THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Curtis Mayfield was one of those artists who crossed decades and genres with spectacular ease. In the 60's he created classic soul with his group The Impressions with songs like "It's Alright," and "I'm So Proud" while in the 70's his gritty, bass-heavy "Superfly" and "Pusherman" defined tough blaxploitation crunch. By 1988, when the concert at London's Ronnie Scott's on this DVD-A was recorded, he was basically an elder statesman of soul and R & B with an extraordinary catalog of tunes and a tight touring band.
The DVD-A of Mayfield's concert at Ronnie Scott's is a lively affair that shows the man and his band in high form. Mayfield's high tenor and falsetto style is provocative and beautiful and, especially on emotional numbers like "People Get Ready" and "I'm So Proud," can be quite moving. He infuses every song with a tenderness but also a toughness and you can just picture him grooving as he sings. The band is sharp as a tack and, especially on the soul stew of Mayfield's 70's anthems like "Little Child Running Wild" and "Freddie's Dead," they take on a sonic denseness without sounding busy.
If there's a problem with the disc it's that every song fades out at the end (during the applause) and then fades back in for the next number. The DVD seems to be accessing a new title for each number, so maybe this was an unavoidable technicality, but it really breaks up the flow of the show. It's not like listening to a coherent concert, more like fragments. Having said that, however, it is still a great set.
Little Child Running Wild
It's Alright (with Amen excerpt)
People Get Ready
I'm So Proud
We've Gotta Have Peace
Move On Up
To Be Invisible
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is crisp and clean. The instruments all sound clean and dynamic.
The extras (which I could only access by hitting "title," not "menu") include a video clip of "Freddie
's Dead" from the same show (too bad it's the only clip) as well as a video of an interview Mayfield gave around the same time. This is a good starting place for a little background into this great artist. Also included are text screens with liner notes and information on the venue.
The DVD-A format is still coming into its own and isn't perfect, but the performances and songs on this disc are top-notch and any fan of classic soul and R & B would be thrilled to give it a listen.