The Listening List

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Max Richter – Songs From Before
Future Sound Of London – Environments 6.5
Bjork – Bastards
Mike Oldfield – Platimnum
Vangelis – Spiral
Bob Marley – Exodus
Isaac Hayes – Joy
Isaac Hayes – Shaft
Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul
Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle
Can – Tago Mago
Vangelis – Invisible Connections
Vangelis – Albedo 0.39
Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Vol. 1

Isaac Hayes

My first introduction to Isaac Hayes was through the the ‘Theme From Shaft’, although at the time I didn’t really have any idea who it was, it was just one track on a ‘Blaxploitation’ compilation CD that I had in the car, but a great track. I had seen the film years before at some point so that would have been the very first time I heard it but I didn’t make any connection until I was at a record fair in Banbury and bought ‘Hot Buttered Souk’ on vinyl, then, later, at another fair I bought ‘Shaft’ Soundtrack, and more recently, a 1973 pressing of ‘Joy’. So I have 3 Isaac Hayes albums on vinyl. Let’s go in the order I bought them.

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Recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Hot Buttered Soul re-shaped the idea of what could be done with an LP in a genre that, at that time, was dominated by the three minute single. Hayes was an in-house writer for the Stax record label and had previously recorded solo but this, his second album, proved revolutionary. It only has 4 tracks, the opener being a 12:03 version of the Bacharach and David track, ‘Walk On By’ , originally recorded in 1964 by Dionne Warwick on her album, Make Way for Dionne Warwick. I’m not sure it can rightly be called a cover version in the same way that the Sinatra version of ‘My Way’ isn’t generally referred to as one. It’s such a different arrangement from the original. although the lyrics remain unchanged. The first recording by Warwick is a great single treatment, but Hayes takes it to another place entirely. Here it is in all it’s glorious 12 minutes and 5 seconds:

It has such a groove, and that Hammond organ part is mesmerising.

Lord knows what the title of track 2 actually means, ‘Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic’ but the backing singers do a fine job of singing it and the groove rolls on. This is the only track actually written by Hayes.

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

‘One Woman’ is probably more what one might have expected during this era but ‘By The Time I Get To Pheonix’ is not. Hayes has a chat to the listener for several minutes of the, nearly, 19 minutes before breaking into the melody of the original song, adding detail to the story of the song that was never there in the original.

Before the album was released, in 1969, Stax lost all their back catalogue to Atlantic, I believe it was due to a split of some kind, so Stax needed albums and needed them quick resulting in all their artists, including Hayes, who had gone back to writing after the relative failure of his initial album. He would only do so though if he had complete creative control, and he did.

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It’s rare for a film to be defined by it’s soundtrack, but I think ‘Shaft’ is one of those films. When I think of the film I think of Isaac Hayes and I think of the theme, it is the first and sharpest memory I have about the film. It is a track that seems to sound amazing regardless of how much time has passed since 1971, and we are at 46 years now, but the opening riffs seem both of the time and timeless.

Above are the opening credits to the film, so the music is in context. When Hayes vocal comes in the scene is pretty much set for the movie, he is the “black private dick, who’s a sex machine to all the chicks”, it’s all machismo and stereotypes, which is pretty much what blaxploitation films were, and Hayes sums the whole thing up in under 5 minutes.

The majority of the rest of the soundtrack is instrumental, which is understandable, this is not a vehicle for Hayes, it was written to accompany a movie and it was pretty much a perfect fit, it did, after all, win Hayes an Oscar, a Grammy and a Golden Globe.

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

joy

‘Joy’ is the album released after ‘Black Moses’, which is the next Hayes album I’ll be looking for, and possibly the last, maybe not though. Overall, ‘Joy’ does suffer from a lack of ideas, and parts of it I just don’t listen to, like the skit  in ‘I Love You that’s all’, but the opening track is the highlight of this album, with perhaps closer ‘I’m Gonna Make It’ being worth a listen, although it is probably a little on the long side and can drag.

No. Title Length
1. “Joy” 15:55
2. “I Love You That’s All” 6:13
3. “A Man Will Be a Man” 7:20
4. “The Feeling Keeps On Coming” 6:48
5. “I’m Gonna Make It (Without You)” 11:11

The album is perfectly listenable, I’m not completely dismissing everything other than the title track but it does feel a little like Hayes was on autopilot much of the time. Here is that title track:

Leamington Record Fair

I visited Leamington Spa’s Town Hall on Saturday to dig my way through heaps of vinyl at the record fair. There is plenty there if you are prepared to pay for it, but I’m generally not. I’m there to pick up bits and pieces as cheaply as possible. There are albums that I most certainly would like, but paying £25 or more for something that I may, not will, but may find cheaper elsewhere is not something I like to do. It will nag away at me and I will eventually find the same thing for half the price and then be annoyed at myself were I to have bought it, so the most I have ever payed for anything at a record fair is £8, and that was this Saturday. Here is what I bought (with the exception of Roots Manuva which was an RSD purchase), can you guess the £8 album?

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Isaac Hayes – Shaft is an original 1974 release, a double, and it plays very nicely, the cover is in good condition as well. I haven’t played either of the Art of Noise albums as yet but they look to be fine. The Cult – Electric is in very good condition and I have played it and it sounds really good. Soul II Soul I haven’t played yet, it appears to have the wrong inner sleeve though. Ooh Las Vegas by Deacon Blue looks like it has been well kept, it’s a double made up of B-Sides and suchlike. Black Sea by XTC is in good condition as is Slave to the Rhythm byu Grace Jones, which plays very well indeed. The only one that is not as good as I might hope is ‘My Kingdom’ by The Future Sound of London. It has a mark about the size of a thumbprint on side one and it really affects the playing quite badly. It is a 33 1/3, 12” single with an 11 minute track on side 1, which samples Ennio Moricone so it’s obviously good, Moricone makes everything better, but that mark really bothers me so I did a little research and ordered a record cleaning kit, to see if that can sort it out, it’s this one:

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It’s not expensive at £8.87 (an odd price) but hopefully it will go some way to reviving not just this 12” single, but several others I have that are showing their age. Here is the blurb on it:

“Vinyl Revival is the world’s safest and best vinyl record cleaning solution. Our alcohol free liquid has been designed by leading scientists to exact laboratory standards. Using lab grade ingredients and equipment, Vinyl Revival has been packaged in a dust free environment, ensuring the cleanest and safest solution for cleaning your vinyl record collection. Vinyl revival is the only 2 step product in the market – a necessity which none of the other ‘garage chemist’ suppliers of competing products are even aware of. Shockingly, other suppliers are openly admitting to using both distilled water AND alcohol in their products! Please avoid putting distilled water anywhere near your vinyl! Ask us, if you’d like to know why. There has been much debate over the years about which products are safe to use on vinyl records with many claiming that alcohol (or isopropyl alcohol) is perfectly safe to smear over your beloved vinyl record collection. We, and our research partners do not believe this to be the case. This is why Vinyl Revival is completely alcohol (or any alcohol substitute) FREE and is, ultimately, the only safe product to use on vinyl records. Also, many other products we’ve tried in the market will contain detergents or other soaping agents. These, again, should be avoided because they will leave behind microscopic deposits on your vinyl surface, which will affect sound quality, increase static and also, potentially, damage your stylus. Vinyl Revival is the product of choice for audio archiving specialists and DJs around the globe.”

I’ll post about the results after I’ve used it.

So which is the £8 album?