Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Never Ending Impressions

In the early sixties, the sweetest soul sounds around came from Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. Later in the decade the Chicago-based group pioneered social consciousness songs that championed Afro American pride and the civil rights movement. Curtis left in 1970 to pursue a solo career and sadly died in 1999, nine years after he was paralysed when a stage lighting rig fell on him at a gig.

The Impressions continue to perform and played the Barbican last night - their first ever show in London - featuring two original members, Fred Cash and Sam Gooden, and a relative newcomer in the form of Reggie Torian, who first joined in 1973. Backed by the Curtom Orchestra, this was a tribute to Curtis Mayfield and all the numbers were associated with him. Their harmonies were as sweet as ever and all three were absolutely on top form. Dressed in sombre grey suits they harmonised beautifully and shared vocal leads equally.

Kicking off with Gypsy Woman, a song written by Mayfield and released in 1961, the great songs just went on coming, almost chronologically, with It's Alright, Talking About My Baby, I'm So Proud (with a line from You Must Believe Me), Keep On Pushing, I've Been Trying and Woman's Got Soul. Moving through the beautiful gospel sound of People Get Ready, the group ran through You've Been Cheating, Movin' On Up and I Loved and I Lost. The last section of this truly excellent concert was devoted to the group's social consciousness period, with This Is My Country and Choice of Colors, the blaxploitation movie song Superfly, Mighty Mighty (Spade and Whitey) and the civil rights anthem Move On Up as an encore. Altogether a superb concert by a superb, smooth and truly soulful group.


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