ARTIST: Curtis Mayfield
YEAR RELEASED: 1972
CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 R&B, #26 UK
SINGLES: Freddie’s Dead (#4 US, #2 R&B), Superfly (#8 US, #5 R&B, #52 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Pusherman
LINEUP: Curtis Mayfield, Joseph Lucky Scott, Master Henry Gibson, Morris Jennings, Carig McMullen. Tyrone McCullen played drums on one track. They used session strings and horns.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A soundtrack that was much better than the movie. An iconic funk album perfect for the mood in summer 1972 (which was dark and dingy).
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While Curtis Mayfield definitely had some appeal thanks to his work with the Impressions and his solo work, it was this album that thrust him into the stratosphere as a musical innovator, producer, and arranger.
Mayfield’s high, pleading voice was perfect for the story of the movie and how he told it, which was a grim tale of drugs in the inner city – a lot grimmer than the film to be honest. Yet, as impressive as Mayfield’s vocals were, it was his use of funk, coupled with horns and an orchestra, that captured the perfect sound for these songs.
On all accounts, this is a powerful testament, and highly influential. Mayfield was always writing about positivity and empowerment, and through the bleakness there is hope. Musicians should still study this album for the impact that melody and arrangement can have in creating a mood and feel, while still enjoying the funk.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: Many executives didn’t think this was going to be a hit. Oh, how wrong they were.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. A version with working demos and studio outtakes exist. Intriguing to hear the process of the record.
GRADE: A+: A perfect soundtrack for the times, and the movie.