Monday, November 23, 2009

Critics on Super Fly soundtrack

The Rolling Stone Greatest 500 Albums of All Time

Superfly, # 69

In the blaxploitation-soundtrack derby, Isaac Hayes' Shaft came first -- but that record had one great single and a lot of instrumental filler. Mayfield's soundtrack to Superfly is an astonishing album, marrying lush string parts to funky bass grooves and lots of wah-wah guitar. On top is Mayfield's knowing falsetto. Tracks such as "Pusherman" and "Freddie's Dead" are almost unremittingly bleak, commenting on the movie's glamorization of the drug-trade action and forecasting its inevitable results.

Nelson George, author of The Death of Rhythm and Blues

"I think Superfly is better than What's Going On. I think it’s the best album of an amazing era in black music."

Elvis Mitchell, Esquire

Pauline Kael wrote that The Godfather Part II was the first movie to say no in thunder. She could've said the same thing about Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly soundtrack. A seductive and rhythmic counterpoint to the picture's message about ripping off the Man -- and what blaxploitation picture isn't down with such a sentiment? -- Mayfield's score rebels against the movie's insidious mythologizing of a predatory drug dealer named Priest. Mayfield led his band through a rough and bluesy rendition of the title song and seemed to understand the unspoken dynamic of the movies of the era: This might be the only chance African-Americans got to redress decades of second-class imagery on the big screen and speak to the issues of the day.

Robert Christgau, The Village Voice

I'm no respecter of soundtracks, but I can count--this offers seven new songs (as many as his previous LP) plus two self-sustaining instrumentals. It's not epochal, but it comes close--maybe Mayfield writes tougher when the subject is imposed from outside than when he's free to work out of his own spacious head. Like the standard-setting "Freddie's Dead," 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. A-

Entertainment Weekly voted Superfly #6 in their 100 Best Soundtracks

A textbook case of a soundtrack that artistically dwarfs the film that spawned it, Curtis Mayfield's opus is a testament to the powers of a musician at the top of his game. Mayfield's music imbued the blaxploitation quickie with a moral pulse, taking aim at the scourge of drugs in the inner city. It was one of Mayfield's gifts that his songs could sound joyful and heartbroken at the same time, suggesting the complexities of the human experience. "Pusherman," "Freddie's Dead," the title track--Mayfield's lyrical high-mindedness would have meant naught if the music weren't as addictive as a drug itself.

Ryan Schreiber, Pitchfork (rated 9.8)

It's only when you listen to Curtis Mayfield's 1972 soundtrack to Superfly that you can truly get past the film's dated cinematography and bad acting. As most folks with clues realize, Superfly is one of the most influential R&B recordings of the 1970s (the majority of Seattle Grunge Rockers cite this album as an inspiration), and while some of the slang terms are less effective adjectives than flashbacks to yesteryear, they're true to their time. (Admit it; you've never been able to say 'junkie' with a straight face.)

Mayfield's Superfly was probably the most important record for shaping the future of black music. This is one of the first releases to include to the trademark blaxploitation smooth-funk sound. Right from the record's opening of bongos, Hammond organ and hi-hats giving way to a distant, wailing electric guitar, bass drum, and strings and horn sections, it's obvious that this is the production that led to similar work by Issac Hayes and even James Brown. Four years ago, I found Isaac Hayes' Shaft on vinyl for a buck in a thrift store and it became the ultimate "sex music" of my late-teen life. It's got nothin' on Superfly.


Friday, November 20, 2009

The Flavor of Chocolat

Psycho chamber press2_600x380 Musician and singer Tamar-kali curates a night of bawdy, sexy, cabaret-inspired entertainment called “Cabaret Chocolat” on Saturday, November 21, 2009. With mentalist/ illusionist Marco the Magician as the emcee, the night will also feature a pre-show performance by accordionist/organist Mojo Lazarus, burlesque by The Maine Attraction, and dance performance artist Monstah Black.

Blackadelic Pop spoke with Tamar to get the nitty gritty flavor of Cabaret Chocolat: "I noticed in the last couple of years, there has been an interest and curiosity in early 20th Century entertainment. Whether its swing music or vaudeville, these events are often going on in the city. Yet, rarely are people of color involved. I wanted to do an event that bought together various kinds of performance beyond what I usually do. Like the Harlem Renaissance or Andy Warhol's Factory, I'm striving to do something special where various types of artists can meet, mingle and have fun. Folks are so much on their grind these days, we often forget what its like to be part of an artistic community. With Cabaret Chocloat, hopefully we can create an event that will not only be a great show, but will also get artists of different genres to meet and dialogue with one another. Believe me, this event will be both a spectacle and a scene."

