Monday, March 15, 2010

The Brilliance of Curtis Mayfield

The above soundtrack is the 25th anny reissue which was released several years ago. It is still available and it's a keeper. I'm not usually much on soundtracks, as most of them are comprised of "scene mood music" that accompanies the acting, and perhaps a few vocal numbers. But Superfly is one of those soundtracks that contains great tunes that stand well on their own two feet.
I discovered the great tunes on this soundtrack early, as my junior high band director was big into listening to rocking soundtracks like Jesus Christ Superstar, various Bond film soundtracks and lots of the blaxploitation soundtracks in the seventies, because they all contained some killer music. He'd blast them in the band room when he didn't have a class going on, over a world class stereo system (especially for the early 70's) through a pair of HUGE Klipsch speakers so heavy that I could not lift one entirely off the ground by myself.
Our junior high stage band repertoire included songs from Chicago and some of the soundtracks mentioned above. I couldn't believe how cool it was to be playing an instrumental arrangement of Superfly or 25 or 6 to 4 back then, and I just wish I had some recordings of those performances.
There's a litany of great songs on the 25th anny two disc set.
-The popular Freddie's Dead.
-No Thing On Me (cocaine song).
-Little Child Running Wild and it's remix, Ghetto Child.
-Give me your love.
But my favorite tune of all is the vocal/LP version of Eddie You Should Know Better. The lyrics and subject matter is downright dreary, but the musical arrangement and full orchestral treatment is as uplifting as it is regretful. It's almost like a hymnal, and maybe the genius that was Curtis meant it to be that way. As always, Mayfield's vocal phrasing and just hypnotizing rhythm guitar parts drive the song, in spite of the orchestra behind him. His sense of instrumentation and rhythms was phenomenal, and although his great works were not in any way limited to this soundtrack album, it remains one of my favorite reflections of his work and of the change going on in the early 70's.
The instrumental version of the radio hit Freddie's Dead is also a special treat, and the reissue has 13 extra outtakes and alternate versions. I had the original LP, and still do by the way, and it was nice to hear some of the different recordings with that stellar band and orchestra.
Check out the movie as well. It's damn near a piece of history now. It puts some of the music, and the social issues of the time, in startling perspective.
I'd also recommend the tunes Move on up and If there's a hell below, we're all gonna go as some of Mayfield's other finest musical moments, although he had already enjoyed a long and storied career by the time Superfly came out.
I'm not promoting Amazon, but here's a link to their site where you can buy individual songs or the entire enchilada of two cd's. There's lots of other sites where you can get it as well.
Here's some reviews from the Amazon site that really say it better than I ever could about this particular CD duo:
5.0 out of 5 stars Innovative Masterpiece, July 26, 2000
Thomas Magnum (NJ, USA) - See all my reviews(TOP 50 REVIEWER) (VINE VOICE) In the film, Priest, a coke dealer, is trying to make one last big score and retire. Curtis Mayfield's score is like another charcater, something of a greek chorus. While the movie glorifies the underworld and makes Priest into a hero, Mr. Mayfield's music tells of the trouble that comes from using and dealing drugs and acts as the film's conscience. Songs like "Freddie's Dead", "Eddie You Should Have Known Better", "Pusherman" & "Superfly" deal with particular charcaters from the movie, but they are so good and stand up on their own, you don't have to see the movie to get them. Mr. Mayfield's combination of Funk, Soul, Rock & Latin rhythms have influenced countless musicians from Eric Clapton to Lenny Kravitz and many rappers. He employs his sweet falsetto and innovative guitar work to their fullest on the album. This compliation has a second disk which has mostly instrumental versions of the album's songs, but ends with a lenghty interview with Mr. Mayfield that makes it worth shelling a couple extra dollars for this version of a great, great record.

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars The Soundtrack to End All Soundtracks., December 8, 2002
The Groove (Boston, MA) - See all my reviews(TOP 500 REVIEWER) These days, the movie soundtrack amounts to little more than a commercial tie-in, and others have a good amount of material that's not even featured in the films they represent. But Curtis Mayfield's soundtrack to the 1972 film "Superfly" is a standard-bearing classic, and it's quite possibly the most vivid character in the entire film. One needn't see the movie to appreciate this album (though it helps), which is centered around the theme of the drug trade and the repercussions it has on inner cities. From the first note, Mayfield blows you away. The soulful swagger of "Freddy's Dead," the achingly beautiful "Little Child Runnin' Wild," and the tender and sensual love jam "Give Me Your Love" show why "Superfly" is one of most influential albums of all time. Soul rarely gets better than this. On the deluxe edition, we get one disc of the remastered recording, and the other disc has instrumentals, unreleased material, ad spots, and we are even treated to Mayfield giving his $.02 on "Superfly" the film and the making of its soundtrack. This album is a must-own to begin with, but the second disc of bonus material makes it all the more irresistible. If you don't have this album, get the deluxe edition. If you have the original version, then you should make the upgrade and still get it. "Superfly" is an incredible masterpiece that could very well be the definitive soundtrack.

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars May Be the Best [R&B] Soundtrack Ever, May 26, 2004
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Here, there and everywhere) - See all my reviews(TOP 500 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME) The late, great, Curtis Mayfield's Superfly soundtrack may be the best soundtrack album ever. Why? 1) because it works standing alone on its musical and lyrical merits; and 2) because it works when played/heard in the context of the movie itself.As to 1) the music is still fresh and meaningful - even now, 32 years after the film was first released. It can be said of Curtis Mayfield's music and lyrical poetry that he 'kept it real' (Choice of Colors, Keep on Pushing, etc.) even before the phrase was invented and well before it became a hackneyed cliche. From Little Child Runnin Wild to Pusherman, Freddie's Dead, to Superfly itself - the combination of Mayfield's voice, his guitar work, the beat, and his lyrics sounds as fresh today as they did when I first saw the movie many, many years ago.As to 2) the music as a soundtrack to one of the big Blaxploitation films of its day served as a startling contrast to the film itself. The drug-dealing Superfly, Ron O'Neal, was built up (at least in my neighborhood) as an inconoclastic hero of his age. But, Mayfield's music, while complementing the movie's ploit line also served as a grim reality check for anyone taking the time to actually listen to the lyrics. This counterbalance made the film far better than it would have been without a soundtrack because it served to say hey - Superfly might be one cool guy - but remember - Freddy's Dead. The music served (as another reviewer suggested in comments on the non-deluze edition) as a Greek Chorus that kept providing the movie with musical reality checks.
This may be some of Mayfield's best work. To me at least it has stood the test of time.

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