Dusting Off... Curtis Mayfield's Superfly
What is it?
Released in 1972 as the soundtrack to Gordon Parks Jr.'s classic 'blaxploitation' film of the same name, Superfly is also the third studio album by American singer, songwriter and producer Curtis Mayfield.
Mayfield began his musical career in the early 1960s as a singer with The Impressions, a vocal group that enjoyed some success with their blend of soul, gospel and R&B, but by 1970 Mayfield's songwriting was becoming increasingly political, his lyrics focussing far more on social issues. In 1970 he left the group and released two solo albums – 1970's Curtis and 1971's Roots – before being approached by director Parks Jr. to write a soundtrack for his upcoming film.
Mayfield's music is perhaps most remembered for his sweet and soulful falsetto voice, but Superfly also showcases his impressive skills as a guitarist. Oozing with smooth, funky rhythms, Superfly is the perfect compliment to the sleazy vibe of Parks Jr.'s film, the narrative of which tells the story of a cocaine dealer working in New York, struggling as he tries to escape from the shady business and the underworld gangs that control it.
The lyrics in Superfly's songs are written form the viewpoint of various characters, including the film's anti-hero, Youngblood Priest. Highlights include 'Freddie's Dead' and 'Young Child, Runnin' Wild', as well as the title track itself, but the real gem on this record is 'Pusherman', a silky smooth, shuffling funk track with lyrics detailing Priest's daily grind on the New York streets.
Why should I revisit?
Superfly is regarded as one of the most influential soundtrack albums of the 1970s, even spawning a whole new genre of blaxploitation soundtracks, and led to Mayfield writing several other film soundtracks including Sidney Poitier's Let's Do It Again and Robert M. Young's Short Eyes. Even for an artist with so many great songwriting credits to his name, this is right up there with his best.
Who will enjoy it?
If you're into the funk bands of the 70s like The Gap Band, Zapp or any of George Clinton's outfits, this will be right up your street, but anyone who likes soul music or R&B of any kind will also find plenty to love about this classic LP.