Curtis Mayfield's border-transcending Super Fly is much more than a soundtrack to a cutting-edge blaxploitation film. Recorded in 1972 to coincide with Gordon Parks, Jr's movie about a dealer attempting to divorce himself from the urban underworld, Mayfield's brilliantly orchestrated set ignited an entire genre, expanded the scope of R&B, and spurred dialogues surrounding significant social issues ranging from the unvarnished consequences of hustling to the realities of African-American lives in America. Rightly deemed by Rolling Stone as "Marvin Gaye's What's Going On at a street level," Super Fly endures as an astonishing master stroke of boundary-crossing soul, lyrical smarts, and vital commentary.
Mayfield's creation stands as a fully realized track-by-track immersion into urban neighborhoods, mindsets, and lives that doubles as both boots-on-the-ground reportage and an emotionally loaded wake-up call. Primarily singing in a light falsetto that underscores the conflicting feelings of sympathy, anger, sadness, sensuality, toughness, desperation, and fear harbored by the protagonists, the Chicago native dispenses hard truths and critical perspectives without ever preaching or taking sides. The results pulse with the same vitality as they did decades ago, with Mayfield's narratives echoing with biographical and descriptive details rather than choosing a celebratory or exploitative route.
As skillful as Mayfield's words remain, the music blows them away. Super Fly works on multiple levels – a record whose deep grooves and avalanche of funk-derived riffs express basically everything that needs to be said. Each song inhabits its own geographical and personal landscape, their lasting appeal a testament to the album becoming one of the few soundtracks to out-gross its accompanying film. Shortly after release, Super Fly spent four weeks as at the top of the Billboard Pop charts and yielded a pair of two-million-selling singles, "Freddie's Dead" and the title track, both charged with the powerful imagery and tell-it-straight approach that define every moment of the record.
This 50th anniversary reissue from Run Out Groove finds the album expanded to a 180g vinyl 2LP-set with a second LP of bonus tracks. The original album lacquers were cut directly from the master analog tape source for the best possible sonic experience and the deluxe tip-on style packaging comes complete with never-before-seen photos, new liner notes, a fold out movie poster and an exclusive felt turn table mat.