ISAAC HAYES / “Hayes Sunshine Shaft Mixtape”
By now most folk know the back story (if not you can read part of the story in what we wrote about Ike last week), so this week I want to concentrate on two songs: one ultra-famous and the other a bit more obscure but also important in gaining a full appreciation of Isaac Hayes the musician. Here we present live recordings. Hayes did not need studio techniques to work (or create) his magic. He could and did do it live, moreover, beginning in the seventies and into the following millennium, Hayes continue to produce exciting stage shows.
1. “Shaft” from Live At The Sahara Tahoe
We open with this short version of Hayes’ most popular composition: the theme from “Shaft.” Hayes was one of the first Soul artists to consistently use strings and a large orchestra while touring. That he was able to replicate the studio sound was impressive but that he was able to turn a cinema theme into a major funk masterpiece in the studio and then take it on the road and turn it out was nothing short of astounding.
The Sahara Tahoe album is too often overlooked as though it was a throwaway done to cash in on Hayes new stardom as a result of the success of Shaft (both the movie and the soundtrack). The album is actually a showcase for many facets of Hayes talent: composer, arranger, band leader/entertainer, and instrumentalist. If you are a fan, Sahara Tahoe is not to be missed, and if you are a true fan, I’m preaching to the choir cause you already got the music.
2. “Ain’t No Sunshine” from Isaac Hayes at Wattstax
Ike is featured on alto saxophone on this long track from his triumphant appearance at the August 20, 1972 appearance at the Wattstax Festival in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. If you don’t own the DVD of this historic festival, you should. (And, yes, that is Jesse Jackson introducing Black Moses.) The whole Stax family was out in full force doing a great, great job but let’s keep the spotlight on Ike for a minute.
Taking an extended saxophone solo is not the easiest thing for an R&B entertainer who is primarily known as a vocalist to pull off at an outdoor festival in a stadium but Hayes does it to death. It’s hard to imagine him taking it further but… this brings us to our third selection.
3. “Ike’s Rap” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” from Live At The Sahara Tahoe
About a year after Wattstax, Ike had added an ironic, funny, albeit effective rap to the song and an extended arrangement for his saxophone solo that included used an electronic hook-up on the horn. Wattstax was great but this is a divine arrangement. Listen to the many moods he conjures included the extended coda on the end when he preaches on his horn.
Hayes’ horn playing is much, much stronger. Obviously his chops are up and he has thought about how he wanted to do the song. Which brings me to a brief aside. I remember one of a number of interviews I did with Mr. Hayes. It was at the La Pavillion Hotel in downtown New Orleans. After the formal interview, we were just talking and I asked was he going to play his alto on the upcoming show. He said he had not planned to. I implored, citing that many people didn’t know how good he was as an instrumentalist. He smiled and said he would consider playing the alto. That night he did and, predictably, he brought down the house with “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
4. “Shaft” from the DVD Live at Montreux 2005
When this was recorded, Ike had been doing “Shaft” for over thirty years—sort of like Duke Ellington being expected to do “Take The A Train.” But rather than just make it a throw away, the song is now a feature number including Hayes directing the band on the breaks, holding up his fingers to indicate how many hits he wanted at a particular time. (Again, an aside, if you had never seen him do this live, you can not imagine how exciting it is to hear a familiar song and watch the man have tons of fun directing.)
I won’t go into an extended analysis but it is important to note that the guitar player is all the way out there doing his wah-wah thing. Fortunately, this is from a video you can watch, so you can see not only the band but also savor the enjoyment and interaction of the band members.
And this concludes our Isaac Hayes tribute. There is, of course, a lot more Isaac Hayes music to share but, hey, we’ve got to move on. Peace.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
This entry was posted on Monday, November 17th, 2008 at 1:35 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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