The coming weeks we focus on an American singer-songwriter, actor, and producer. He was one of the creative influences behind the southern soul music label Stax Records, where he served both as an in-house songwriter and as a record producer, teaming with his partner David Porter during the mid-1960s. Hayes, Porter, Bill Withers, the Sherman Brothers, Steve Cropper, and John Fogerty were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of writing scores of notable songs for themselves, the duo Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, and others. He is also a 2002 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We'll start at the beginning ......N'joy
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Few figures exerted greater influence over the music of the 1960s and 1970s than Isaac Hayes; after laying the groundwork for the Memphis soul sound through his work with Stax-Volt Records, Hayes began a highly successful solo career which predated not only the disco movement but also the evolution of rap.
Hayes was born on August 20, 1942, in Covington, TN; his parents died during his infancy, and he was raised by his grandparents. After making his public debut singing in church at the age of five, he taught himself piano, organ, and saxophone before moving to Memphis to perform on the city's club circuit in a series of short-lived groups like Sir Isaac and the Doo-Dads, the Teen Tones, and Sir Calvin and His Swinging Cats. In 1962, he began his recording career, cutting sides for a variety of local labels.
Two years later, Hayes began playing sax with the Mar-Keys, which resulted in the beginning of his long association with Stax Records. After playing on several sessions for Otis Redding, Hayes was tapped to play keyboards in the Stax house band, and eventually established a partnership with songwriter David Porter. Under the name the Soul Children, the Hayes-Porter duo composed some 200 songs, reeling off a string of hits for Stax luminaries like Sam & Dave (the brilliant "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby," "Soul Man," and "Hold on, I'm Comin'"), Carla Thomas ("B-A-B-Y"), and Johnnie Taylor ("I Got to Love Somebody's Baby," "I Had a Dream").
In 1967, Hayes issued his debut solo LP Presenting Isaac Hayes, a loose, jazz-flavored effort recorded in the early-morning hours following a raucous Stax party. With the release of 1969's landmark Hot Buttered Soul, he made his commercial breakthrough; the record's adventuresome structure (comprising four lengthy songs), ornate arrangements, and sensual grooves -- combined with the imposing figure cut by his shaven head, omnipresent sunglasses, and fondness for gold jewelry -- made Hayes one of the most distinctive figures in music.
After a pair of 1970 releases, The Isaac Hayes Movement and To Be Continued, he reached his commercial zenith in 1971 with the release of Shaft, the score from the Gordon Parks film of the same name. Not only did the album win Hayes an Academy Award for Best Score (the first African-American composer to garner such an honor), but the single "Theme from Shaft," a masterful blend of prime funk and pre-rap monologues, became a number one hit.
After 1971's superb Black Moses and 1973's Joy, Hayes composed two 1974 soundtracks, Tough Guys and Truck Turner (in which he also starred). By 1975, relations with Stax had disintegrated following a battle over royalties, and soon he severed his ties with the label to form his own Hot Buttered Soul imprint. Although both 1975's Chocolate Chip and 1976's Groove-a-Thon went gold, his records of the period attracted considerably less attention than prior efforts; combined with poor management and business associations, Hayes had no choice but to file for bankruptcy in 1976.
After the 1977 double-LP A Man and a Woman, recorded with Dionne Warwick, Hayes began a comeback on the strength of the hit singles "Zeke the Freak," "Don't Let Go." and "Do You Wanna Make Love." Following the success of his 1979 collection of duets with Millie Jackson titled Royal Rappins, he issued a pair of solo records, 1980's And Once Again and 1981's Lifetime Thing before retiring from music for five years. After returning in 1986 with the LP U Turn and the Top Ten R&B hit "Ike's Rap," Hayes surfaced two years later with Love Attack before again dropping out of music to focus on acting.
In 1995, fully enshrined as one of the forefathers of hip-hop and newly converted to Scientology, Hayes emerged with two concurrent releases, the vocal Branded and instrumental Raw and Refined. Under the official name Nene Katey Ocansey I, he also served as a member of the royal family of the African nation of Ghana while continuing simultaneous careers as an actor, composer, and humanitarian. In 1997, Hayes provided the voice of what was slated to be a one-time character on the animated series South Park -- Jerome "Chef" McElroy, the main characters' favorite school cafeteria worker. Hayes was an instant hit, and Chef became a regular character on the show, lending advice and, oftentimes, breaking into songs that gently sent up Hayes' image as one of R&B's ultimate love men.
