Tag Archives: Isaac Hayes

Reviews in review: ‘His lush gush’

Records in Review logo, Green Bay Press-Gazette, January 1972

50 years ago yesterday, on Sunday, Jan. 23, 1972, the CloseUp section of the Green Bay Press-Gazette carried record reviews, as it did almost every Sunday.

Some of the records reviewed on that day by free-lance writer David F. Wagner: “I Wrote a Simple Song” by Billy Preston, “The North Star Grassman and the Ravens” by Sandy Denny, “Angel Delight” by Fairport Convention and “From the Witchwood” by Strawbs.

Billy Preston? “He jumped off soul’s deep end, and every cut here is overripe and out of hand.” Sandy Denny solo? “Not exactly stimulating.” Fairport Convention? “Few ideas of consequence.” Strawbs fares best. “The lyrics get a little pretentious at times, but … a pleasant combination of rock and English folk music.”

But I’m burying the lead here, and the lead item in the column was Wagner’s vaguely racist review of “Black Moses” and the “Shaft” soundtrack, both by Isaac Hayes. It’s astonishing that his editors deemed it suitable for print.

“WHAT is obvious to anyone moderately familiar with r&b through the years is that much of the soul of ‘soul music’ is self-indulgence; understandable in a musical format in which ‘form’ consistently overrides content.”

Hm.

“Enter Isaac Hayes … again. Friend or foe? Don’t answer that; after all, he’s the best Black Moses we have.”

Huh?

“Hayes’ recordings have been superfantastic sellers, presumably in the black community. True, he goes over extremely well in concert before the blacks and is a sex symbol for many sisters. But I suspect a good many honkies are buying his lush gush, too.”

GOOD LORD.

Here is an ill-informed white guy, 31 years old, writing for a white audience his age and older, at best trying to be edgy and at worst fancying himself a music critic on par with those in Rolling Stone.

“What he does is done well — except for the slight consideration that he can’t sing at all. It’s just that he is the epitome of corniness, black or white. He reads beautifully, but his narrations (better known as raps) are embarrassingly banal.”

Isaac Hayes, damned with faint praise. For what it’s worth, the Rolling Stone review of “Black Moses” — out the same week — had many of the same objections to Hayes’ vocal style.

Save for the most adventurous of them, Press-Gazette readers likely never heard anything by Isaac Hayes beyond “Theme from Shaft.” Wagner declared the “Shaft” soundtrack “the preferable product” because “it is mostly instrumental, so there are no raps and only a minority of bad singing.”

Anyone else feel like they need a shower? Let’s let Isaac Hayes wash over us for the next 19 minutes instead.

“Do Your Thing,” Isaac Hayes, from the “Shaft” soundtrack, 1971.

For those wondering, Mr. Wagner — by all accounts a good man who had a bad week in January 1972 — is no longer with us.

Here’s the review in its entirety, for those who wish to read more.

Green Bay Press-Gazette review of Isaac Hayes' "Black Moses" and "Shaft" soundtrack, Jan. 24, 1972

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Filed under January 2022, Sounds

Shaft and me, 50 years on

50 years ago, at about this time of year, Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft” blew my 14-year-old mind.

As the first week of November 1971 came to a close, “Theme From Shaft” sat atop the Top 10 on WOKY, The Mighty 92 out of Milwaukee, one of the last great AM Top 40 stations. I listened to it every night. That Top 10:

  1. Theme From Shaft – Isaac Hayes                              
  2. Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves – Cher                            
  3. Imagine – John Lennon                                       
  4. Yo-Yo – Osmonds                                             
  5. Superstar – Carpenters                                      
  6. Easy Lovin’ – Freddie Hart                                   
  7. Two Divided By Love – Grass Roots                           
  8. Baby I’m-a Want You – Bread                                
  9. What Are You Doing Sunday – Dawn                           
  10. Never My Love – 5th Dimension      

“Theme From Shaft” was in its second week at No. 1 on WOKY, so you know it was in heavy rotation, getting spun every three hours or so. No complaints here.

Shaft soundtrack LP

The “Shaft” soundtrack was perhaps only the third album I ever bought. At the time, late 1971, it had the feel of being my first really sophisticated record. I wonder what my parents thought. I never asked. They never said.

Yes, I still have it.

I also have a bunch of “Shaft” covers, “Shaft” knockoffs and “Shaft” oddities.

