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Reissue celebrates 'Superfly'

By Curtis Mayfield

Rhino Records: 1997

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This review first appeared in the December 13, 1997 edition of the American Reporter.

Curtis Mayfield's career was similar to that of the Beatles: He started off writing and singing simple pop songs that reached the top of the charts – "Gypsy Woman," "People Get Ready," "It's All Right" were all hits for Mayfield during his time with The Impressions – and then moved into more experimental material and songs with an overt social and political message.

His soundtrack for the 1972 blaxploitation film "Superfly" was one of the best concept albums of the 1960s and '70s, and a highlight of Mayfield's career. As well as providing the aural backdrop for the action on screen (this was a complete soundtrack Mayfield scored, not just a string of radio-friendly pop hits – but background music, character themes, and other ancillary music that makes up a real soundtrack), Mayfield also used many of the songs to point out the destructiveness of the drug culture then invading the black community – reiterating the point the movie was trying to make about the desperate reality behind the fake glamour of drugs.

Rhino Records has reissued Mayfield's original soundtrack (plus the single versions of "Freddie's Dead" and "Superfly"), and added a second disc of alternative versions, demos, outtakes and even an interview, along with an anti-drug radio promotion Mayfield recorded. The accompanying booklet has lyrics for each song, and Mayfield's own thoughts on the compositions for several.

It's a colorful, fun package that still gives sober treatment to a serious recording.