Wednesday, February 4, 2009

February 4: Isaac Hayes, "Hot Buttered Soul"

Artist: Isaac Hayes
Album: Hot Buttered Soul
Year: 1969
Label: Stax

Combining the experimental and open sounds of the psychedelic movement, taking the spirit of Motown, and placing it atop the struggle for civil rights, Issac Hayes created some of the most significant records in history. Between establishing himself with Black Moses and winning Grammy's with Shaft, Issac Hayes released one of the most monumental and important albums with his 1969 release, Hot Buttered Soul.

Hot Buttered Soul runs just over 45 minutes of smokin', groovin', funky soul, but it only has four songs. The albums' opener, "Walk On By" features a steady, ripping guitar lain over a drippingly sweet and smooth funk hook. Hayes' velvet-bass vocals croon with the sorrow of rejected love. The trio of female backing vocals punctuate perfectly and provide a magnificant juxtapistion to Hayes' low moans and pleads. Running throughout the twelve minute song is a brilliant orchestral arrangement and the combination of all of the sounds and vocals are truly awe inspiring.

The middle of the record features a pair of no less noteworthy songs in "Hyperbolicsyllablecsequedalymistic" (and yes, that is spelled correctly) and the albums' shortest song, "One Woman." The first of these two songs contains what may be the funkiest bassline ever recorded. Stinging guitar bursts and mellodic piano fills round out the wall out sound upon which Hayes' scatters move of his signature silky vocals. Bits and pieces of this song have been sampled over and over throughout the years.

On "One Woman," Hayes sets the funk aside and turns out a pure soul classic. The string arrangement returns and, along with some woodwinds, create another gorgeous sonic texture behind Hayes and his backing singers. A classic tale of a man caught between two women, Hayes struggles and agonizes over which woman to choose. As he says, "one woman is making my home, while the other womans' making me do wrong."

The final song on Hot Buttered Soul, "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," clocking in at nearly twently minutes, opens with a sermon-like monologe. Finally, after over nine minutes of Hayes' storytelling and preaching, the song builds from an alluring orchestral movement and then crashes head-on into an all out soul explosion. Majestic horns, coupled with sliding organ tones construct an absolutely stunning wall of sound. The song itself is, in fact, a cover of a Jimmy Webb song released three years previous.

When one thinks of soul music, James Brown and Aretha Franklin come immeditely to mind. While they are both legends beyond reproach, Issac Hayes delievers the genre without the glitz and gloss, just the heart. First class vocals, breathtaking extended jams, and more funk and soul than ever before make this album one of a kind. Isaac Hayes had already established himself as a talented musican, but with Hot Buttered Soul, he solidified his place as a music icon.

Standout tracks: The album only has four tracks, all four are well beyond the term "standout."

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