Born in Tennessee in 1942 the man who would become a BPI Icon was a self-taught keyboards player who graduated to sessions at Stax in Memphis with his then partner David Porter. The Porter-Hayes legend graced so many hits of the era – “You Don’t Know Like I Know", “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and “When Something Is Wrong With My baby” that he might have stayed in the background. Luckily for us he moved centre stage to release his debut disc Presenting Isaac Hayes in 1967 working with Booker T & The MG's rhythm section Donald “Duck” Dunn and Al Jackson Jr. on an improvised set overseen by guitarist Steve Cropper and Arif Mardin.
Good as that effort was the follow-up Hot Buttered Soul was a legitimate monster, a landmark in soul music that took the Bacharach and David cut “Walk On By” and turned it into a sophisticated funk work-out lasting over 12 minutes and featuring an array of then unknown synthesiser and electronic effects that would shape other artists’ approach to recording immediately. Aiming his sound at burgeoning FM radio Hayes shaped an even lengthier assault on Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” into a sonic call to arms.
The Isaac Hayes Movement (1970) follows the blueprint – long tracks with plenty of air and groove – while …To Be Continued retains his habit of remodelling Bacharach and David and Wall of Sound Spector and taking it into brand new epic soul territory. Must have been working because these albums sold by the truckload. Even so not even Hayes was ready for what happened next, namely the Shaft phenomenon of 1971.
Emboldened by his popularity Isaac had auditioned for the lead role as John Shaft in the Gordon Parks crime caper, precursor to just about every gangsta flick and Quentin Tarantino movie, but settled for the score commission which he accomplished in days with Stax in-house dudes The Bar-Kays leaving the studio as the string section were ushered in.
The double disc smashed its way to the top of the charts in every category. It remains a classic. So essential that if you’ve never heard it you are in for a rare treat and if you have then you’ll want to pick up on the Deluxe version we offer. Heavily sampled by everyone from Dr Dre to Kanye West this is a blueprint for hip hop thanks to the “Theme”, “Bumpy’s Lament” and “Do Your Thing”. Grab yourself a copy and take time to enjoy.
We also have Black Moses (1971), another example of the prolific versatility of Hayes and another double. This man didn’t hang about. A symbol of Black Pride consciousness, Isaac rated this as his most personally fulfilling work and we concur. It also includes classic variations on “Never Can Say Goodbye”, one of the sounds of the decade, Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times” and plenty of crossover Memphis meets Philadelphia proto disco. Black Moses is so far ahead of its time most of us are still playing catch up. Get it!
As the seventies unfold so does Hayes’ progression on discs as vital as Joy, Chocolate Chip and Disco Connection, all top ranked R&B albums packed with the most impeccable South and West Coast specialists.
In tandem with these Isaac was back in his film score guise and we recommend you check out our Double Feature: Three Tough Guys & Truck Turner both of which star our hero as a leading character and the provider of the soundtracks, both of which were ludicrously overlooked at the time but are well on the way to becoming cult artefacts. In fact Tarantino did the honours as is his wont when he lifted chunks of Truck Turner’s score for his Kill Bill series, and if it’s good enough for QT…
Our mission to turn the world onto Isaac Hayes doesn’t end there because we’ve also got the live beauty Isaac Hayes at Wattstax, featuring eight cuts of prime funk and several collections and anthologies to thrill anyone anxious to further their hardcore R&B education. So, try Out of the Ghetto – The Polydor Years or The Ultimate Isaac Hayes – Can You Dig It?, one for starters, the other for a larger overview. Don’t forget the comprehensive The Very Best of Isaac Hayes either, especially in expanded Ecopac format. It’s magnificent. And make sure to check for versions with bonus material, some subtle alternate mixes and general Hayes craziness. Plus, there are stacks of singles to download.
A life as rich in musical brilliance as Isaac’s can’t be done adequate justice here and we don’t believe that talking about his sound can replicate the true pleasure to be found in listening to this master funk genius.
