About the time that the Impressions cut WE'RE A WINNER they were poised to take the biggest gamble of their stellar careers. Mayfield was in the process of creating the Curtom label and the group were about to relinquish the relative security of the giant ABC Records and go independent. This twofer, the last in the series, pairs THE FABULOUS IMPRESSIONS and WE'RE A WINNER. The first is a collection of classic Mayfield songs, some of which had previously been hits for Jerry Butler, Walter Jackson and the Fascinations plus the Impressions own hit singles You Always Hurt Me and I Can't Stay Away From You. Several tracks feature the dark brown lead of Sam Gooden for which this album is something of a showcase, inasmuch as he takes the lead as often as Curtis. FABULOUS also contains one of the lesser known Mayfield gems She Don't Love Me, a great ballad with an arrangement that takes on unexpected directions with superb vocal interchange by the trio.
We're A Winner was a huge hit single, reaching #1 position in the R&B charts and #14 in the Pop charts in January 1968. It was their biggest hit for five years. Despite some restrictions on airplay, the song's success proved unstoppable. Recorded just five months before the assassination of Martin Luther King, We're A Winner confidently showed the direction for civil rights to proceed.
Whilst the title track articulated the social conscience of young black America, the remaining songs examine that other great liberation, true love. Moonlight Shadows is a poetic sonnet and a reminder that the Impressions were, and remain, unmatched vocally and technically when it came to their rendition of Mayfield's love songs. The trio really had it down and the music that Curtis and Johnny Pate created is still unsurpassed.
Nothing Can Stop Me is the only song from their past, made famous by Gene Chandler in April 1965 (reaching #3 R&B / #18 Pop charts) followed by similar success in the UK. Pate's harder arrangement suits the Impressions' tight vocal routine as they deliver this superb treatment, which compares favourably to the original.
Romancing To The Folk Song could have been written for Chicago contemporary Terry Callier and acts as a showcase for Mayfield's beautifully understated guitar work, which is particularly evident on this album. When WINNER was originally released it topped the soul charts and went to #35 on Billboard's album chart in March '68, becoming their third largest career album. Kent's Impressions' series brings together the eight classic albums that remain vibrant like primary colours in the development of Chicago Soul to this day. They also trace the amazing development of Curtis Mayfield as an influential songwriter, singer and producer. He and the Impressions would go on to make many more great albums but none better than these.
by Peter Burns