The Man From Shaft LP by Richard Roundtree

My favorite Shaft-adjacent collectible is “The Man From Shaft,” by “Shaft” star Richard Roundtree. I found it maybe 15 years ago at one of the first record shows I ever went to. I grabbed it and I haven’t seen it in the wild since.

“Man From Shaft,” Richard Roundtree, from “The Man From Shaft,” 1972.

Eugene McDaniels produced and arranged this LP and wrote or co-wrote all eight of the nine cuts. There’s a tremendous group of jazz session musicians on it, too.

Shaft LPs, Soul Mann/Mack Browne and The Brothers

Then there are selections from the “Shaft” soundtrack performed by Soul Mann and The Brothers and Mack Browne and The Brothers. They’re the same group. The Soul Mann LP was released on Pickwick, an American budget label; the Mack Browne LP was released on Hallmark, a UK budget label, both in 1971. I have both for no apparent reason.

I have a bunch of covers of “Theme From Shaft.” Among those artists: El Michels Affair, Jimmy McGriff, Joe Bataan, Maynard Ferguson, Sammy Davis Jr., and Ike and Tina Turner. Still looking for the LPs with “Shaft” covers by Bernard Purdie and the Love Unlimited Orchestra.

You know what that sounds like, but here’s one of my favorite covers. It’s by Kashmere Stage Band from Kashmere High School in Houston. They don’t sound like high school kids.

Kashmere Stage Band Texas Thunder Soul CD cover, 2006

“Theme From Shaft,” Kashmere Stage Band, from “Texas Thunder Soul: 1968-1974,” 2006.

Finally, there is this. Did you know Isaac Hayes recorded a follow-up to “Theme From Shaft?” Well, of course he did, and of course it’s a long jam.

For The Sake Of Love LP, Isaac Hayes, 1978

“Shaft II,” Isaac Hayes, from “For The Sake Of Love,” 1978.

All that, and we still haven’t gotten to the film. More to come.

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Filed under November 2021, Sounds

Four records at a time

It took a pandemic for me to listen to a bunch of my records. Not sure what that says about me, but there you go.

Staying home and socially distancing wasn’t too bad until the weather turned cold up here in Wisconsin and really kept us inside. So I just kept dropping record after record onto the turntable. No ripping to digital. Just let it go, man.

Four records make for a nice night of listening while surfing or writing.

Some records take me right back to where I found them, a nice memory.

Some records have startling moments. Those, I’ll circle back on and rip a little something from. Eddie Floyd’s “Down To Earth” LP was the first eye-opener. Then the scorching “Involved” by Edwin Starr. Then “Dreams/Answers,” Rare Earth’s rarely-seen debut LP. Then a couple of alternate Beatles takes from the 2017 re-release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” 

There you have it, four records.

Four records also make for a nice visual presentation when you post to Facebook or Twitter. If you follow me either place, you’ve seen a lot of them, especially this month for Black History Month. Today will make it 23 such posts — 92 records, all by Black artists — over 28 days and nights.

From the Black History Month social posts, some records that’ll get more spins:

— “Young, Gifted and Black” is by far the best Aretha Franklin record in my crates. That was a $1 record. Looked rough, played fine.

— Didn’t know about Johnny Adams, but, man, could he sing.

— Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” has lost none of its punch.

— The instrumentals on “James Brown Plays New Breed (The Boo-Ga-Loo)” really cook.

— Ike and Tina Turner’s early live records are astonishing.

— Definitely going back for seconds on the “Cleopatra Jones” soundtrack featuring Joe Simon and Millie Jackson. That was a $3 record found in a box on the floor at a record show in Indianapolis.

— Timmy Thomas got a lot of mileage out of that syncopated beat on “Why Can’t We Live Together,” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Found that at a record store that no longer exists.

There you have it. Eight records, two nights’ worth of listening.

When I spent a couple of nights listening to blaxploitation soundtracks last week, I circled back to the first record I ever wrote about here. I’m talking ’bout “Shaft.”

I was 14 when I bought this record in 1971.

With that, we quietly mark 14 years here at AM, Then FM. Can you dig it?

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Filed under February 2021, Sounds

Downstairs at Prange’s

Imagine seeing a photo of something you thought existed only in memory. As you try to process it, the whole thing takes your breath away. Then you catch your breath and settle down to scrutinizing the tiniest details of the photo.

So it is with this photo, posted earlier this month by the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center to its Facebook page. It carried this four-word caption: “Record department. H.C. Prange.”