Here’s your opportunity to see what all the fuss is really about. Can you dig it? Right on. Here endeth the Hayes report.
Released at the tail end of the '60s, Hot Buttered Soul set the precedent for how soul would evolve in the early '70s, simultaneously establishing Isaac Hayes and the Bar-Kays as major forces within black music. Though not quite as definitive as Black Moses or as well-known as Shaft, Hot Buttered Soul remains an undeniably seminal record; it stretched its songs far beyond the traditional three-to-four-minute industry norm, featured long instrumental stretches where the Bar-Kays stole the spotlight, and it introduced a new, iconic persona for soul with Hayes' tough yet sensual image. With the release of this album, Motown suddenly seemed manufactured and James Brown a bit too theatrical. Surprising many, the album features only four songs. The first, "Walk on By," is an epic 12-minute moment of true perfection, its trademark string-laden intro just dripping with syrupy sentiment, and the thumping mid-tempo drum beat and accompanying bassline instilling a complementary sense of nasty funk to the song; if that isn't enough to make it an amazing song, Hayes' almost painful performance brings yet more feeling to the song, with the guitar's heavy vibrato and the female background singers taking the song to even further heights. The following three songs aren't quite as stunning but are still no doubt impressive: "Hyperbolicsyllabicsequedalymistic" trades in sappy sentiment for straight-ahead funk, highlighted by a stomping piano halfway through the song; "One Woman" is the least epic moment, clocking in at only five minutes, but stands as a straightforward, well-executed love ballad; and finally, there's the infamous 18-minute "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and its lengthy monologue which slowly eases you toward the climactic, almost-orchestral finale, a beautiful way to end one of soul's timeless, landmark albums, the album that transformed Hayes into a lifelong icon.
Words: Jason Birchmeier
Although this is Isaac Hayes' third long-player, he had long been a staple of the Memphis R&B scene -- primarily within the Stax coterie -- where his multiple talents included instrumentalist, arranger, and composer of some of the most beloved soul music of the '60s. Along with his primary collaborator, David Porter, Hayes was responsible for well over 200 sides -- including the genre-defining "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby," "Soul Man," "B-A-B-Y," "Hold On, I'm Comin'," and "I Had a Dream." As a solo artist however, Hayes redefined the role of the long-player with his inimitably smooth narrative style of covering classic pop and R&B tracks, many of which would spiral well over ten minutes. The Isaac Hayes Movement (1970) includes four extended cuts from several seemingly disparate sources, stylistically ranging from George Harrison's "Something" to Jerry Butler's "I Stand Accused" and even Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself." These early Hayes recordings brilliantly showcase his indomitable skills as an arranger -- as he places familiar themes into fresh contexts and perspectives. For example, his lengthy one-sided dialogue that prefaces "I Stand Accused" is halting in its candor as Hayes depicts an aching soul who longs for his best friend's fiancée. Even the most hard-hearted can't help but have sympathy pains as he unravels his sordid emotional agony and anguish. Hayes' lyrical orchestration totally reinvents the structure of "Something" -- which includes several extended instrumental sections -- incorporating equally expressive contributions from John Blair (violin). Both "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" and the comparatively short (at under six minutes) "One Big Unhappy Family" are more traditionally arranged ballads. Hayes again tastefully incorporates both string and horn sections to augment the languid rhythm, providing contrasting textures rather than gaudy adornment. These sides offer a difference between the proverbial "Black Moses of Soul" persona that would be responsible for the aggressive no-nonsense funk of Shaft (1971) and Truck Turner (1974).
