Isaac Hayes — Shaft, Hot Buttered Soul, Black Moses — Triple Release!

by | Feb 21, 2018 | Jazz CD Reviews, Special Features

Audiophile Audition is proud to present a three-fold re-release of music by Isaac Hayes…

Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul – Enterprise/Stax ENS 1001 (1969)/Craft/Concord Music Group CR00034 (2018) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 45:24 *****:

Soul and popular music are re-imagined by Stax veteran on terrific Craft records update.

(Isaac Hayes – vocals, keyboards; Marvell Thomas – keyboards; The Bar-kays/Willie Hall – drums; James Alexander – bass; Michael Toles – guitar)

Isaac Hayes began his illustrious career as a songwriter and producer for Stax records in the 1960’s He co-wrote (with David Porter) influential hits like “Soul Man”, “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” and “Hold On, I’m Coming”. After the death of Otis Redding (Stax’s #1 star), the label need a significant lift. This came in the release of the ground-breaking album, Hot Buttered Soul by Isaac Hayes in 1969. Soul music was dominated by Motown and the precise, dance-friendly 3 minute single. The success of the label was indisputable, but the timing for something more transformative was imminent. Hayes reinvented soul music (and on a larger scale popular music) with this epic release. There are only four songs on this album and the elongated arrangements (with The Bar-Kays as the rhythm section) are mind-blowing (a Sixties reference). “Walk On By” (by Burt Bacharach and Hal David) was the essence of 60’s pop. Reimagined by Hayes, the opus begins with gospel singers and a complicated, dramatic violin, anchored by a relentless groove. A distorted studio effect-laden guitar reminds the listener of the tine period. Finally that deep baritone  washes over the mix, transcending the pop lyrics. Some flute and reed shadings on the second verse and horns after the second chorus are potent and enhance the musical imagery. Around the 10:00 mark, Hayes comes in on organ and with the return of the guitar starts a song-ending jam.

The sole original composition, “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic”, also employs a steady, hyper groove. There is a blues chord progression that is washed over by psychedelic, wah-wah, a long piano solo, thick bass and abstract lyrics (references to cerebellum and abdullah oblongata). The title is only voiced by the backup singers. But it’s the eternal pulse (accentuated by some Hayes grunting) that steals the show. Side two opens with a more traditionally constructed number, “One Women”. Clocking in at a “brisk” 5:00, what appears to be a precursor to the Philly sound has nuanced tempo, orchestral arrangement and a soulful, rousing chorus. Hayes’ soulful crooning glows with romantic sentiment. It’s hard to contemplate an Isaac Hayes treatment of the Jimmy Webb classic, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”. But he imbues the dynamics of Hot Buttered Soul into this. He starts with a  spoken-word personalized sermon about the “power of love” set against a steady cadence, with low-end bass, drum conga and organ. It is soul poetry. Eventually (it takes awhile), Hayes breaks into the song’s actual lyrics. The groove runs uninterrupted approximating an organic loop. Like great compositions, the chords are compelling. Hayes exudes his own deep emotion into the interpretation and violins and flute counterpoints are striking. It feels like the song is drawing to a close, but it revives like a slowed-version of James Brown. Nobody wants this too end, and when it does it leaves the listener numb.

Hot Buttered Soul is amazing! Dave Cooley’s re-mastering of the original analog tapes to 180-gram vinyl is stellar. The stereo separates is flawless, and the manipulation of the volume levels is creative. The overall merged sound is vibrant and sweeping. Even the cover photo of Hayes’ shaved head beaks any previous mold.    


Side One: Walk On By; Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic

Side Two: One Woman; By The Time I Get to Phoenix

Isaac Hayes – Shaft – Enterprise/Stax/MGM Records ENS-5002 (1971)/Craft/Concord Music Group CR00036 (2018) 180-gram stereo double vinyl 69:29 *****: 

Soul music redefines the film soundtrack!

(Isaac Hayes – vocals; Lester Snell – electric piano; James Alexander – bass; Willie Hall – drums; Michael Toles – guitars Gary Jones – conga, bongo; John Fonville – flute; Richard “Johnny Davis; Pat Lewis – backing vocals; Rose Williams – backing vocals; Telma Hopkins – backing vocals)

Before there was Black Panther, there was Shaft. The action movie became an iconic moment in black culture. Directed by Gordon Parks and starring Richard Roundtree, John Shaft became an ultimate tough guy, and Isaac Hayes, an emerging r & b superstar, enhanced the success of the film with a soundtrack that included a #1 single and album. He was the first soul artist to release a double album. Craft records has re-mastered the Shaft soundtrack to audiophile vinyl. And this album is terrific. It is noteworthy that the title track and scores were both nominated for Oscars.