South Park made Hayes more visible than ever and cemented his status as an icon with a whole new generation. He contributed the infamous "Chocolate Salty Balls" to the South Park tie-in album Chef Aid, and naturally appeared in the film South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut. (He left the show only after an episode made fun of Scientology.) In 2000, Hayes revisited his biggest triumph of the past by appearing in the remake of Shaft starring Samuel L. Jackson. The following year, he supported Alicia Keys as a musician and arranger on her acclaimed debut, Songs in A Minor.
On August 5, 2003, Hayes was honored as a BMI Icon at the 2003 BMI Urban Awards for his enduring influence on generations of music makers. Throughout his songwriting career, Hayes received five BMI R&B Awards, two BMI Pop Awards, two BMI Urban Awards and six Million-Air citations. As of 2008, his songs generated more than 12 million performances. Although he recorded little during the 2000s, he appeared in many films, including 2004's Hustle and Flow. Hayes was in ill health on August 10, 2008, when he collapsed at his home in Memphis and was pronounced dead later that day of a stroke due to high blood pressure.
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Presenting Isaac Hayes (1967) is the debut long-player from soul man extraordinaire Isaac Hayes (piano/vocals), although he had been a major force on the Memphis R&B scene as an instrumentalist/arranger/producer. With partner David Porter he was also a songwriter for artists associated with the legendary Stax label. Along with Donald "Duck" Dunn (bass) and Al Jackson, Jr. (drums) of Booker T. & the MG's fame, Hayes unleashes his familiar blend of highly introspective jazz, soul, and blues. He turns Willie Dixon's blues standard "I Just Wanna Make Love to You" into a sensual medley with B.B. King's signature composition "Rock Me Baby." In direct contrast to the aggression in much of his later work, his originals -- most notably the sexy "Precious, Precious" and a blast from his past, "You Don't Know (Like I Know)," are almost discomfortingly intimate. His stylish and classic rendering of "When I Fall in Love" demonstrates Hayes' obvious understanding and deep abiding appreciation of pop standards. His emotive rendering is not unlike that of Nat King Cole -- who recorded the song himself to great effect. The long, spoken "raps" that Hayes would become known for on subsequent releases had yet to be fully developed. However the idea of stretching the song out melodically and extending the arrangement yields one of the most poignant and unlikely medleys of all time, combining the Count Basie/Jimmy Rushing classic "Going to Chicago Blues" with, of all things, "Misty." This reveals the extreme sensitivity that exists between music and musician. In fact, so densely packed and involved are some of the passages it is easy to dismiss that all the sounds are coming from a trio. The 1995 CD reissue features a previously unreleased 19-plus minute "long version" of "Precious, Precious," from which the two-minute album track was derived. Although die-hard soul fanatics will inevitably include Presenting Isaac Hayes in their library, it should also be considered essential listening for the burgeoning enthusiasts of not only R&B, but anyone who loves well-arranged pop music.
Isaac Hayes - Presenting Isaac Hayes (flac 268mb)
01 Precious, Precious 2:45
02 When I Fall In Love 3:28
03 Medley (I Just Want To Make Love To You / Rock Me Baby) 9:04
04 Medley (I'm Going To Chicago Blues / Misty) 6:45
05 You Don't Know Like I Know 8:30
06 Precious, Precious (Long Version) 19:05
Isaac Hayes - Presenting Isaac Hayes (ogg 114mb)
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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.
Isaac Hayes - Hot Buttered Soul (flac 301mb)
01 Walk On By 12:00
02 Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic 9:36
03 One Woman 5:07
04 By The Time I Get To Phoenix 18:40
Isaac Hayes - Hot Buttered Soul (ogg 106mb)
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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.
Isaac Hayes - The Isaac Hayes Movement (flac 221mb)
01 I Stand Accused 11:37
02 One Big Unhappy Family 5:49
03 I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself 7:00
04 Something 11:52
Isaac Hayes - The Isaac Hayes Movement (ogg 86mb)
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