Everybody listen up! Everybody! All you laydees an’ Gen’lmen! All you foxes an’ fellas! All you fellas wishin’ they was foxes an’ all you foxes wishin’ they was fellas! Tonight’s contest sees some of the greatest soul records ever made* slug it out in this here ring for the crown of Best Version Of a Curtis Mayfield Song….Ever! In the black corner we have our tag-team challengers, the mysterious and little-heard of 16 year old wonder, Miss Patti Jo and, fresh from touring the World and beyond with The Jackson 5, the delicious Sisters Love. And in the black corner we have the Undisputed! Genius! Of Soul! Funk! R&B! Gospel! And stack-heeled boots! Thee Heavyweight Champion of the World, Mr Cuurrttiiss Maayyffiieelldd!
Seconds out, Round1!
By 1973, Curtis Mayfield had penned an astounding 44 Top 50 US R&B chart hits for other artists. His version of the sublime Make Me Believe In You appeared on 74s Sweet Exorcist album, but by then it had been recorded by Patti Jo. Little is known of Patti Jo. I do know she was only 16 when she recorded her version. No amount of GoogleWiki sheds any light on her at all. I don’t know what else she recorded, what she looked like, where she lived. I don’t know anything about her at all. But I do know that her version of Make Me Believe In You is a reliable standard in Pete Wiggs’ (St Etienne) DJ box whenever he gets the chance to spin the wheels of steel. Vinyl pops ‘n crackles ‘n all, this is the harder-to-find full length version, not the edited one that usually crops up on yer more trainspottery soul compilations. Flute solo included, it knocks Curtis’ original into submission by the first minute, if you ask me.
Seconds out, Round 2!
Curtis put his version of Give Me Your Love on the soundtrack to Superfly. Scroll down a wee bit from here and you’ll find a live YouTube video of it. It is Blaxploitation personified. Lush, sweeping strings, hypnotic 4 note bass riff, stabbing brass, the ubiquitous wah-wah, by the time the vocals come in I find myself struttin’ the room like a velvet-adorned Harlem pimp. A look that doesn’t go down particularly well in this exclusive part of Ayrshire, even at Halloween. Snoop Dogg liked it so much he knicked it for the opening track of Doggystyle. But you knew that already. Or maybe you didn’t? Hear here.
In contrast, 73’s version by Sisters Love turns the original’s man-coming-on-to-woman on it’s sweet soul head, giving it an empowering pro-feminist love ’em and leave em twist. Or something like that. Either way, it‘s a bona fide, stone-cold underground funk/disco classic. Does that genre even exist? It does now, brothers and sisters. Punch for punch and pound for pound, Curtis takes this one for me.
That’s one round each. Patti Jo takes the first. Curtis batters Sisters Love in the second. Who wins? It’ll go to points. Listen, score them and post your winners in the comments section below. Ciao, soul brothers and sisters!
*mid 70s only