Super Fly (soundtrack)

Super Fly is the third studio album by American soul musician Curtis Mayfield, released on July 11, 1972 on Curtom Records. It was released as the soundtrack for the Blaxploitation film of the same name. Widely considered a classic of 1970s soul and funk music, Super Fly was a nearly immediate hit. Its sales were bolstered by two million-selling singles, "Freddie's Dead" (number 2 R&B charts, number 4 Pop charts) and the title track (number 5 R&B, number 8 Pop). Super Fly is one of the few soundtracks to out-gross the film it accompanied.[15]

Super Fly
Soundtrack album / studio album by
ReleasedJuly 11, 1972
RecordedDecember 1971 – May 1972
Genre Cinematic soul[4]
ProducerCurtis Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield chronology
Super Fly
Back to the World
Alternative cover
Deluxe 25th anniversary edition cover
Singles from Super Fly
  1. "Freddie's Dead"
    Released: July 1972
  2. "Superfly"
    Released: October 1972
Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideA−[7]
Los Angeles Times[8]
Rolling Stone(favorable) 1972[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2004[12]

Super Fly, along with Marvin Gaye's What's Going On (1971), was one of the pioneering soul concept albums, with its then-unique socially aware lyrics about poverty and drug abuse making the album stand out.[16][17] The film and the soundtrack may be perceived as dissonant, since the film holds rather ambiguous views on drug dealers, whereas Curtis Mayfield's position is far more critical. Like What's Going On, the album was a surprise hit that record executives felt had little chance at significant sales. Due to its success, Mayfield was tapped for several film soundtracks over the course of the decade.

Background edit

Mayfield had previously contributed two songs to Krakatoa, East of Java; the film was a critical and commercial failure, but marked his first foray into soundtrack work. His contribution began when Super Fly director Gordon Parks Jr. asked Mayfield and his backing band to cameo as a nightclub act in the background of a scene. Parks wanted a full song to play in the scene, which led to the beginning of soundtrack sessions.[18]

Production edit

The recording session for the song "Pusherman" took place at Bell Sound Studios in New York, and was followed by a several months-long hiatus (during which Mayfield wrote The Times Have Changed for his former group The Impressions and formulated his next solo effort, Back to the World). The instrumentals for the remaining songs were produced in a three-day session at Curtom Studios, which involved an in-studio band of as many as 40 performers. Guitarist Craig McMullen states, “The advantage of it is, if you have a full orchestra, when you place your licks, you don’t have to worry about your licks bumping. You can hear everything that’s going to go down.” The album was primarily written by Mayfield from a basement apartment in Chicago while undergoing a trial separation from his wife and children.[18]

Release edit

Super Fly was originally released in 1972 on Curtom Records in both LP and eight-track formats.[19] It also featured distribution in countries outside of the United States, including Italy, Germany, France, Canada, and the United Kingdom.[19] On November 11, 1997, Rhino Records released a 25th Anniversary collection of the album with a bonus disc of demo versions of songs, radio spots, and interviews.[20] In 1999, Rhino Records reissued the album with two bonus tracks.[21] On December 11, 2001, the British record label Charly Records re-released the album with several bonus tracks.[22]

Reception, sales and legacy edit

Music critics lauded Super Fly.[16] The album was RIAA certified Gold within three months of release.[23] Rolling Stone's Bob Donat was favorable of Mayfield's anti-drug and self-liberation themes, and called Super Fly "not only a superior, imaginative soundtrack, but fine funky music as well and the best of Curtis Mayfield's four albums made since he left the Impressions".[11] Rock critic Robert Christgau of The Village Voice gave the album an A− and lauded Mayfield's songwriting. Christgau also wrote that "these songs speak for (and to) the ghetto's victims rather than its achievers (cf. 'The Other Side of Town', on Curtis), transmitting bleak lyrics through uncompromisingly vivacious music. Message: both candor and rhythm are essential to our survival".[7] Robin Katz of Disc praised the album stating to not mistake the album as a "big bad blaring instrumental LP. This is Curtis Mayfield combining a fine musical message with gentle vocals but powerful lyrics." and that the "nine tracks on the album and what never fails to amaze me is how Mayfield balances his instrumental work and lyrics without overdoing either. It is a touchy situation, but Mayfield handles it brilliantly."[24]The album itself as well as songs "Freddie's Dead" and "Junkie Chase" received nominations at the 15th Annual Grammy Awards.[25]

