The Impressions – 1969 – The Young Mods’ Forgotten Story
The quintessential Chicago soul group, the Impressions’ place in R&B history would be secure if they’d done nothing but launch the careers of soul legends Jerry Butler – Curtis Mayfield and Leroy Hutson. But far more than that, the Impressions recorded some of the most distinctive vocal-group R&B of the ’60s under Mayfield’s guidance. Their style was marked by airy, feather-light harmonies and Mayfield’s influentially sparse guitar work, plus, at times, understated Latin rhythms. If their sound was sweet and lilting, it remained richly soulful thanks to the group’s firm grounding in gospel tradition; they popularized the three-part vocal trade-offs common in gospel but rare in R&B at the time, and recorded their fair share of songs with spiritual themes, both subtle and overt. Furthermore, Mayfield’s interest in the civil rights movement led to some of the first socially conscious R&B songs ever recorded, and his messages grew more explicit as the ’60s wore on, culminating in the streak of brilliance that was his early-’70s solo work.
Young Mods’ Forgotten Story is one of the Impressions’ best albums. Nearly every single cut’s a classic and the group outdid themselves vocally, especially Curtis, who always makes our heart break on this one! Donny Hathaway and Johnny Pate handled the arrangements.
This is a @320 vinyl rip of Sequel reissue, original 1969 album was in Curtom.
A1 The Young Mods’ Forgotten Story 2:00
A2 Choice of Colors 3:15
A3 The Girl I Find 2:37
A4 Wherever You Leadeth Me 2:32
A5 My Deceiving Heart 2:49
B1 Seven Years 2:21
B2 Love’s Miracle 2:24
B3 Jealous Man 2:34
B4 Soulful Love 2:30
B5 Mighty Mighty (Spade & Whitey) 2:21
…..I was only five years old when this album came out. It is still my favorite album of all time. Seven years, Soulful Love, Jealous man… and more. Back then, the medium was 8-track and everybody (and their mother) had one. I would listen to it over and over and over. Darn near forty years later, I’m still listening to this album over and over and over!!!
This particular album played tricks in how it was recorded. Vocals on the left, horns on the right. Even though I had (many times) wished that this album had been re-recorded, I’m glad (now) that they didn’t. No need to mess with perfection.
The music, itself, was (in my opinion) Curtis & co. at their hungriest. Too many times, we see artists after they have “made it” and they seem to lose something after that. Curtis never lost “it” and always had “it”. This album is a classic and a must-have for the old-skool players.
Anyway, this is a fine record and a true joy to listen to. This album finds Curtis Mayfield in full creative flower, and foreshadows his first great solo album Curtis, with its catchy hooks, gorgeous string and horn drenched arrangements, and thoughtful lyricism. Although Curtis is no stranger to the hackneyed genre of “the love song”, he is able to infuse such tracks with so many ear-pleasing twists that every track becomes a sort of mini-pop-symphony, even if they’re mostly about chicks.
However, Mayfield’s other main lyrical concern is equality and black empowerment. In this vein, we have the fantastic “Mighty Mighty (Spade & Whitey)“, and the sublime “Choice of Colors“, with its immortal couplet, “If you had a choice of colors, which one would you choose, my brothers? If there was no day or night, which would you prefer to be right?”. Heavy stuff, but Mayfield’s messages are always couched in gorgeous arrangements, and he never hits you over the head – really it’s more of a gentle prod.
A wonderful album and certainly worth picking up for any fan of Mayfield, or 60s soul in general.
The title read like a concept album (and the opener seemed to introduce a larger idea at work), but The Young Mods’ Forgotten Story hung together only as the usual (read: brilliant) late-’60s LP from the Impressions: a few solid songs with a social or inspirational viewpoint and the rest featuring Curtis Mayfield’s continuing exploration of love in all its forms. Two of the message songs were among the best of the group’s history; “Choice of Colors” tenderly investigated black feelings about race, while the party song “Mighty Mighty (Spade & Whitey)“ gave blacks and whites a rare chance to celebrate empowerment together. Mayfield’s romantic songs ranged farther than usual, from the innocent, delicate “The Girl I Find” (complete with turtledove cries) to a deconstruction of the end of a long affair “Seven Years” to the overbearing “Jealous Man“, all with great arrangements provided by veteran Johnny Pate and newcomer Donny Hathaway. (Hathaway’s addition didn’t alter the Impressions’ sound significantly, though his harmonic expertise and affinity for the church do find their way into a couple of tracks.) Only one song, “Wherever You Leadeth Me“, found the group treading water (it could just as easily have appeared five years earlier). The rest was intriguing late-’60s soul from one of the best acts in the business.
One of my favorite 60’s soul records, The Young Mod’s Forgotten Story is criminally short with only one cut breaking the three minute barrier. While the album mostly consists of light soul-pop with the odd political song thrown in, there are some definite hints of the wah wah guitar and funkiness to come in lead songwriter Curtis Mayfield’s solo career. Arranged by future soul superman Donny Hathaway, the album is oozing with lush string arrangements and energetic horns. One of the interesting things I find about this album is how such cliched and run-of-the-mill love songs like “The Girl I Find” are so enjoyable because of the arrangements. Every song has a great hook, and the melodies are as sweet as they come.
“Choice of Colors” isn’t exactly “What’s Going On” but it’s definitely an important song from the era. While the songs range from innocent love ballads like “My Deceiving Heart” to powerful feelings of racial acceptance like “Mighty Mighty (Spade and Whitey)” they all maintain basic pop sensibilities and while I’m generally not a fan of pop-soul this album is too good to ignore and will appeal to both pop fans and soul aficionados alike.