#177: The Anthology 1961-1977 by Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions


The Anthology 1961-1977 by Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions (1992)

Favorite Tracks: "Never Let Me Go" and "It's All Right" and "Amen" and "People Get Ready" and "Move On Up"

Thoughts: Can we talk about a song on this album? It's called "I'm So Proud." Considering it's a doo-wop/R&B song from the 60s, I assumed the person the protagonist was proud of was his girlfriend. So, what might you be proud of your girlfriend for? Here were some ideas I had:

I'm so proud of you
You completed your PhD

I'm so proud of you
You finished that 10k

I'm so proud of you
You've been elected governor

I'm so proud of you
You're an unapologetic feminist

I'm so proud to be loved by you
because you're kind, spirited, and intelligent

Sure, I might have been shooting for the moon there. But the actual lyrics were worse than I expected:

Prettier than all the world and I'm so proud of you
I'm so proud of you
Your only one fellow's girl oh and I'm so proud
Sweeter than the taste of a cherry so sweet
And I'm so proud girl, I'm so proud of you
Compliments to you from all the people we meet yes and I'm so proud
I'm so proud, believe me I love you too, I'm so proud of being loved by you

Ugh. 'I'm so proud of MYSELF that I'm with someone prettier than everyone else! And girl you better stay pretty forever or I'll be embarrassed to be with you.' Fuck this song and fuck the culture and society it was written in. Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph. ("I didn't get a 'harrumph' out of that guy." "Give the governor a 'harrumph'!" "Harrumph!" "You watch your ass.")

Fortunately as time went on Curtis started writing about civil rights instead of extolling the prettiness of his girlfriend, like with the super classic "People Get Ready."

I'll be honest, I sort of rushed through this album. I don't really see why this was almost 300 albums better than, say, Golden Hits by The Drifters, which features a similar music style but with a much better catalog in my opinion. I suppose it probably has something to do with the culturally relevant songs Curtis wrote and their importance/impact on history. Which I totally respect, I just didn't find these songs as musically interesting as The Drifters'.

Is This Better Than Fleetwood Mac?: Not to me. Plus it's another compilation album, so it's an unfair comparison. Bottom line: I wish the album had been shorter, and I won't be adding it to my library anytime soon, but it was fine to listen to.

Tell me what is it women want the most?


Is it what most everyone says, a man,
a rich, kind, liberated man
who figures out what we want? Be honest
now, whatever our public politics,
is that it? Or do we most want power
over our men as I read in Chaucer--
the tables turned and set for us to eat?
Or is it kids? Biology being
thicker than history, each feminist
a repressed mother who'd be happiest 
with a family? Or are we fooling 
ourselves when we know what we want is love--
the problem is no one to ask it of.

My gay friends ask, Well are you gay or what?
And men agree we're friends, but don't I want
a man? Or husband, my mother wonders,
Don't you want children? My sister wishes 
I'd end up with a man who also wants
to change the world and is willing to work
for it. The two of you could do peace work
and stuff, she says, certainly you'd worry 
less if you were having more sex. It's weird
not to be with someone, man or woman,
even a nun though celibate is wed 
to Jesus Christ. What kind of a woman 
are you? I wish I knew, I say, I wish
I knew and could just put it into words. 

- Julia Alvarez, two prose excerpts from Homecoming

stormin' norman


#178: The Definitive Collection by ABBA


The Definitive Collection by ABBA (2001)

Favorite Tracks: "Ring Ring" and "Waterloo" and "Honey, Honey" and "SOS" and "Mamma Mia" and "Fernando" and "Money, Money, Money" and "Knowing Me, Knowing You" and "Take A Chance On Me" and "Chiquitita" and "Does Your Mother Know" and "Rock Me" and "Voulez-Vous" and "Angeleyes" and "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" and "The Winner Takes it All" and "Super Trouper" and "Lay All Your Love On Me" and "One of Us" and "When All Is Said and Done" and "The Visitors" and "Under Attack" and "Thank You For The Music"

Thoughts: Thank God (and Sweden) for ABBA. Pop perfection. Growing up I thought their only hit was "Dancing Queen" and it was just silly disco. Now I know they were some of the hardest working people in the music industry (their 'definitive collection' is a whopping 39 songs) and I fucking love disco. It makes you want to dance and have a good time. People who like to blame it for the decline of good rock in the 70s are ridiculous. There's plenty of room on the airwaves for music that rocks and music that makes you dance (or both).

