3 I’m Loving Nothing (2:27)
A4 Loves Happening (3:07)
A5 Gone Away (3:42)
B1 You Want Somebody Else (3:10)
B2 So Unusual (2:55)
B3 My Woman’s Love (2:58)
B4 Fool For You (2:50)
B5 This Is My Country (2:47)
Review by Groovy Emmanuel
And then The Impressions moved to Curtom. It was summer of 68. And yes. it was “This Is My Country” LP and some more big “message” songs. Curtis’s own words yet again: «This Is My Country just spoke straight out as to the prior years of being a black man and relating to it just inspiringly but strong as to how I felt in reference to my country and how I’d earned it. Earned the right to say, “This is my country!!». And that is the documentation right here. Gospel roots turning blue, turning proud, turning self-consciousness!
Musically, this is the transformation of one man singing gospel into a three-part switch-off lead, in other words how one man singing lead is able to incorporate into the blend of the group. How everyone comes out and sings in harmony a portion of the lead part, and consequently how a only three-man group can sound as a five-man piece unit or even more. And The Impressions were unique in just doing this perfectly, and all these under some magnificent arrangements by the great Johnny Pate.
Overall, “We’re A Winner” signalled the beginning of a significant political phase (at least in the field of self-consciousness, if it’s ever gonna be.) which in fact began with “This Is My Country” lp and continued with “The Young Mod’s Forgotten Story” lp (to be found here). Changing times for sure. In 1970 Curtom released the last Impressions lp to feature Curtis “Check Out Your Mind”. Later that year Leroy Hutson was to become the new lead singer for the group and the first album from this new line-up was to be titled “Times Have Changed”.. Oh dear, what a story!