Event info:

Saturday, November 21, 2009 -- $15 -- Harlem Stage Gatehouse

The Gatehouse is fully accessible for patrons with mobility challenges. Entrance to the building is located on Convent Ave. via ramp located on West 135th Street. One lift is located in the tower that can transport patrons to theater level. Seating is available for wheelchair bound patrons.

Tamar-kali’s CABARET CHOCOLAT: An Autumn Night’s Soiree

6 pm – pre-performance dialogue with Tamar-kali, Kandia Crazy Horse and Daphne Brooks.
7:30 pm – performance

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Superfly Samples

Darkest of night, with the moon shining bright/There’s a set goin’ strong, lotta things goin’ on/The man of the hour has an air of great power/The dudes have envied him for so long/Ooooh, Superfly

Curtis Mayfield, Superfly (1972)

Samples and Covers/List from The

Superfly: (Curtom 1972)

* “Pusherman”
Cam'Ron ft Brotha’s “D Rugs”
Cookie Crew’s “Come on and Get Some”
Eminem’s “I'm Shady”
Ice T’s “I'm Your Pusher”
Zhigge’s “Zhigge Man”

* “Freddie's Dead”
Audio Two’s “Many Styles”
Brand Nubian’s “Gang Bang”
Donell Jones’s “When I Was Down”
Dru Down’s “The Game”
Fishbone’s “Freddie's Dead” (cover)
GangStarr’s “Gusto”
Hammer’s “That's What He Said”
Master P’s “Kenny's Dead”
May May’s “Ya Head is Dead”
Poison Clan’s “Low Life Mothers”
Poison Clan’s “Paper Chase”
Racionais MCs’s “Mano Na Porta Do Bar”
Robbie C’s “Death Lives In The Rock”
TMT’s “Fugitives on the Run”
UGK’s “Cocaine in the Back of the Ride”

* “Give Me Your Love”
Eminem’s “Open Mic”
Aaliyah’s “It's Whatever”
Big Daddy Kane’s “Get Bizzy”
Digable Planets’s “Nickel Bags”
EPMD’s “Can't Hear Nothing but the Music”
Inspectah Deck’s “Trouble Man”
Mary J. Blige’s “I'm the Only Woman”
Pete Rock - CL Smooth’s “Shine On Me”
Queen Latifah’s “Give Me Your Love”
Snoop Dogg’s “Bathtub”
* “Eddie, You Should Know Better”
Busta Rhymes ft Rah Digga’s “Betta Stay up in Your House”
Snoop Dogg’s “G'z Up, Hoes Down”

* “Superfly

The Blow Monkeys (cover)
Beastie Boys’s “Egg Man”
Cookie Crew’s “Come on and Get Some”
Curtis Mayfield ft Ice T’s “Superfly 1990”
Divine Styler’s “Divinity Stylistics”
Geto Boys’s “Do it Like a G.O.”
Mistress & DJ Madame E’s “Hypergroove”
Notorious BIG’s “Ready to Die Intro”

* “Little Child Runnin' Wild”
Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wax Poetics Issue 38



It’s been a long time coming. In fact, for the past eight years and thirty-seven issues, we’ve wanted to do a Curtis Mayfield cover. It finally worked out for our unofficial Film/Hustler Issue, in which we take a look at Mayfield’s epic soundtrack recording Super Fly. New York writer Michael A. Gonzales pulls from his own 1996 Curtis Mayfield interview as well as tapping Curtis associates, guitarists Craig McMullen and Phil Upchurch and composer/arranger Johnny Pate, to tell the story of the finest blaxploitation score of the 1970s.

Once again, we’ve created a split cover–with Curtis on front both times and the back shared by two classic films: Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (Radio Raheem in full effect) and Ralph Bakshi’s Coonskin (a Wax Poetics favorite). Besides speaking with both of these groundbreaking filmmakers, we also take a look at the new film Black Dynamite (Wax Poetics Records released the score and soundtrack), and music supervisor David Hollander reveals the fundamental facts of once-mysterious library music.

Last but not least, we finally unveil the Robert Beck aka Iceberg Slim story by longtime contributer Mark McCord (aka Mark Skillz). As the greatest hustler of all time, Beck finally gets his due.

