Monday, May 10, 2010

Curtis Mayfield - Superfly


While most people would know the title track of this album, or Freddie's Dead, the other hit, it's Pusherman that just stays with me.  "I'm your mother I'm your daddy/ I'm that nigga in the alley" all sung in those breathy, high, sweet and rounded tones that made Curtis Mayfield the great artist he was.  Its driving beats accompanied by deceptively simple-sounding arrangements make it, for me, the pinnacle track of this album. 

I truly can't remember ever seeing this movie, but the soundtrack is well known as a peak funk experience.  And I'm a girl who likes her music funky.  On the one, guys.  I do remember having a friend call me when he heard Curtis had died, and mooning around depressed for the rest of the day.  I also remember being overjoyed to discover his last-ever recording, when YourZ introduced me to Bran Van 3000. 

I had to search high and low for this album and it was well worth the search.



Superfly is our first soundtrack review and what a soundtrack it is too.  Unlike most soundtracks, this is wholly penned by the late, truly great Curtis Mayfield.  The movie's a fairly standard blaxploitation film about a drug dealer trying to make one last big score before getting out of the business.  However, it's Mayfield's soundtrack, long since considered a classic, that highlights his status as one of the pioneers of the burgeoning funk sound, and which elevated it well above the limited popularity and scope of the film.  But more so, he used the soundtrack to highlight social issues of African-Americans at the time, a brave and pioneering move in itself, considering the time it was created.

Superfly features his superb falsetto, deft, layered arrangements and lush production and only serves to detail his prodigious talent.  If viewed as a piece of art, this would be considered a masterpiece by an artist at his peak.  There were only a few others who could match Mayfield's output at this time but none had their finger so clearly on the pulse of the street as he did.

It's a tragedy his life ended as it did, with the great man flat on his back and unable to play any of the instruments he so loved.  We are fortunate we have a copy of the last song he recorded vocals for (as mentioned in our review of BranVan3000's Discosis).  But as a testament to him, you can't go past Superfly. And nor should you.


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