Superfly 1972 Film
Extra Tracks, Reissued, Remastered
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Superfly is RIAA-certified gold, with million selling singles still popular today. This release features album-length versions of all 9 songs from the film, plus 2 bonus tracks: The smash single edits of "Freddie's Dead" and "Superfly." Mayfield's distinctively soulful sounds are as contemporary today as they were when they first hit the airwaves (Rhino's Superfly Deluxe 25th Anniversary release has sold more than 65,000 units since its Nov. '97 release at a higher price).
The term "classic" is tossed about a lot these days, and when it's being used to describe everything from Coke to a Janet Jackson CD, the term is shady. But take my word that the 1972 soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Superfly is a true classic. Why? Because 25 years after its release, the songs still ring true and sound fresh. A morality tale set to funky grooves and plaintive vocals, Superfly is the zenith of Mayfield's socially aware songwriting, recounting the highs and lows of the thug life and the no-win ghetto game of hustling. It's hard to believe, but a doom-filled ode to screwing up ("Freddie's Dead") was actually a big hit during the Nixon years. Truth be told, the record sounds as good, if not better, today and should be in everyone's collection. --Amy Linden
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Hayes score for Shaft and Marvin Gaye's for Trouble Man (which would be released in late 1972), were almost entirely instrumental except for a song or two. Curtis took a different approach and wrote a full song-score for the film with only a couple instrumental tracks; although in the film itself many of the song themes were played instrumentally as background and Freddie's Dead was never sung in the film at all, only appearing as an instrumental, thus denying it an Academy Award nomination. Curtis also wrote most of his songs as commentary on the main characters of the drama. In doing this Curtis dealt with his main conflict with the film, that it could be seen as glorifying drugs and crime (it received many accusations of this by important organizations in the black community). Curtis Mayfield was a very positive, optimistic person who had been active in the Civil Rights Movement and who generally wrote inspirational songs. Here he wrote highly critical songs where financing is all the Pusherman understands, you get "Two bags free for a generous fee, and even for Superfly (Priest) "time's running out and there's no happiness". And of course Freddie's dead. No Thing On Me was a totally anti-drug anthem that preached a natural high.
The music itself is somewhat at odds with the gritty scenes on the screen. Mayfield wrote beautiful music for this film and it was remarkably well-orchestrated. This is why you really need the album to appreciate it. In the film much of it is so in the background or appear only partially and only really listening to it brings out full power and intensity as well as the brilliant scoring. Little Child Running Wild is my favorite Mayfield song of his solo career. it's opens with organ and bongos and a screaming urban guitar, then staccato bursts of brass, mournful strings and a blues sax that underscore its tragic tale. It climaxes with a long fade with the sax and strings commenting on he hopelessness of the song. He had already written this song when given the film score commission, but he felt it worked perfectly and it did. Pusherman, which follows is pure minimalism, a quiet backdrop of guitar and percussion as Mayfield impersonates he pusherman himself. Everyone knows Freddie's Dead with its dynamic rhythm. Give Me Your Love, the film's love song is a masterpiece of scoring with its funk/jazz mix of electric guitars, piano, strings and harp and Curtis' voice soaring above it all. And that's just a few of the highlights.
The album was conceived all as a piece, not as a mix of singles and B-sides, so everything flows together. It not only captured a moment in time but has stood the test of time as a classic. This CD is the same as the one Rhino released in 1999. Both contain the same tracks and the two bonus tracks of the shortened single versions of Freddie's Dead and Superfly. In its original release it had an 18-page booklet with stills from the film, lyrics and commentary. That edition sold at a mid-price of $13.00 to $15.00. In this new edition the tracks and remastering are the same but the booklet has been shortened to the inside listing tracks and personnel (including Johnny Pate, Curtis' long-time friend and arranger. The two had a major falling out over credits on this album which everyone involved said was sad to see, since both were good men). The old booklet is nice but not necessary. The music is all here and really beautifully remastered and at the moment at a practically giveaway price. Get It.