Purchase at: Wax Poetics Storefront

Featured Articles:
  • Curtis Mayfield
    “I don’t see why people are complaining about the subject of these films,” Curtis told Jet magazine in October 1972 in a statement that foreshadows the words of modern-day rappers. “The way you clean up the films is by cleaning up the streets. The music and movies of today are the conditions that exist.”
  • Spike Lee
    What gets me mad about Bamboozled is that the New York Times refused to run the ad with Tommy Davidson and Savion Glover in blackface. The whole thing about the film was to show that there is a history behind this imagery.
  • Ralph Bakshi
    When I was doing Mighty Mouse and The Mighty Heroes, I didn’t like what I was doing. That wasn’t the raw edge of life I grew up with. Bob Dylan was singing, the freedom marches were happening, Miles Davis was blowin’, and the stuff Coltrane was doing was brand new. So doing this stupid, old bullshit wasn’t good enough.
Also Includes:
  • Re:Discovery Melvin Van Peebles, Manfred Krug, Marvin Gaye, Judgment Night OST, John Carpenter
  • Roc Raida The Grand Master
  • Shadows and Phonographs This sinister role of the turntable in Hollywood classics
  • Brotherman Blaxploitation soundtrack for a film that wasn't meant to be
  • Adrian Younge Black Dynamite composer refuses to cut corners with his authentic old soul
  • Gangs On Film The South Bronx of 1979 documented in 80 Blocks from Tiffany's
  • Night Life Photographer Michael Abramson captured the magic of 1970s South Side Chicago
  • The Rhythm of Film DJ/producer David Holmes approaches soundtrack composition with a less-is-more philosophy
  • Mood Music European libraries created soulful instrumentals for '70s film and television
  • The Next Hustle Ex-pimp Robert Beck transformed into writer Iceberg Slim, introducing a new genre for literature, film and music
  • Comic Truth Animation and indie film pioneer Ralph Bakshi drew attention to race and culture
  • Gangster Boogie Curtis Mayfield injected his own cultural commentary into the Super Fly legacy
  • The Provocateur Director Spike Lee continues to tell personal stories by any means necessary
  • Playing It Straight Black Dynamite director Scott Sanders crafts high-caliber blaxploitation homage
  • Analog Out Cybernetics, Louis and Bebe Barron, and the sonic life-forms of Forbidden Planet

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

His Name is Craig McMullen would think that a person who has their name misspelled as many times as I have would be more sensitive to getting other folk's name right. However, when it comes to my new pal and unsung guitarist Craig McMullen, who played with Curtis Mayfield from 1970-1973, I keep mistakenly writing his surname as McCullen. What kind of writer would I be if I didn't have an excuse. You see, ax-man extraordinaire McMullen and drummer Tyrone McCullen (Black men with Irish surnames) both played on my one of my favorite soundtracks Superfly. Yet, if you look at the under the Wikipedia entry, both of their surnames are listed as McCullen.

Of course, every journalist on the planet knows that
Wikipedia is often wrong, but for some reason I keep getting surname dyslexia when it comes time to type out McMullen's name. "I feel like I have some kind of mental block," I told him yesterday after sending out a press release about my upcoming Wax Poetics article Gangster Boogie about the making of the Superfly soundtrack and I had messed up again. "But, don't worry, I promise I won't do it again." Good naturedly, Craig simply laughed. to Mayfield by Rufus drummer Andre Fisher in 1970, McMullen was invited to audition for the windy city soul man. "I owned all his records, so I already knew the material," recalls McMullen. "Although Mayfield was still singing with the Impressions at the time, he was on the verge of going solo and McMullen was more than ready take that journey with him.

Along with drummer Tyrone McCullen, percussionist Master Henry Gibson, bassist Joseph "Lucky" Scott, the five group members travelled the world and recorded Curtis/Live in New York City's the Bitter End in 1971. "Basically, Curtis was a nice guy," says McMullen, who studied at Berklee College of Music and began his career playing avant-garde jazz. "We had a few ups and downs, but what family members don't."

Between the live album and Superfly, the team recorded Roots (1971), which one writer described as, " a visionary album and landmark creation every bit as compelling and as far-reaching in its musical and extra-musical goals as Marvin Gaye's contemporary What's Going On." From his home in Ohio, McMullen explains, "We all played on that album; Tyrone McCullen played drums on a few tracks too.

"Curtis was a great guitar player, so us playing together I always had to figure out ways of doing something different. When you're a session musician, it's expected that of you to play in more than one position so you don't bump heads with the other guitar players." In addition to the three year stint McMullen spent with Mayfield, where he perfected using wah-wah and fuzz in his work, he also played with The Supremes (Mary Wilson-Cindy Birdsong, Sherrie Payne), Aretha Franklin, The Sylvers, Bill Withers and Donna Summer.

"Being a studio musician, you got to think fast, because time is money. You have formulate your ideas quickly, because those who operate the quickest under pressure are considered the highlight studio players. If you want to be one, you got to act like one. Still, I played with Curtis the longest. His big saying was, 'I want you to do your thing.' And, I always tried to do my thing."

Playing old soul detective back in September, I tracked McMullen down when I started writing Gangster Boogie and he was the very first interview that I conducted. In addition to being a dope guitar player, McMullen is also a natural born storyteller whose Superfly memories of recording that masterful album in Chicago and New York were sharp as a tack.

