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RECORD RACK

March 13, 1994|JEAN ROSENBLUTH

VARIOUS ARTISTS

"All Men Are Brothers: A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield"

Warner Bros.

* * 1/2

These days, just about every songwriter who's produced a body of hits big enough to fill a CD has been the subject of a tribute album. But only truly great artists can claim two such collections, as Mayfield, perhaps the most articulate of '70s soul's many eloquent exponents, now can.

Last year the Shanachie label released an album of his songs performed by other artists; now comes this similar project, with bigger names. The proceeds from both go to defray Mayfield's medical expenses, which have piled up since he was paralyzed in 1990 when a stage lighting rig fell on him.

This collection boasts Mayfield's first recording since the accident, a stirring remake of his "Let's Do It Again," which was a hit for the Staple Singers. The most successful cuts are Lenny Kravitz's "Billy Jack," a suave, understated slice of cool '70s soul, and Eric Clapton's supple, sexy "You Must Believe Me," originally recorded by Mayfield's '60s group the Impressions.

Less inspiring are nondescript, rote contributions from the likes of Whitney Houston, Elton John and Stevie Wonder, though Bruce Springsteen and Steve Winwood acquit themselves well on two sturdy Impressions numbers. Ultimately, "All Men Are Brothers" is most remarkable for what's missing: No one tackles either of the songs most associated with Mayfield--"Superfly" and "Freddie's Dead."

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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