Background: as I stated previously, the first ABBA song I knew was "Dancing Queen." Didn't everyone boogie to that at their church youth group's dances? No? Well, I did. I mean, the song is on the first disc of the Pure Disco series! It's serious. I myself used to own Pure Disco 2, which has my most beloved ABBA song: "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)." By day I was trying to hand out purity rings to my fellow high schoolers (slight exaggeration), but by night I would dance to pop songs about booty calls/one night stands. "Ok," I thought, "ABBA has TWO good songs." Then I saw Muriel's Wedding (who can hear "Waterloo" without thinking of it?) and finally I went with friends to see the touring Broadway of Mamma Mia!, and my ABBA love grew deep and wide in the span of 2 hours. Did I love the movie adaptation? Yes. Do I think it's better than the show? No. (More on that in a bit.)

So while I now know more than a handful of ABBA songs, I was excited to listen to this album and discover some new favorites. I must say that for me, the best part of listening to ABBA is the women's voices--Agnetha's and Anni-Frid's. Of course the guys wrote the great songs for them to sing and provided excellent back-up/accompaniment, but there's something about the ladies' harmonizing that is so unique and thrilling.

I know I already told you about dancing to "Dancing Queen" in high school, but then my freshman year of college my dorm floor and I did a routine to it in front of all the other freshman. It was terrible. My associations with the song did not get better until I saw Mamma Mia! (2008) in theaters. It's the moment (at 2:36 in this youtube video) where all the women on the island sing this song and dance down to the docks. When I was actually 17, this song was just fun and cheesy. But when you see a matronly old woman throw a bundle of sticks off her back and sing "Oh yeah!" it's as if the song has the power to transport any woman to when she was young and less burdened, free and independent. They throw off their aprons to go and dance with complete abandon. I cry every time.

Also, can we talk about "Does Your Mother Know"? That song is completely perfect. The Beach Boys should wish they wrote that song. In fact, I'm calling it right now: ABBA wrote better pop songs than The Beach Boys. BOOM! ABBA is underrated and The Beach Boys are overrated. Truth, double true.

But, back to my main beef with the film version of Mamma Mia!. In the stage show Donna sings this heartbreaking tune--"The Winner Takes It All"--to Sam in her room at the hotel as she gets ready for her daughter's wedding. She looks disheveled in her bathrobe midst the decaying walls of her hotel, the one she had dreamed of running with Sam. With this mis-en-scene the lyrics feel real and ring true: Sam is successful in his work and has his wife and sons, whereas she is alone, spread to thin, and barely getting by. She actually feels and looks like the loser. But for the film they decided to shoot the scene on this GORGEOUS rock face with unbelievably beautiful vistas as the sun sets. Donna is already dressed in her wedding clothes and looks stunning. Any empathy or charity I felt for Donna is gone--you see the breathtakingly awesome place she lives, her glorious independence and think, "Um, if this the definition of a 'loser' the rest of us are in real trouble." (Here's the movie scene in case you need a refresher. It's the most cringe-worthy part of the film for me to watch. Pierce Brosnan's reaction shots are the best part of the whole scene.)

Is This Better Than Fleetwood Mac?: As it's a compilation album it's not fair to make a comparison. But listening to it was pure delight, and these are songs that belong in every person's music library.



Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the dryer.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter's age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she's a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat--
the one you never really liked--will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours, for a month.
Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you'll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn't plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you'll come home to find your son has emptied
your refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up - drug money.
There's a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs halfway down. But there's also a tiger below.
And two mice--one white, one black--scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here's the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you'll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You'll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

- Ellen Bass, The American Poetry Review (39:4, 2010)