Monday, 25 March 2019

Isaac Hayes




Presenting Isaac Hayes (1968)
Hot Buttered Soul (1969)
The Isaac Hayes Movement (1970)
...To Be Continued (1970)
Shaft (1971)
Black Moses (1971)
Joy (1973)

Isaac Hayes - The Isaac Hayes Movement (1970)


  

Released April 1970

Coming not long after the unique, ground-breaking four-track album that was "Hot Buttered Soul", Isaac Hayes released another one. It was similarly impressive. He had really hit on something here. He was taking soul music to another level.

TRACK LISTING

1. I Stand Accused
2. One Big Unhappy Family
3. I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself
4. Something

"I Stand Accused" has a long, spoken intro before Hayes eventually breaks out into the song. Keen listeners will recognise some of the spoken lyrics as those used by UB40 on "Guilty" on their 1983 "Labour Of Love" album. When the song arrives, Hayes's soulful vocal lifts it so high. Beautiful stuff. Classic soul right there. You better believe it, brother.

The cynically-titled "One Big Unhappy Family" is a big, Stax-y soul number with a yearning, heart-broken vocal from Hayes. Dusty Springfield's "I Just Don't Know What To With Myself" is a dignified, soulful rendition. Again, the vocal is excellent, as, of course, is the backing from The Bar-Kays. George Harrison's "Something" is given a quirky makeover, with some nice electric violin, but a lot of the beauty of the song is lost beneath all the orchestration and backing vocals. This one doesn't quite work for me. It does end with some almost prog-rock inventive instrumentation, however, that makes it a most unusual offering. Some of these experimental covers come off better than others, it has to be said. This one sounds like a bit of a mess to me, despite is obvious ingenuity. I know that sounds bad, but there is a lack of cohesion, in my opinion.

Overall, I prefer "Hot Buttered Soul", but this is not without is good points, particularly the first two tracks.

B-

Isaac Hayes - ...To Be Continued (1970)


  

Released November 1970

This was Isaac Hayes's fourth studio album It followed again what was now a familiar path of lengthy soul workouts over sumptuous backing provided by the immaculate Bar-Kays. It was now the thing to do for Isaac Hayes - to issue soul albums with just a few long tracks on them. It really was ground-breaking. Nobody else was doing such a thing. Even The Undisputed Truth had a few shorter tracks alongside their epic numbers.

TRACK LISTING

1. Monologue: Ike's Rap 1
2. Our Day Will Come
3. The Look Of Love
4. Monologue: Ike's Mood/You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling
5. Runnin' Out Of Fools

The opener is a low-key spoken "rap", in which Isaac talks quietly over a subtle keyboard, bass, strings and drum backing. It merges into the slow grace of "Our Day Will Come". It is a slow-paced, smooth soul ballad with a deep, intense vocal. It finishes with a lovely bass-driven instrumental part. The eleven minute cover of Bacharach/David's "The Look Of Love" is just glorious. Backed with wonderful strings and horns, it is packed with classic soul atmosphere. Once more, Hayes's vocal is seriously underrated. He was rarely spoken of as a great vocalist, but he shows great versatility on all these early seventies albums The track also has a winning funky-ish instrumental break half way through, with delicious percussion, guitar and organ. Some punchy brass is joined by a funky wah-wah guitar before we get some blaxploitation soundtrack evocative parts to end with.

"Monologue: Ike's Mood/You've Lost That Loving Feeling" is a fifteen-minute masterpiece that builds up slowly with some seductive orchestration and backing vocals. It is a long time before Hayes sings. Over six minutes before he launches into the well-known opening lines of The Righteous Brothers' anthem. Hayes's delivery suits the drama of the song. "Runnin' Out Of Fools" is another slow burner with Isaac soulfully singing over a gospelly backing vocal.

Not as essential as "Hot Buttered Soul" or "Black Moses", but a ground-breaking and enjoyable album all the same.

B-

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Isaac Hayes - Black Moses (1971)


  

Released November 1971

After the extended soul grooves, often of easy listening or other soul standards, on "Hot Buttered Soul" and "...To Be Continued", and the iconic movie soundtrack "Shaft", Isaac Hayes gave us this, his first double album. Basically, it was more of the same - lengthy, seductive soulful workouts immaculately played by The Bar-Kays and topped off with Hayes's deep, but honeyed vocals. The album is full of serious soul and funk. It doesn't have the social message of Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield's material, or that of The Temptations or The Undisputed Truth, for that matter. What it has is love - big, late-night love. Without this as an inspiration, would there have been any Barry White sensual, semi-spoken "lay down on the couch, honey" numbers? Hayes wrote the book of "loverman" cliches with this. That is not to say that it is not seriously soulful, though. It is chock full of deep soul.

Regarding its cultural effect - this was a soul artist putting out a very credible, uncommercial double album. Stuff like this really provided a landmark in the development of soul/black music.

