Do It All Night is Curtis Mayfield’s flimsiest solo album yet, an indifferent collection of flaccid disco music. God knows, Mayfield has usually been uneven, but until now he’s always managed to crank himself up at least once per LP and push his pretty, quavery voice over the line into conviction. Even on an outright bad record like Sweet Exorcist, there was that amazing title song, with its fluky, amiable beat and the outrageously funny conceit of its main character.
The new album is ostensibly a collection of love songs, from the tough and carnal (“Do It All Night”) to the sweet and spiritual (“In Love, in Love, in Love,” “Keeps Me Loving You”). But the LP’s real theme is stated in another of its song titles: “Party, Party.” Most of the time, Mayfield’s lyrics just prattle on about moving and grooving, while the music, brittle and shrilly produced, sets its dance rhythms on automatic. Only in the slow and delicate “Keeps Me Loving You” does the singer create a thoughtful, tender moment.
Throughout Do It All Night, Mayfield sounds distracted or simply confused, as if he’d started a song with something in mind, forgotten what it was, but kept going anyway. The galvanizing tension of a good, obsessive love affair–a feeling that suffused his unheralded masterpiece, Give, Get, Take and Have (1976) — is now Curtis Mayfield’s Great Lost Theme. He tries here and there to reinvoke it, but the conviction’s gone. What’s needed now is a brand new obsession.