Of course there is the Oscar-winning “Theme From Shaft”. With the opening hi-hat Willie Hall riff, strings, flutes, horns and scratchy effect-laden guitar, the visceral world of soul’s private detective superstar is created. Hayes intones with his deep-voided silky “rap” on lines like “…Who’s the cat that won’t cop out?, when they’re danger all about” The backup singers respond “Shaft!”. And that is now a piece of musical history. Most of the Shaft soundtrack consists of instrumentals. Hayes compositional acumen makes these numbers sound like fully-realized songs.There is a variety of structures, including organ soul balladry (“Bumpy’s Lament”), sophisticated urban jazz (Cafe Regio’s”), cinematic atmospherics (“Walk From Regio’s, “Ellie’s Love Theme”), high-energy gospel (“No Name Bar”) and mood contexts (“Bumpy’s Blues”). All of the songs have palpable, underlying rhythms and punctuated instrumentation. There is a second “single-like” track with vocals titled “Soulsville” which has the spiritual gravitas of  Aretha Franklin. The horn and string arrangements (by Hayes and Johnny Allen) are gracefully compelling. of course, there is an exquisite never-ending jam (“Do Your Thing”) with a chant and serious wah-wah pedal.

Again, Dave Cooley’s re-mastering is top-notch! The overall layered sound has an even mix and crisp tonality.


Side One: Theme From Shaft; Bumpy’s Lament; Walk From Regio’s; Ellie’s Love Theme; Shaft’s Cab Ride

Side Two: Cafe Regio’s; Early Sunday Morning; Be Yourself; A Friend’s Place

Side Three: Soulsville; No Name Bar; Bumpy’s Blues; Shaft Strikes Again

Side Four: Do Your Thing; The End Theme

Isaac Hayes – Black Moses – Enterprise/Stax (1971)/Craft/Concord Music Group CR00035 (2018) 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 93:38 ****1/2:

Isaac Hayes persona and music are captured by masterful vinyl re-release.

(Isaac Hayes – vocals, piano, vibraphone, organ, electric piano; Ronnie Hudson – bass; Gary Jones – bongos, conga; Willie Hall – drums, tambourine; Charles Pitts – guitars Lester Snell – electric piano; Sidney Kirk – piano)

How does an artist who achieved unprecedented success with an Oscar and Grammy-winning album follow this with any resonance? If you’re Isaac Hayes you do what you’ve been doing, develop your sound further. Black Moses was another influential Hayes project that built on his legacy to reinvent popular and soul music to a layered, orchestrated statement. This double vinyl is both accessible and daring. Opening Side One is a slowed-down groove-filled cover of the Jackson 5 mega-hit, “Never Can Say Goodbye” The relaxed, but soulful arrangement makes full use of textured instrumentals (flutes, vibraphone, organ) and tight back up vocals. Hayes’ vocal command is excellent. In the first of two Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs, Hayes and company put together a 9 minute version of The Carpenter’s “Close To You”. Somehow the emotional flatness of this pop ditty now has slinky, r & b energy. Rather than distilling everything down to a chewable dose, the musicians keep expanding with strings flourishes and constant repeat vocal phrasing.

Hayes gives a nod to an obscure soul artist Toussaint McCall on “Nothing Takes The Place Of You” with a velvety tender rendition and just the right amount of gospel emphasis. And in an inspired choice, Curtis Mayfield’s romantic lament, “Man’s Temptation” utilizes a slow-burning intensity, with the trademark sprawling arrangement. Switching to jauntier feel, “Never Gonna Give You Up’ draws on the classic Motown-like dynamics but turns it into a low-keyed funk outing. Hayes’ vocals (with a nice falsetto) stay within the arrangement, and all of the glowing orchestral moves enhance the addictive jam. Hayes has three “testimonial” raps (all numbered “Ike’s Raps”). “Need To Belong to Someone” is Memphis-grandiose, but has a significant urgency. In a playful, almost spontaneous banter, the lone original “Good Love” is “dancin’ fun”, with a beat that just won’t quit. Hayes has a sense of humor as well.

Side Three is notable for two pieces. Hayes covers Kris Kristofferson’ wistful lament, “For The Good Times”. This was the signature of Ray Price and a country standard. Hayes re-purposes it to fit the soulful balladry with agility and sentiment. The instincts to pick material helps. Another unlikely Bacharach/David opus, “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” has a perfect symmetry with the memorable chord shifts and Hayes” vocal prowess to articulate them (but at a slower tempo). Side Four commences with an all-out groove party showcased by nasty guitar licks on “Part-Time Lover”. Piano, organ inject graceful jazz inflections against the grittiness. “Going In Circles”is a glorious end to Black Moses. The 1969 Friends Of Distinction soup pop classic is re-formed into a bluesy, achingly stretched out bit of personal agony with all of the musical facets shining.

Craft Records as in Shaft and Hot Buttered Soul makes Black Moses come alive! and the     album packaging is replicated from the original which includes fold down and fold out full-sized poster of Hayes in sunglasses and multi-colored robe.            


Side One: Never Can Say Goodbye; (They Long To Be) Close To You; Nothing Takes The Place Of You; Man’s Temptation

Side Two: Never Gonna Give You Up; Medley: Ike’s Rap II/Help Me Love; Need To Belong To Someone; Good Love

Side Three: Medley: Ike’s Rap III/Your Love Is So Doggone Good; For The Good Times; I’ll Never Fall In Love Again

Side Four: Part-Time Love; Medley: Ike’s Rap IV/A Brand New Me; Going In Circles

—Robbie Gerson

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