In a 2004 review of the album, Rolling Stone gave Super Fly five out of five stars and cited it as Mayfield's "creative breakthrough".[12] John Bush of AllMusic praised the album's lyrical substance and sound, calling it a "melange of deep, dark grooves, trademarked wah-wah guitar, and stinging brass".[5] On its significance, Bush concluded by stating:

Super Fly ignited an entire genre of music, the blaxploitation soundtrack, and influenced everyone from soul singers to television-music composers for decades to come. It stands alongside Saturday Night Fever and Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols as one of the most vivid touchstones of '70s pop music.[5]

— John Bush

In a positive retrospective review for Pitchfork, writer Mychal Smith notes the political relevance of Super Fly's messages to early 70's U.S. politics, in particular the issues facing the black population:[26]

As Mayfield’s third studio album as a solo artist, Super Fly perfectly encapsulates the post-Civil Rights/early Black Power feel of black America struggling to survive the social and political consequences of the nation’s conservative backlash. [...] Black America faced an uncertain world in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the election of President Richard Nixon. Politicians were promising to restore “law and order” after years of urban rebellions frightened white folks who had long fled to the suburbs. Steady divestment from black communities, along with increasing levels of violent policing, right at the moment where black people were supposedly free to enjoy the rights of American citizenship, put black neighborhoods at economic depression levels. The drug trade offered the best sense of escape. No one, as Mayfield pointed out, was exempt from the temptation. He had intimate knowledge of this world. Mayfield was a son of Chicago, having been raised in the notorious Cabrini-Green housing projects. The lyrics were as much his personal reflection on ghetto life as they were based on the characters of the film.

— Mychal Smith, "Curtis Mayfield: Super Fly Album Review"

In the Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (2002), writer Colin Larkin gave the album a five-star rating.[27] In 2003, VH1 named Super Fly the 63rd greatest album of all time.[28] The title track [...] was selected by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll".[29] In 2003, the album was ranked number 69 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[30] 72 in a 2012 revised list,[31] and 76 in a 2020 revised list.[32] The album is ranked number 986 in All-Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd edition, 2000).[33] In 2019, the album was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[34]

Super Fly was a formative work in the development of the hip hop and rap genres, and has been cited as an influence and sampled by the likes of Beastie Boys, The Notorious B.I.G., Erykah Badu, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Chance the Rapper, and Beyoncé.[18] The singer Bilal names it among his 25 favorite albums, explaining that, "I just think that's one of the best movie soundtrack albums ever. Just the way he described the whole movie, you don't even really have to see the movie, just listen to the soundtrack and you already know the whole movie. It's just killer the way he did that."[35] Mychal Smith notes the impact Super Fly had on the genre of blaxploitation soundtracks in particular, noting Mayfield had "inspired imitations [...] such as Bobby Womack’s "Across 110th Street", James Brown’s Black Caesar, and Willie Hutch’s The Mack."[26]

Track listing edit

Original LP edit

All songs were written and composed by Curtis Mayfield.[36]

Side one
1."Little Child Runnin' Wild"5:23
3."Freddie's Dead"5:27
4."Junkie Chase" (instrumental)1:36
Side two
5."Give Me Your Love (Love Song)"4:20
6."Eddie You Should Know Better"2:16
7."No Thing on Me (Cocaine Song)"4:53
8."Think" (instrumental)3:43

Reissues edit

1997 Rhino Deluxe 25th Anniversary Collection (Disc one) / 1999 Rhino reissue
10."Freddie's Dead (Theme from Superfly)" (single mix)3:20
11."Superfly" (single mix)3:08
1997 Rhino Deluxe 25th Anniversary Collection (Disc two)
1."Ghetto Child" (demo version of "Little Child Runnin' Wild")3:18
2."Pusherman" (alternate mix)6:10
3."Freddie's Dead" (instrumental version)4:48
4."Junkie Chase (Instrumental)" (full-length version)4:18
5."No Thing on Me (Cocaine Song)" (instrumental version)4:36
6."Militant March"0:54
7."Eddie You Should Know Better" (instrumental version)2:17
8."Radio Spot #1"0:28
9."The Underground" (demo)3:13
10."Check Out Your Mind" (instrumental version)4:06
11."Radio Spot #2"0:28
12."Curtis Mayfield interview on Superfly film and songwriting"7:02