Words: Lindsay Planer
Released in late 1970 on the heels of two chart-topping albums, Hot Buttered Soul (1969) and The Isaac Hayes Movement (also 1970), Isaac Hayes and the Bar-Kays retain their successful approach on those landmark albums for To Be Continued, another number one album. Again, the album features four songs that span far beyond traditional radio-friendly length, featuring important mood-establishing instrumental segments just as emotive and striking as Hayes' crooning. Nothing here is quite as perfect as "Walk on By," and the album feels a bit churned out, but To Be Continued no doubt has its share of highlights, the most notable being "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." The album's most epic moment opens with light strings and horns, vamping poetically for several minutes before Hayes even utters a breath; then, once the singer delivers the song's orchestral chorus, the album hits its sentimental peak -- Hayes elevating a common standard to heavenly heights once again. Elsewhere, "Our Day Will Come" features a nice concluding instrumental segment driven by a proto-hip-hop beat that proves just how ahead of his time Hayes was during his early-'70s cycle of Enterprise albums. It's tempting to slight this album when holding it up against Hayes' best albums from this same era, but a comparison such as this is unfair. Even if Ike isn't doing anything here that he didn't do on his two preceding albums -- Hot Buttered Soul, The Isaac Hayes Movement -- and isn't quite as daring as he is on his two successive albums -- Black Moses, Shaft -- To Be Continued still topples any Hayes album that came after 1971. It didn't top the R&B album chart for 11 weeks on accident -- this is quintessential early-'70s Isaac Hayes, and that alone makes it a classic soul album.
Words: Jason Birchmeier
Of the many wonderful blaxpoitation soundtracks to emerge during the early '70s, Shaft certainly deserves mention as not only one of the most lasting but also one of the most successful. Isaac Hayes was undoubtedly one of the era's most accomplished soul artists, having helped elevate Stax to its esteemed status; therefore, his being chosen to score such a high-profile major-studio film shouldn't seem like a surprise. And with "Theme from Shaft," he delivered an anthem just as ambitious and revered as the film itself, a song that has only grown more treasured over the years, after having been an enormously popular hit at the time of its release. Besides this song, though, there aren't too many more radio-targeted moments here. "Soulsville" operates effectively as the sort of downtempo ballad Hayes was most known for, just as the almost 20-minute "Do Your Thing" showcased just how impressive the Bar-Kays had become, stretching the song to unseen limits with their inventive, funky jamming. For the most part, though, this double-LP features nothing but cinematic moments of instrumentation, composed and produced by Hayes while being performed by the Bar-Kays -- some downtempo, others quite jazzy, nothing too funky, though. Even if it's not quite as enjoyable as Curtis Mayfield's Superfly due to its emphasis on instrumentals, Shaft still remains a powerful record; one of Hayes' pinnacle moments for sure.
Words: Jason Birchmeier
The sheer tenacity -- albeit undeniably fitting -- of this double-disc set has made Black Moses (1971) one of Isaac Hayes' most revered and best-known works. The multi-instrumental singer/songwriter and producer had been a central figure in the Memphis soul music revolution of the mid-1960s. Along with Booker T. and The MG's, Hayes' wrote and performed on more Stax sides than any other single artist. By the time of this release -- his fifth overall, and first two-record set -- Hayes had firmly established himself as a progressive soul artist. His stretched out and well-developed R&B jams, as well as his husky-voiced sexy spoken "raps" became key components in his signature sound. Black Moses not only incorporates those leitmotifs, but also reaffirms Hayes abilities as an unmistakably original arranger. Although a majority of the album consists of cover material, all the scores have been reconfigured and adapted in such a fundamental way that, for some listeners, these renditions serve as definitive. This is certainly true of the extended reworkings of Jerry Butler's "Brand New Me," or Esther Phillips' "You're Love Is So Doggone Good" -- both of which are prefaced by the spoken prelude to coitus found in each respective installment of "Ike's Rap." The pair of Curtis Mayfield tunes -- "Man's Temptation" and "Need to Belong to Someone" -- are also worth noting for the layers of tastefully scored orchestration -- from both Hayes and his long-time associate Johnny Allen. The pair's efforts remain fresh and discerning, rather than the dated ersatz strings and horn sections that imitators were glutting the soul and pop charts and airwaves with in the mid-1970s. Hayes' own composition, "Good Love," recalls the upbeat and jive talkin' "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic" from Hot Buttered Soul (1969), adding some spicy and sexy double-entendre in the chorus. Wisely, the CD reissue also reproduced Chester Higgins' original tongue-in-cheek liner note essay giving the history and mythology of the Black Moses persona.