When I grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in the ’60s and ’70s, everyone went down by Prange’s. It was the biggest department store in that city of 50,000 along Lake Michigan.

The record department was in the basement. You went down the main escalator and there it was, over to your right as you stepped off, a dazzling world of colorful and thrilling LPs spread out before you. 45s? Sure, but those you could get at the neighborhood dime store. Prange’s was where you came to ponder the mighty LP.

This photo is from 1969 or later. In the row going up diagonally from the lower left corner are the Beatles’ “Revolver” and “Magical Mystery Tour” and the Archies’ “Sugar Sugar,” the latter released as an import in 1969. I’d love to see this photo at higher resolution so I could try to ID some of the other records.

I never bought a lot of LPs at Prange’s — all I had was paper route money, and not much of it — but what I did buy were among the first albums I ever owned. I still have them all.

— I gave Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Cosmo’s Factory” LP to my friend Mike for his 13th birthday. It came out in July 1970. His birthday was in October. Truth be told, I’d wanted it for myself. Instead, I got Creedence’s “Green River,” which by then was a year old. It all worked out.

Neil Diamond’s “Tap Root Manuscript,” released in November 1970. I also was 13 and had been listening to AM Top 40 radio almost non-stop all that year.

— Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” soundtrack, released in July 1971.

Wings’ “Wild Life,” released in December 1971.

Then there’s this.

When I was 13, I was tempted by, perhaps even obsessed with, Janis Joplin’s “Pearl.” It had been released in January 1971, midway through my eighth-grade year. I liked the music. Mostly, though, I thought her pose on the cover was kind of hot — and, yes, I already had some sense of someone being a hot mess — and I really didn’t want to try to explain that to my parents.

So I never bought “Pearl” at Prange’s. Truth be told, it’s only been in the last 10 years that I finally bought “Pearl.” I’ve since bought three or four copies, always looking for a cover in a bit nicer condition than the one before.

Maybe I’ll even frame it someday. It tells quite a story about a young record digger, even if only he recognizes it.

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Filed under November 2018, Sounds

I’m still talking ’bout Shaft

This week marks 10 years of doing business on this increasingly lightly traveled corner of the web.

If you’re looking for something from Ten Years After or anything from Neil Young’s “Decade,” well, sorry.

cropped-evanheader.jpg

It was 10 years ago Sunday that we had the first audio clip here. Appropriately enough, it was John Williams’ theme to the old “Time Tunnel” TV show. The blog post that accompanied it was little more than practice. The image that topped that post is long gone, the boy in the picture on the verge of grad school.

It was 10 years ago yesterday that we had the first real tunes here, something from what was perhaps the second or third LP I ever bought, way back in 1971.

shaft-enterprise-lp-2

“Walk From Regio’s,” Isaac Hayes, from the “Shaft” soundtrack, 1971.

In 10 years of record digging since we got started here, I’ve been looking out for interesting “Shaft” covers. This is one.

shaft-soul-mann-lp-2

“Bumpy’s Lament,” Soul Mann and the Brothers, from “Shaft,” 1971. Soul Mann actually was Sy Mann, a New York arranger, conductor and keyboard player. Strictly a studio knockoff on the Pickwick label, which I usually avoid, but fun to have found. Just a little different sound.

As for all that record digging, some good news. We are back in business when it comes to ripping all those old records, thanks to a new turntable just installed last weekend. Here’s the first thing ripped on that new turntable. Its volume may not be perfect. Still getting used to it.

live-ike-tina-turner-show

“Finger Poppin’,” Ike and Tina Turner, from “Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show,” 1965. I’m always looking out for cool Ike and Tina records, and this certainly qualifies. It was recorded live at The Skyliner Ballroom, Fort Worth, Texas, and Lovall’s Ballroom in Dallas.

When I posted on Facebook that I’d found it at the Milwaukee record show a couple of weeks ago, my friend Larry Grogan of the mighty Funky 16 Corners blog offered this instant review: “Great album. … Great snapshots of a mid-’60s soul revue, multiple singers, cover songs.”

Which reflects perhaps the greatest joy of 10 years of doing this blog — getting to know and being part of a good group of like-minded record diggers and music buffs. I’ve met JB from The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ and Greg from Echoes in the Wind in real life and still hope to meet those on the coasts and elsewhere.

More to come.

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Filed under February 2017, Sounds