The Impressions

horizontal bar

The Impressions

horizontal bar



horizontal bar

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 and lilting, it remained richly soulful thanks to the group�s firm grounding in gospel tradition; they popularized the three-part vocal trade-offs common in gospel but rare in R&B at the time, and recorded their fair share of songs with spiritual themes, both subtle and overt. Furthermore, Mayfield�s interest in the civil rights movement led to some of the first socially conscious R&B songs ever recorded, and his messages grew more explicit as the �60s wore on, culminating in the streak of brilliance that was his early-�70s solo work. The Impressions carried on without Mayfield, but only matched their earlier achievements in isolated instances, and finally disbanded in the early �80s.

The Impressions were formed in Chicago in 1957 as a doo wop group called the Roosters, a group of Chattanooga, Tennessee transplants that included vocalists Sam Gooden and brothers Richard and Arthur Brooks. Lead singer Jerry Butler joined up and soon brought in his friend Curtis Mayfield as guitarist; the two had previously sung together in a church choir and a couple of local gospel groups as youths. Renamed the Impressions by their manager, the group scored a major hit in 1958 with the classic ballad �For Your Precious Love,� which hit the pop Top 20 and the R&B Top Five. Butler�s gospel-inflected lead vocal was a departure from the norm, and the fact that the single billed him in front of the rest of the group foreshadowed his quick exit for a solo career, after just one more single (�Come Back My Love�). With new vocalist Fred Cash in tow, Mayfield took over the lead tenor role, eventually becoming the group�s chief composer as well. First, though, he hit the road as guitarist and musical director for Butler�s backing band, and also co-wrote some of Butler�s earliest singles, including the R&B number one �He Will Break Your Heart� in late 1960.

Mayfield�s success as a songwriter encouraged him to form his own publishing company. With the money he earned by working with Butler, he reconvened the Impressions and brought them to New York to record for ABC-Paramount in 1961. Their first single, the Latin-inflected �Gypsy Woman,� was a number two R&B smash, also reaching the pop Top 20. Several follow-ups failed to duplicate its chart success, and the Brooks brothers left the group in 1962; now down to a trio, the Impressions returned to Chicago and began recording with arranger Johnny Pate, whose horn and string embellishments added a bit more heft to their sound. They struck gold in 1963 with �It�s All Right,� whose gospel-style lead-swapping helped make it not only their first R&B number one, but their biggest pop hit as well, with a peak of number four. The same year, they issued their eponymous first LP, which many critics still consider one of their finest. 1964 brought the hit single �Keep on Pushing,� the first of Mayfield�s numerous black pride anthems (though at this stage, his sentiments were much less explicit than they would later become). The album of the same name also featured a marching-beat cover of the gospel standard �Amen,� inspired by the song�s inclusion in the Sidney Poitier film Lilies of the Field. Gospel also informed what became perhaps the best-known Impressions hit, 1965�s �People Get Ready�; if its lyrics weren�t overtly political, Mayfield�s intent was clear, as the song became an anthem of transcendence for the civil rights movement and an oft-covered soul standard.

The mid-�60s saw Mayfield trying to keep pace with the Motown hit factory by incorporating elements of its style into his own writing. The group recorded prolifically in 1965, but their commercial fortunes dropped off over the next couple of years. When the Impressions returned to the upper reaches of the R&B charts, it was with 1968�s �We�re a Winner,� the most straightforward celebration of black pride Mayfield had yet composed. That summer, the group left ABC to record for Mayfield�s newly formed Curtom imprint, which allowed them greater freedom in terms of the lyrical content Mayfield wanted to pursue. More aggressive message tracks like �This Is My Country,� �Choice of Colors,� and �Check Out Your Mind� followed over the next couple of years, as did some of the group�s most consistent albums, particularly The Young Mods� Forgotten Story (1969). 1970�s Check Out Your Mind was Mayfield�s final album with the Impressions, but the group remained on Curtom after his departure, and he continued to write and produce some of their material.

Mayfield was replaced on lead vocals by Leroy Hutson, who debuted on LP with 1972�s Times Have Changed. At this point, the Impressions were still overshadowed by their ex-leader, who was riding high with brilliant works like Superfly. But Mayfield�s solo momentum cooled down a bit, and after Hutson departed in 1973, new singers Ralph Johnson and Reggie Torian joined Cash and Gooden for the R&B chart-topper �Finally Got Myself Together (I�m a Changed Man),� cut with ex-Motown producer Ed Townsend in 1974. Townsend continued to work with the group for the next couple of years with some success, but in 1976 Johnson left to join the unsuccessful Mystique. Around that point, the Impressions parted ways with Curtom; Nate Evans replaced Johnson, and the group recorded for Cotillion and 20th Century/Chi-Sound with little chart success. Evans eventually departed, leaving the group a trio again. They recorded their final album, Fan the Fire, in 1981; Gooden and Cash occasionally reunited with Mayfield and sometimes Butler for touring commitments. Mayfield was paralyzed in a heartbreaking stage accident in 1990, when a lighting scaffold toppled over on him; he passed away in 1999. -- Steve Huey, All Music Guide


horizontal bar

1963The Impressions [Kent]
1963For Your Precious Love...
1964Keep on Pushing
1964Never Ending Impressions
1965One by One
1965Big 16
1965People Get Ready
1966Ridin' High
1967The Fabulous Impressions
1968We're a Winner
1968This Is My Country
1969The Young Mods' Forgotten Story
1970Check Out Your Mind
1972Times Have Changed
1973Preacher Man
1974Finally Got Myself Together
1974Three the Hard Way
1975First Impressions
1975Sooner or Later
1976Its About Time
1976Loving Power
1979Come to My Party
1981Fan the Fire
1982The Impressions Greatest Hits (MCA)
2002The Definitive Impressions [Reissue]


horizontal bar

1963 The Impressions [Kent]

01. It's All Right
02. Gypsy Woman
03. Grow Closer Together
04. Little Young Lover
05. You've Come Home
06. Never Let Me Go
07. Minstrel and Queen (Queen Majesty)
08. I Need Your Love
09. I'm the One Who Loves You
10. Sad, Sad Girl and Boy
11. As Long as You Love Me
12. Twist and Limbo

