by: Curtis Mayfield

A thinking man's soul singer, whose abilities combined the lyrical passions of Marvin Gaye with the musical range of Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield proved singularly unsuited to the disco era, at least on his own terms. Thus, for Heartbeat, he put himself in the hands of other producers -- Bunny Sigler and the Philadelphia team of Norman Harris and Ronnie Tyson -- for the first time in his career on seven of the ten songs, and the result was a first-rate disco album that got to number 42 on the pop charts and number 17 R&B, Mayfield's best-selling album in three years. It doesn't sound too much like Mayfield's best work, but it did get him some needed airplay just at the point where he and Curtom needed all the help they could get. The beat throughout is infectious, and Mayfield's vocalizing is impeccable, a match for his best work on any of his classic albums. The pounding disco arrangements (especially "What Is My Woman For?") are showy and so different from Mayfield's own true sound, that they are bound to offend some of his listeners -- this is sort of his equivalent to the Muddy Waters Electric Mud album, except it plays much better and Mayfield was able to perform some of this album's repertory in concert. Indeed, the beautifully lyrical ballad "Between You Baby and Me" -- one of only three Mayfield-produced tracks on the album, and the first studio duet between Mayfield and Linda Clifford -- led to a joint tour and a duet album for the two. [A 1999 two-fer compilation from Sequel paired Heartbeat with the following year's Something to Believe In.] ~ Bruce Eder

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