Words: Lindsay Planer
With seven massive number one records trailing in his wake, Isaac Hayes donned his stylin', funky gold-chain link vest once again and capped 1973 with Joy, a set which might have proven the lucky-streak breaker -- it missed the top spot by one place -- but still waded into gold-record waters with ease. "Joy" itself, of course, was the album's crowning glory, a gargantuan 15-minute piece which essentially devoured side one of the album (the accompanying "I Love You That's All" is merely an afterthought). Heady, smoky, ubiquitous -- an instrumental and vocal foray into the land of good grooves -- it was sexy and sassy, with strings and innuendo stripped bare and smoothly built to lead anyone within earshot toward a classic climax. The song continued to impact via sampled revitalization from as far afield as TLC, Massive Attack, Eric B. & Rakim, and Big Daddy Kane. But don't forget that Joy is an entire album, with Hayes continuing his silky vocal assault across a further three slow, simmering songs. The best, and perhaps most interesting, is the closing "I'm Gonna Make It (Without You)." Markedly un-steamy, the song finds Hayes trading in his come-ons, choosing instead to open up and lay himself down in the wake of a broken romance. It's Joy's most touching moment, equally on par with the opener. Indeed, with those two glorious bookends, this album becomes a must-have for any '70s soul aficionado.
Words: Amy Hanson
You could expect Isaac Hayes to be in his element at a resort venue -- lounge soul was his forte, and this double album offers almost two hours of it. Hayes demonstrates his versatility by getting "Shaft" out of the way right off the bat and alternating between originals and covers of a wide range of tunes, including "Light My Fire," "Never Can Say Goodbye," "Rock Me Baby," "Stormy Monday Blues," "Feelin' Alright," and "It's Too Late" (yes, the Carole King song). Often these are linked together, of course, by Hayes' brotherly raps; for Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," he tests the limits, stretching the tune just past the ten-minute mark. The set has a funky lounge lizard charm, but it's too much to bear at once, except for the most devoted of fans.
Words: Richie Unterberger
Isaac Hayes not only was an innovative composer, songwriter, producer, and performer in the '60s and '70s, he was also an actor and appeared in several "blaxploitation" films during the early '70s. Hayes did double duty on these projects, writing and conducting the soundtracks for several, including the two featured on this twin-CD reissue. Neither Truck Turner nor Tough Guys was a particularly memorable film, but Hayes' effective use of symphony orchestras and strings against a vocal backdrop often made the music the best part of the movie.
Words: Ron Wynn
Isaac Hayes emerged from the problems at his failed Hot Buttered Soul label during his stay with Polydor, and the first track on this compilation is from the aptly named 'New Horizons' album. Each title that Hayes released at Polydor had its own style, and there are tracks from every Polydor album on this CD, offering a whole variety of ballads and dance music. There is also an informative article that provides some background on the man and the music. To my mind, there is combined sophistication in the songs, the arrangements and the recordings that Hayes did for Polydor, which is unique to this period in his career. I'd recommend this CD to any lover of Soul Music.
Words: A. Customer
One of the better and more thoughtful Isaac Hayes compilations, Ultimate Isaac Hayes: Can You Dig It? is a three-disc (two CDs and one DVD) set that covers his years on Stax. There's a wide range of material here, from singles to deep album cuts, that provide a very representative look at these years, and Stax is even wise enough to include "I Stand Accused" and "Walk on By" in their full 12-minute versions. Only minor quibbles could be made with the selections. The third disc, a DVD, contains three songs performed by Hayes at Wattstax. And then there's the cherry -- er, some other spherical object -- on top: Hayes' performance of Chef's "Chocolate Salty Balls."
Words: Andy Kellman