Like many an overextended or depleted artist, Mayfield has dug into his past for material for this album, which sounds hastily conceived and then competently executed to meet some contractual deadline. Four of the seven tunes were written prior to 1971, during the time Mayfield was trying to find himself as a solo artist. “To Be Invisible” comes from the Claudine soundtrack, which Mayfield recently wrote and produced for Gladys Knight and the Pips. The very titles of the two new numbers, “Kung Fu” and “Sweet Exorcist,” signal the lack of invention.
Mayfield has run into the same problems that marred his first three albums. Without a clear focus, a Superfly or a Claudine character to identify with, Mayfield goes off in a hundred different directions — peace, ecology, divorce, future shock — always ponderously. His love songs come out curiously detached and abstract, and consequently monotonous.
He’ll sacrifice anything for a rhyme: “Don’t put yourself in solitude / Who can I trust with my life?/When people tend to be so rude!”
Some of his conceits are particularly silly: “My momma borned me in a ghetto! / But no, she couldn’t call me Jesus/I wasn’t white enough, she said / And then she named me Kung Fu.”
The music is competently routine. Almost all of it is in the Superfly boogie-down mold, but without the extras that made the best Superfly cuts stand out. The hustler hero of the movie seemed to inspire a vitality in his singing which is missing here. As are the searing tenor sax/violin charts he and Johnny Pate wrote for the soundtrack. As is the melodic inventiveness of the best Superfly cuts.
All that’s left is Mayfield’s basic competence in using the studio. At this point, the Superfly-derived material the Motown writers have been coming up with for Eddie Kendricks is far superior to what Mayfield can come up with.