While there is not much footage of McMullen playing live, he can be seen in the Superfly scene where Mayfield and company performed the provocative "Pusherman" as main characters Priest and Eddie chill out while waiting for their coke connect. "That was the only track that Tyrone McCullen played on and the only one we recorded in New York City." Thirty-seven years later, McMullen still thinks of the Superfly sessions as a special time. "I've played on a lot of albums, but Superfly was one of the best records I ever did. In fact, I think Superfly was one of the best records of all time."

For more of Craig McMullen's thoughts and observations on the making of the Superfly soundtrack, check out Gangster Boogie in Wax Poetics #38, on stands soon--Wax Poetics:

"Pusherman" Scene:

Mayfield & McMullen on guitar, Midnight Special:

Alex Bugnon - keys .. Craig McMullen -gtr.. Norman Brown - gtr .. @ Columbus Jazz & Rib Fest .. July 2009 .

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Art Crawl Through East Harlem

Artist Manny Vega in front of his mosaic of poet Julia de Burgos on on the northeast corner of Lexington Avenue and East 106th Street.

While New York can be a hard city to live in, there are small pleasures that that make it all worth while. Take for instance the lovely winter afternoon I spent yesterday in the presence of artist Manny Vega. Meeting for the first time at the East Harlem Cafe (153 East 104th Street), where his framed mosaics adorn the walls, Vega is one of coolest dudes I've met in a long time. Vega took me and my good friend Maggie on a mini-tour of the Spanish Harlem neighborhood where his stunning murals and mosaics can be seen in the 110 Street subway station, against the wall of a bodega and in various other public spaces throughout the community. "In the last few years the neighborhood has been rapidly changing," says the Bronx native. "I see my images as an anchor for the community."

Vega, whose work has been praised by noted Yale professor Robert F. Thompson, is just one of the artists who will be featured in this Saturday's exciting Art Crawl of East Harlem produced by Averlyn Archer, President & CEO, Canvas Paper and Stone Gallery and Jacqueline Orange, owner of Taste Harlem Food & Cultural Tours. In addition to visiting galleries, the tour will also feature public space art that can be seen throughout El Barrio. "You'd be surprised how many people live in the city and never see these beautiful works throughout their community," Orange says. "When people think of art in New York, the first thought is always SoHo or Chelsea. Hopefully with Art Crawl, we can change that perception."

The tour begins at 12:30 pm and ends at 4pm. The day concludes with a dinner reception at 6pm. Bus stops include:

El Museo Del Barrio, 1230 5th Avenue at East 104th Street

Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs

The re-opening exhibition, Nexus New York: Latin/American Artists in the Modern Metropolis, examines pioneering Caribbean and Latin American artists who lived in New York City before World War II and shaped the American avant-garde.

My Art LLC, 251 E. 110th Street

Cecilia Moreno-Yaghoubi, Owner/Director

Colombia-born artist Cecilia Moreno-Yaghoubi’s three-dimensional assemblages evoke

individual dialogues/associations, experiences and memories from each person who views her work. She paints not only what she has seen, but also what she has felt and sensed, transforming visual landscapes into emotional ones.

Poet’s Den Gallery, 309 E 108th Street

Raphael Benavides, Director

Michael Lindwasser’s photographs use a combination of extreme angles and long exposures to create a unique genre. The exposures imbue his photographs with the vibrant colors of the daytime even though they were shot in the middle of the night. Emphasizing geometry, his work brings the ordinary into the abstract.

PRdream/MediaNoche, 1355 Park Avenue

Judith Escalona, Director

Devoted to new media, MediaNoche presents BIBIANA’s CZECH REPUBLIC 1998 – 2008, perspectives from an immigrant child. Visitors to the gallery enter a Czech immigrant’s tenement apartment, complete with kitchen, dining room, studio, bathroom, and living room. Ten years of photographic work are displayed on the walls, on ropes hung by clothes pins, and in digital frames.

Taller Boricua / Puerto Rican Workshop, 1680 Lexington Avenue

Curators: Marcos Dimas and Christine Licata.

The exhibition Crossing Bridges/Cruzando Puentes is an exploration of Latin “transculturation” by the artist collective Generation Four (G4): Vicente Fabré, Luis Leonor, Moses Ros and Reynaldo Garcia Pantaleón. Together they delve into the process, challenges and social phenomena involved in immigration and the transition from one culture to another. Individually, each artist has a visual language all his own, exploring these influences through an eclectic range of mediums, including oil and acrylic painting, sculpture, installations and performance art. The name Generation Four (G4) represents the artists themselves who immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic at different stages of their lives - as adults, adolescents or born here as first-generation New Yorkers.

For further information, go to:

Manny Vega website:

Manny Vega in the New York Times:

photos by: Maggie Wrigley

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