Personnel edit

Charts edit

Certifications edit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[39] Gold 1,500,000[38]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ "10 Essential Psychedelic Soul Albums". 16 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Super Fly | Pitchfork". Pitchfork.
  3. ^ Himes, Geoffrey (May 16, 1990). "Records". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c Bush, John. Review: Super Fly. AllMusic. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
  6. ^ Columnist. "Review: Super Fly". Billboard: July 1972.
  7. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: M". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 7, 2019 – via
  8. ^ Hilburn, Robert. Review: Super Fly. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-08-05. The 1997 reissue of Super Fly was rated three out of four stars by critic Robert Hilburn. However, Hilburn concludes the review by explaining that the original would have been rated four stars, barring the additions of the reissue, stating "Yet there isn't enough additional material to justify, for most listeners, a second disc, causing what would be a four-star single-disc package to be docked a star".
  9. ^ Smith, Mychal. Review: Super Fly. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2018-11-28.
  10. ^ Columnist. "Review: Super Fly Archived 2009-12-01 at the Wayback Machine". Q: 128. September 1994.
  11. ^ a b Donat, Bob. Review: Super Fly[dead link]. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
  12. ^ a b Hoard, Christian. "Review: Super Fly". Rolling Stone: 523–524. November 2, 2004.
  13. ^ Butler, Nick. Staff Rating: Super Fly. Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
  14. ^ Staff. "100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century: Super Fly". Vibe: 164. December 1999.
  15. ^ "'Men In Black' To 'Footloose': The Most Memorable Soundtrack Songs That Name-Check Their Movies". MTV. 27 June 2008. Archived from the original on 26 Dec 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2023.
  16. ^ a b Boraman, Greg. Review: Super Fly. BBC Music. Retrieved 2014-05-08.
  17. ^ Heller, Jason. Review: Super Fly Archived 2008-07-06 at the Wayback Machine. The Yale Herald. Retrieved 2014-05-08.
  18. ^ a b c Atria, Travis (2022-07-11). "Curtis Mayfield's 'Super Fly' Soundtrack: 10 Things You Didn't Know". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2023-06-21.
  19. ^ a b Super Fly (Album, EP). Discogs. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
  20. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Superfly [Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition] album review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  21. ^ Bush, John. "Superfly [Rhino] album review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  22. ^ Bush, John. "Superfly [Charly] album review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  23. ^ "Gold & Platinum". RIAA. Retrieved 2023-06-21.
  24. ^ Katz 1972.
  25. ^ "15th Annual Grammy Awards". 2023-06-21. Retrieved 2023-06-21.
  26. ^ a b Smith, Mychal. "Curtis Mayfield: Super Fly". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2023-06-22.
  27. ^ Larkin, Colin. "Review: Super Fly". Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music: March 1, 2002.
  28. ^ "2001 VH1 Cable Music Channel All Time Album Top 100". VH1. Archived from the original on 2009-02-04. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  29. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2007-10-14. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  30. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on March 16, 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  31. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
  32. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2020-09-22. Retrieved 2021-10-09.
  33. ^ "Rocklist". Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  34. ^ Andrews, Travis M. (March 20, 2019). "Jay-Z, a speech by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and 'Schoolhouse Rock!' among recordings deemed classics by Library of Congress". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  35. ^ Simmons, Ted (February 26, 2013). "Bilal's 25 Favorite Albums". Complex. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  36. ^ Super Fly (Vinyl opening flap). Curtis Mayfield. Chicago, IL, United States: Curtom. 1972. CRS 8014-ST.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  37. ^ Michael A. Gonzalez, "Waxpoetics #38", page 89
  38. ^ Kirsch, Bob (March 17, 1973). "Label Formulate All-Out Soul Push". Billboard. p. 54. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved January 30, 2024 – via Google Books.
  39. ^ "American album certifications – Curtis Mayfield – Super Fly". Recording Industry Association of America.

References edit

External links edit