1963 For Your Precious Love...

1964 Keep on Pushing

01. Keep on Pushing
02. I've Been Trying
03. I Ain't Supposed To
04. Dedicate My Song to You
05. Long Long Winter
06. Somebody Help Me
07. Amen
08. I Thank Heaven
09. Talking About My Baby
10. Don't Let It Hide
11. I Love You (Yeah)
12. I Made a Mistake

1964 Never Ending Impressions

01. Sister Love
02. Little Boy Blue
03. Satin Doll
04. Girl You Don't Know Me
05. I Gotta Keep on Moving
06. You Always Hurt the One You Love
07. That's What Love Will Do
08. I'm So Proud
09. September Song
10. Lemon Tree
11. Ten to One
12. A Woman Who Loves Me

1965 One by One

01. Twilight Time
02. I Wanna Be Around
03. Nature Boy
04. Just One Kiss from You
05. I Want to Be With You
06. Answer Me, My Love
07. It's Not Unusual
08. Without a Song
09. Falling in Love With You
10. My Prayer
11. Mona Lisa
12. Lonely Man

horizontal bar


1965 Big 16

1965 People Get Ready

01. Woman's Got Soul
02. Emotions (Won't You Let Me Cry)
03. Sometimes I Wonder
04. We're in Love
05. Just Another Dance
06. Can't Work No Longer
07. People Get Ready
08. I've Found Out That I've Lost
09. Hard to Believe
10. See the Real Me
11. Get up and Move
12. You Must Believe Me

1966 Ridin' High

01. Ridin' High
02. No One Else
03. Gotta Get Away
04. I Need To Belong To Someone
05. Right On Time
06. I Need You
07. Too Slow
08. Man's Temptation
09. That's What Mama Say
10. Let It Be Me
11. I'm A Telling You

1967 The Fabulous Impressions

01. You Always Hurt Me
02. It's All Over
03. Little Girl
04. One Hundred Pounds Of Clay
05. Love's A Comin'
06. You Ought To Be In Heaven
07. I Can't Stay Away From You
08. Aware Of Love
09. Isle Of The Sirens
10. I'm Still Waitin'
11. She Don't Love Me

1968 We're a Winner

01. We're A Winner
02. Moonlight Shadows
03. Let Me Tell The World
04. I'm Getting Ready
05. Nothing Can Stop Me
06. No One To Love
07. Little Brown Boy
08. I Loved And I Lost
09. Romancing To The Folk Song
10. Up Up And Away

horizontal bar


1968 This Is My Country

01. Fool for You
02. They Don't Know
03. Gone Away
04. So Unusual
05. I'm Loving Nothing
06. Loves Happening
07. This Is My Country
08. You Want Somebody Else
09. Stay Close to Me
10. My Woman Love

1969 The Young Mods' Forgotten Story

1969 Versatile

1969 Amen

1970 Check Out Your Mind

1972 Times Have Changed

1973 Preacher Man

01. What It Is
02. Thin Line
03. Find The Way
04. Preacher Man
05. Paint Us All Gray
06. I'm Lost
07. Simple Message
08. I'm Loving You

1974 Finally Got Myself Together

1974 Three the Hard Way

1975 First Impressions

01. Sooner or Later
02. Same Thing It Took
03. Old Before My Time
04. First Impressions
05. Groove
06. I'm So Glad
07. How High Is High
08. Why Must a Love Song Be a Sad Song

horizontal bar


1975 Sooner or Later

1976 Its About Time

1976 Originals

1976 Loving Power

1979 Come to My Party

1981 Fan the Fire

01. Fan the Fire
02. I Don't Wanna Lose Your Lovin'
03. Love, Love, Love
04. You're Mine
05. I Surrender
06. Take Everything
07. I Don't Mind
08. For Your Precious Love

1982 The Impressions Greatest Hits (MCA)

01. Gypsy Woman
02. It's All Right
03. We're A Winner
04. Woman's Got Soul
05. Keep On Pushing
06. Amen
07. I'm So Proud
08. People Get Ready
09. Talking About My Baby
10. You Must Believe Me

2002 The Definitive Impressions [Reissue]
01. Gypsy Woman
02. Grow Closer Together
03. Little Young Lover
04. Minstrel and Queen (Queen Majesty)
05. I'm the One Who Loves You
06. Sad, Sad Girl and Boy
07. It's All Right
08. Talking About My Baby
09. I'm So Proud
10. Keep on Pushing
11. I've Been Trying
12. Girl You Don't Know Me
13. I Made a Mistake
14. You Must Believe Me
15. Amen
16. People Get Ready
17. Woman's Got Soul
18. Meeting over Yonder
19. I Need You
20. Just One Kiss From You
21. You've Been Cheatin'
22. Since I Lost the One I Love
23. I Can't Satisfy
24. You Always Hurt Me
25. I Can't Stay Away From You
26. We're a Winner
27. We're Rolling On
28. I Loved and I Lost

horizontal bar



graphics by YSM

horizontal bar