TRACK LISTING

1. Never Can Say Goodbye
2. (They Long To Be) Close To You
3. Nothing Takes The Place Of You
4. Man's Temptation
5. Part-Time Love
6. Medley: Ike's Rap IV/ A Brand New Me
7. Going In Circles
8. Never Gonna Give You Up
9. Medley: Ike's Rap II/Help Me Love
10. Need To Belong To Someone
11. Good Love 6-9-9-6-9
12. Medley: Ike's Rap III/Your Love Is So Doggone
13. For The Good Times
14. I'll Never Fall In Love Again

"Never Say Goodbye" is a deep, resonant version of the upbeat song made famous by The Jackson 5 and later by Gloria Gaynor. This ain't no disco number. It is a sultry slow burner. The cover of The Carpenters' "(They Long To Be) Close To You" doesn't really work for me and, for once, the accusation that it goes on too long holds some weight. It seems to lose the beauty of the original melody somewhat. "Nothing Takes The Place Of You" is a sumptuous, deep soul ballad with an almost slow rock 'n' roll-style piano backing. "Man's Temptation" is an organ and backing vocal driven groover, with a rumbling bass line and some funky wah-wah guitar. Hayes' vocal is supremely deep and warm. The beat on this is magnificently grinding, in an insistent, bassy fashion. It is addictive soul music of the highest quality.

"Part-Time Love" is so deliciously funky. It has an almost reggae-like intro and some infectious percussion. It is another eight minute groove. This album was also notable for its three spoken "raps", which featured Hayes speaking a long, yearning intro over a subtle bass/keyboard backing before eventually launching into the song that is linked with each rap. The intros are very much in the style of the songs Barry White would specialise in just a few years later. His songs were more string orchestrated, though. Hayes's are more purely soulful in their bass, piano and drum backing. Strings are used, and brass too, but it that slow seductive bass rhythm that underpins the material.

"Going In Circles" has that distinctive orchestration and guitar interjection sound that so characterised "Walk On By" on "Hot Buttered Soul". "Never Gonna Give You Up" is not the song that Barry White would later write. Strange that they both wrote songs with similar titles and the same sentiments and ambience. It is more of a smooth soul number than a gritty, funky one, actually in the Barry White mode. "Need To Belong To Someone" is a wonderful piece of melodic but grand soul. Hayes's vocals are simply superb here. He is not always given the credit he deserves for his vocals. "Good Love 6-9-9-6-9" is an upbeat, pounding slice of soul/rock that offers a different feel to much of the album. Great guitar on it too. "For The Good Times" is the easy-listening Perry Como song, and is done in suitably crooning fashion, but with a solid soul backing. "I'll Never Fall In Love In Again" is the Bacharach-David song made famous by Bobbie Gentry and Dionne Warwick. Hayes's version is suitably evocative.

There is no doubt that this is a special album, although you only need to dip into a few tracks at a time to appreciate them as a whole sitting of the entire double album is just a little bit like eating too much sticky toffee pudding. Having said that, it does make you want to keep coming back for more.

B-

Isaac Hayes - Hot Buttered Soul (1969)


  

Released September 1969

This was Isaac Hayes' second album. His first, "Presenting Isaac Hayes" had not been much of a success and, apparently, he demanded free reign from Stax Records to do what he wanted on this album. He sure did that. In 1969, albums featuring only four tracks of lengthy soul workouts were not exactly de riguer. In so many ways, this album blazed a new trail. Barry White was still four years away from doing similar  material. The album showed that soul could be coal-mine deep, drawn-out, dramatic, funky and passionate. Hayes suddenly had a new persona - the cool, growling-voiced but sensuous loverman. Soul music changed with this release, not as obviously as with "What's Going On" or "Curtis" maybe in that it carried no social message, but certainly stylistically.

TRACK LISTING

1. Walk On By
2. Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymystic
3. One Woman
4. By The Time I Get To Phoenix

"Walk On By" is Isaac's take on the song made famous by Dionne Warwick. This ain't nothin' like that, brother. It is a slow burning, slow building, smoocher of a groove that features, as well as Hayes'  deep, late night vocal, some searing guitar. It really crashes in at the end of its twelve minutes and the only downside is the slightly disconcerting bit where the volume goes up and down and you think there is something wrong with your system.

"Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymystic" is superbly funky - full to the brim with big, fatback bass, thumping drums, clunking piano, seductive backing vocals and Isaac grunting here and there. It gets into its groove and just keeps going, marvellously. It also, clearly, qualifies as one of the longest song titles and one of the most non-sensical.

"One Woman" is a delicious slice of "come over here honey" soul. The original recording always had a scratchy bit at about 2:50 seconds. Even the remastered version I now have has not failed to eliminate this. No real matter though, when Isaac and his backing singers trade off vocal pyrotechnics   as the song reaches its glorious denouement.

"By The Time We Get To Phoenix", written by Jimmy Webb, made famous by Glen Campbell, is the album's tour de force. It is over eighteen minutes long and features an extended preacher-style spoken introduction from Hayes telling us all about the song's protagonist's back story to the song. A subtle bass rumbles as Hayes narrates until over the eight and a half minute mark. At that point he soulfully and effortlessly leads into the song. The song reaches a climax with some excellent horn backing and the band gets louder and louder.

Highly recommended.

