Sunday, November 18, 2007

Issac Hayes - Symphonic Soul Man

The only reason I bought this album was because I'd read about it in the Melody Maker and it sounded like the kind of thing I'd like. Despite being hooked on West Coast rock, British rock, blues and the dawning’s of Prog rock I was still a Surrey Soul Man at heart. At school my friend Mick Brown had told me all about soul music. Of course I'd heard Motown on the radio and bought Supremes singles, the Temptations, the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye. Mick took me deeper into real Southern soul, Stax Records and Otis Redding.

I think the thing that grabbed me about the review of Isaac Hayes, Hot Buttered Soul was the fact that they called it Symphonic soul. Classical music had been important to me ever since going to a series of concerts at the Royal festival Hall when I was at junior school.

I bought this LP from Rhythm's in Reigate during the school lunch break. I'd ordered it the week before because it wasn't the kind of thing they normally stocked. On the turntable it went just as soon as I got home and from the opening bars of Burt Bacharach's ‘Walk On By’ I was sold. Twelve minutes later when the track ended I could hardly believe what I heard. Funk and soul fused with symphonic strings and a Hammond organ. The Melody Maker had undersold it.

The albums other standout track is the 18-minute, side filling, ‘By the Time I get to Phoenix’. Of course I knew the song from it having been a hit for Glen Campbell; I also knew it had been written by Jimmy Webb. Yet nothing could have prepared me for this tour de force. Isaac Hayes speaks the intro, which runs for nearly nine minutes, and when he starts to sing it develops into an amazing musical experience. For me Hayes defines soul music. It's romantic, it goes to a place where other music fails to go and it creates a mood like no other. The coda on ‘Phoenix’ is just awesome. The album is worth whatever you pay for it, just for this one track.

From then on I’ve bought just about everything that Isaac Hayes has ever recorded (Shaft is still one of THE soundtrack albums). Other classic tracks from other albums include ‘I Stand Accused’ (the Isaac Hayes Movement), ‘Close To You’, ‘A Brand New Me’, and ‘Your Love so Doggone Good’ – definitely one of my eight desert Island discs. He’s not just the chef on South Park!

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