986 - Curtis Mayfield 'Superfly' (1972)

My Rating: 3.89 out of 5
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die:
Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums: X
The Mojo Collection: X

Chart Peak (UK/US): 26/1

Favourite Tracks: Freddie's Dead, Pusherman
Least-Favourite Tracks: No Thing On Me

What's this doing propping up the tail end of the Top 1000? Surely one of the definitions of a good album is whether you can play it from start to finish without encountering one duff track & that's exactly what we have here.

This is seventies funk at its most supercool - driving rhythms & groovy basslines coupled with lush strings & slick brass. If this music hadn't been written for a movie in the first place, you can be sure that Tarantino would have grabbed it by now. But what elevates this beyond being just another solid funk record are Mayfield's incisive lyrics & stunning vocals; his singing is straightforward and yet so soulful. And I mean soulful in the sense that he is genuinely emotive & stirring - there are none of the vocal acrobatics & showboating that seem to define 'soulfulness' to a whole generation of X-factor-Mariah Carey-wannabees.

It does share many similarities with Isaac Hayes' Shaft soundtrack (which incidentally did come out a year before this) though what sets it apart for me are the brooding, streetwise & influential lyrics on songs like Pusherman ('I'm your momma, I'm your daddy / I'm that nigga in the alley / I'm your doctor, when in need / want some coke, have some weed').

It may have been penned as a movie soundtrack but this record works supremely well as an album in its own right. It's no surprise then that according to Wikipedia Superfly is also one of the only films ever to have been outgrossed by its soundtrack. Let's face it, if you don't like this one, you're as dead as Freddie.


Matt said...

You're so right about the modern idea of soulful vocals (a la X Factor). Or as the wannabes would probably write today, your so right.

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