Isaac Hayes – Shaft (1971)

AllMusic Review: 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. — Jason Birchmeier

Track Listing

Side one

  1. “Theme from Shaft” (Vocal Version) – 4:39
  2. “Bumpy’s Lament” – 1:51
  3. “Walk from Regio’s” – 2:24
  4. “Ellie’s Love Theme” – 3:18
  5. “Shaft’s Cab Ride” – 1:10

Side two

  1. “Cafe Regio’s” – 6:10
  2. “Early Sunday Morning” – 3:49
  3. “Be Yourself” – 4:30
  4. “A Friend’s Place” – 3:24

Side three

  1. “Soulsville” (Vocal Version) – 3:48
  2. “No Name Bar” – 6:11
  3. “Bumpy’s Blues” – 4:04
  4. “Shaft Strikes Again” – 3:04

Side four

  1. “Do Your Thing” (Vocal Version) – 19:30
  2. “The End Theme” – 1:56

 

Schill Score: 10/10

 

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Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul (1969)

All Music Review: 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. — Jason Birchmeier

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Walk On By” Burt Bacharach, Hal David 12:03
2. “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic” Isaac Hayes, Alvertis Isbell 9:38
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
3. “One Woman” Charles Chalmers, Sandra Rhodes 5:10
4. “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” Jimmy Webb 18:42

 

Schill Score: 9.5/10

 

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