23/11/2018: “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go” by Curtis Mayfield

Although America saw riots over race relations a couple of years ago, and have elected a President in large part because of his xenophobic ramblings and white supremacist apologist campaign, things weren’t always so rosy.

It wasn’t until 1964 that segregation was made illegal, and when MLK was killed in ’68 there were huge riots.

Curtis, the album this was taken from, was released in 1970, so only a few of years after these events.

He lists a few groups, such as whites, blacks and Jews (not the words he uses…) and emphasises the essentially unity of the human race by our collective damnation. At least that’s what it sounds like!

The song is equal parts funky, orchestral, dramatic and prophetic. It’s a political song, but with obvious overtones of religious warning.

The song’s rhythm is a syncopated riot, with a rolling, slow drum part overlaided with a conga/bongo section. The bass is prominent, and more interesting for the fact that it is played with some distortion for a delicious, warm fuzzy sound. It feels rather psychedelic, especially as Mayfield’s vocals tend to drift over the top rather than being the main focus.

There’s a nice string and horns section too, which adds to the gravity of the whole thing.

it might not have a great deal of urgency, but it remains a powerful statement on race relations.

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