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The Impressions' Mister Keyes

The Impressions

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Album Review

The first Impressions LP was one of the finest debuts of any '60s soul act, though it excelled in part because it featured a backlog of chart singles (five had charted previously, and "It's All Right" became the sixth after it was quickly added to the original program). Curtis Mayfield wrote all but two of the songs, stretching back to 1961's "Gypsy Woman" (which he'd actually written at the age of 14) but mostly including strong 1962-1963 material like the hit "Little Young Lover," "Grow Closer Together," "I'm the One Who Loves You," and "Minstrel and Queen." "It's All Right" was easily the best song here, accented by the group's sublime harmonies, arranger Johnny Pate's swinging horn section, and Mayfield's precise guitar work. The group also showed an unsurprising reverence for classic doo wop, beautifully remaking "Never Let Me Go," a Top Ten R&B hit for Johnny Ace in 1954. Even the closer, a tossed-off novelty called "Twist and Limbo," is an excellent performance and a genuinely fun song. Mayfield's disarmingly brilliant songs were really the only necessary element toward making The Impressions a strong LP, but the mesmerizing vocals and sympathetic arrangements made for a classic work of Chicago soul.

Biography

Formed: 1958 in Chicago, IL

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '10s

The quintessential Chicago soul group, the Impressions' place in R&B history would be secure if they'd done nothing but launch the careers of soul legends Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield. But far more than that, the Impressions recorded some of the most distinctive vocal-group R&B of the '60s under Mayfield's guidance. Their style was marked by airy, feather-light harmonies and Mayfield's influentially sparse guitar work, plus, at times, understated Latin rhythms. If their sound was sweet...
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