B+

Santana - Shape Shifter (2012)

  

Released May 2012

After "Supernatural", "Shaman" and "All That I Am", Carlos Santana decided to ditch the duets with guest vocalists/musicians thing that had, although incredibly successful, had seen him being reduced to something of a bit-part player on his own albums. Here he gives his legendary guitar more of a central role. All but one of the thirteen tracks are instrumentals. For the most part, it is a very Latin album, with some rock riffing too, very much in line with the late seventies through to the nineties material, but without the vocals.

TRACK LISTING

1. Shape Shifter
2. Dom
3. Nomad
4. Metatron
5. Angelica Faith
6. Never The Same Again
7. In The Light Of A New Day
8. Spark Of The Devine
9. Macumba In Budapest
10. Mr. Szabo
11. Eres La Luz
12. Canela
13. Ah, Sweet Dancer

"Shape Shifter" begins with some evocative Native American incantation, before it bursts into rocking life, full of swirling organ, pounding drums and some trademark Santana guitar. It has some heavy riffage in it too. "Dom" has a smoky keyboard backing and features some sharp guitar soloing. The rock grooves of "Nomad" are very much in the vein of some of Santana's early seventies material, with some seriously impressive guitar and organ interplay. "Metatron" is an uplifting, anthemic number with a wonderful refrain and guitar part. Carlos gives himself free reign on here. Good stuff.

"Angelica Faith" just sort of washes over you, again featuring the sort of guitar we have come to expect. Indeed the next three tracks, the chilled-out "Never The Same Again", "In The Light Of A New Day" and "Spark Of The Devine" also do just that. A bit of a change in ambience comes with the grandiose melody of "Macumba in Budapest", which merges classical strings and keyboards with some Latin percussion and also some salsa-influenced piano. There is no typical Santana guitar in this track. "Mr. Szabo" continues in this style - Latin percussion, big, rumbling bass, but this time including some delicious Spanish-style guitar. These last two tracks have been most appetising. "Eres La Luz" features some gorgeous Spanish guitar before we get some thumping drums and, for the first time, some vocals - in Spanish. It is a typical Santana Latin number such as he released a lot in the late seventies/eighties.

"Canela" has some top notch archetypal Santana guitar before it takes us into some seductive Salsa rhythms. "Ah, Sweet Dancer" is a slowie to end on, with some guitar/piano/synthesiser interplay on a peaceful, reflective number. The piano is very classically influenced. It is in fact Santana's son, Salvador, on keyboards.

While it is good to hear Santana giving it some virtuosity "wellie" on the guitar again, in comparison with the previous three albums, the album does seem just a little directionless in some ways, but then again, Santana music often was mood music and it serves you well in that respect.

C+

The Dead 60s - Time To Take Sides (2007)

  

Released August 2007

This was the second and last album from Merseyside-based retrospective Clash/Specials/early Joe Jackson influenced band. Where the first album was very definitely influenced by that late seventies white reggae/punk style, this one owes more to new wave and even nineties Britpop. There is a melodiousness to it as opposed to a gritty, urban dubby attack. The group are clearly trying not to simply produce more of the same. They diversify a bit, but it is still a retrospective offering.

TRACK LISTING

1. Bolt Of Steel
2. Beat Generation
3. Stand Up
4. Start A War
5. Dull Towns
6. Last Train Home
7. All Over By Midnight
8. Liar
9. Don't Walk Away
10. Desert Sun
11. Seven Empty Days

"Bolt Of Steel" is a new-wave inspired number that reminds me of the material Bruce Foxton does these days. It features some jangly guitars and a "la-la-la" Jam-esque vocal bit at the end. "Beat Generation" is a lively and catchy song with a solid bass line and another new wave feel about it. Actually, rather than look back to the late seventies in its feel, it has those afore-mentioned distinct Britpop echoes about it. It also takes a riff from Elton John's "Passengers" at one point. "Stand Up" is a chunky, riffy but melodic and anthemic track that manages to merge both Clash and Jam sounds with even a Housemartins-style chorus.

"Start A War" again has both seventies and nineties vibes. In 1980 this would have been a great single and would now be on everyone's new wave playlist. As it is, it will remain largely overlooked, which is a bit of a shame, as it is a great song. "Dull Towns" has a post punk/early U2 drum and guitar backing. Again, it would have sounded great at the time, but in 2007, it was probably just too out of time. "Last Train Home" is a slow, sombre plodder with a bit of atmosphere to it and a change of pace.

"All Over By Midnight" is a Ruts-inspired punky romp, full of throbbing bass lines and spiky guitars, together with an abrasive vocal. The "Eton Rifles" bit at the end is a bit obvious, though. "Liar" could be straight off the first Clash album. Nice deep bass on this one too. Despite it clear revivalist sound, I can't help but like it. "Don't Walk Away" is another Bruce Foxton-inspired track, for me, anyway. "Desert Sun" has vague hints of The Police in it. "Seven Empty Days" again harks back to 1979-82. It sounds like Madness.

So, that was The Dead 60s. They gave us two enjoyable, refreshing albums but they were ultimately just too backward-looking to prosper any further. That doesn't mean these weren't two good albums, though.

C+