But far more than that, the Impressions recorded a few 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 popularised 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 a few 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. [+]
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