As a songwriter, producer, arranger, and session pianist, Isaac Hayes was a key architect in creating the sound of Memphis-based Stax Records. But few could have foreseen his dramatic ascendance to superstardom - a rise that began with his 1969 solo album Hot Buttered Soul. Now, that seminal record has returned to vinyl along with 1971's pair of Shaft and Black Moses from Craft Recordings. All three of these landmark LPs have been given the deluxe treatment in both packaging and sound.
Hayes' sophomore album, Hot Buttered Soul could be considered his true debut. 1968's Presenting Isaac Hayes was recorded in a jazz combo setting, with Hayes accompanying himself on piano alongside Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass and Al Jackson, Jr. on drums. While the artist's future efforts would take in a more "widescreen" sound, Presenting did introduce some of his hallmarks - such as recasting familiar songs in his own image and stretching material far beyond conventional limits. That album's "Precious, Precious" Was just three minutes long, edited down from over nineteen. (That version had to wait until the CD era to appear.) Nobody was editing Hayes on Hot Buttered Soul.
The LP, on which Hayes was backed by The Bar-Kays as well as tasteful orchestration, featured just four songs on two sides of vinyl: radical reinventions of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Walk on By" (12 minutes) and Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" (almost 19 minutes!) plus Sandra Rhodes and Charles Chalmers' "One Woman" (a concise 5 minutes) and Hayes' tongue-twisting "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic" (almost 10 minutes). Listeners hadn't heard anything like Hot Buttered Soul before, as it blended Hayes' lengthy raps with slow-burning, hypnotic (and soon to be oft-sampled) grooves, and cinematic ambition. His dramatic transformation of "Walk on By," with fuzz guitar and slashing strings as part of a powerfully dark backdrop anchored by his deep, resonant vocal, nonetheless celebrated the originality of Bacharach's tune. Hayes never lost sight of a song's inherent musicality, no matter how far he removed it from its original setting. Recorded in Memphis with overdubs in Detroit, the groundbreaking Hot Buttered Soul became a U.S. No. 1 R&B record, as well as a top ten crossover pop smash (aided by the single versions, which were cut down).
The Isaac Hayes Movement and ...To Be Continued came next, in 1970, once again featuring tracks by Chalmers and Rhodes, and Bacharach and David. Then, 1971 saw the release of both the original soundtrack to Shaft and Black Moses. Shaft, Hayes' most successful LP as well as an Academy Award and Grammy Award winner, catapulted the artist-composer into a new realm of stardom thanks to his oft-imitated but never-duplicated title track. A chart-topper on the Billboard 200 and the R&B and Jazz charts, the score album blended lush yet hard-driving funk with smooth, laconic instrumental tracks, and subtle jazz flavorings. Hayes' unerring sense of melody shone on evocative, atmospheric cues like the organ-drenched "Bumpy's Lament," the mellow, vibes-infused "Ellie's Love Theme," breezy "Café Regios" (with its shades of Wes Montgomery and George Benson) and tough, brassy "No Name Bar," while "Early Sunday Morning" evinced his clear debt as a composer to Burt Bacharach.
The horns and strings arranged by Johnny Allen (alumnus of Hot Buttered Soul) complemented the contours of Hayes' melodies while adding requisite Hollywood flair. Just three songs out of fifteen on the 2-LP set have vocals - the title theme, "Soulsville," and the top 40 hit "Do Your Thing," but Shaft remains the pinnacle of Hayes' considerable achievement and one soundtrack that more than stands on its own merits. (The full 33-minute (!) version of "Do Your Thing," from which the soundtrack version was edited, premiered on CD in Craft's exemplary 2017 box set Isaac Hayes: The Spirit of Memphis 1962-1976.)
Its August 1971 release was followed in November by Black Moses. Like Shaft, it was a double album. It built on the sound of Hot Buttered Soul and Shaft with an even more expansive canvas reflected in its immortal, striking cover shot of Hayes as the titular character. Working in lush fashion with arrangers Johnny Allen and Dale Warren, the musical guru returned to the Bacharach/David songbook with a silky, slow version of "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and a shimmering, epic-length treatment of the recent Carpenters hit "(They Long to Be) Close to You," and seductively reinvented Clifton Davis' infectious Jackson 5 hit "Never Can Say Goodbye," earning the Motown favorite hit status all over again.
Black Moses also featured songs by Kris Kristofferson (the frequently-covered "For the Good Times"), Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff ("Never Gonna Give You Up," "A Brand New Me"), and Curtis Mayfield ("Need to Belong to Someone," "Man's Temptation"). Could any other artist have so convincingly bridged Memphis, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Chicago on one album? Hayes was rewarded with a No. 1 R&B/No. 2 Jazz/No. 10 Pop success.
All three of these soul classics have been beautifully and subtly remastered by Dave Cooley at Elysian Masters from the original analog tapes; they've been pressed onto heavyweight 180-gram discs. The natural warmth of vinyl ups the intimacy of the original recordings. Craft has packaged them in painstaking replica. Hot Buttered Soul is housed in a sturdy, old-fashioned tip-on jacket, Shaft in a gatefold sleeve, and Black Moses with the original sleeve which folds out into a full-size poster of Joel Brodsky's cover photograph. The original Enterprise labels have also been replicated on the actual vinyl discs.
Samples have, of course, kept Hayes' grooves alive for new generations of audiences, and thanks to the pristine arrangements, impeccable musicianship, and timelessness of the songs themselves, Isaac Hayes' music sounds as fresh as ever. With these new vinyl reissues, the time has never been better to rediscover this singular talent who fused the old and the new in stunningly original style.
All three albums are available now from Craft Recordings at the links below!
- Walk On By
- One Woman
- By The Time I Get to Phoenix
- Theme from Shaft (Vocal)
- Bumpy's Lament
- Walk from Regio's
- Ellie's Love Theme
- Shaft's Cab Ride
- Café Regio's
- Early Sunday Morning
- Be Yourself
- A Friend's Place
- Soulsville (Vocal)
- No Name Bar
- Bumpy's Blues
- Shaft Strikes Again
- Do Your Thing (Vocal)
- The End Theme
- Never Can Say Goodbye
- (They Long to Be) Close to You
- Nothing Takes the Place of You
- Man's Temptation
- Never Gonna Give You Up
- Medley: Ike's Rap II/Help Me Love
- Need to Belong to Someone
- Good Love 6-9-9-6-9
- Medley: Ike's Rap III/Your Love is So Doggone Good
- For the Good Times
- I'll Never Fall in Love Again
- Part-Time Love
- Medley: Ike's Rap IV/A Brand New Me
- Going in Circles