Showing posts with label Isaac Hayes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Isaac Hayes. Show all posts

Friday, August 15, 2008

“That Cat Shaft Is A Bad Mother—”

As a follow-up to my earlier post on Isaac Hayes (and the earlier post on the wah-wah pedal), I thought I’d mention Film Score Monthly’s/Screen Archives Entertainment’s forthcoming release Shaft Anthology: His Big Score and More! (click on the title for additional information). Although not planned as such, the anthology is a fitting tribute to Isaac Hayes in the form of one of his most famous film scores, which features the unheard original score by the musical legend. The forthcoming release is not an attempt to exploit the musician’s recent death: as FSM/SAE’s website indicates, the anthology had been in preparation for years and its release by Film Score Monthly days after Hayes’ untimely death is sheer serendipity. I reproduce the following from FSM’s website:

From FSM and SAE: This anthology has been in the works for three years and its release is coincidental to the untimely passing of the great Isaac Hayes. In fact, it was sent to the pressing plant for manufacturing three weeks prior to his death. Mr. Hayes, we salute you!

Yes, they’re talking about Shaft! On the famous record album, the lyric is “that cat Shaft is a bad mother—.” However, the name “Shaft” is omitted above because this is the film version of the legendary score—not the familiar record album—and this is one of many differences, both subtle and large, in the two versions of Isaac Hayes’s seminal work. This pioneering 3CD set features the previously unreleased original soundtrack to the 1971
Shaft along with music from the sequel, Shaft’s Big Score!, and 1973-74 TV series. It is the Shaft Anthology: His Big Score and More!

Shaft is one of the landmark characters and films not just of 1970s “blaxploitation” cinema but all of pop culture. For the first time, a black leading man (provocatively named and dynamically played by Richard Roundtree) talked back to white authority and acted like a cool James Bond who did whatever he wanted...and he was the hero. The character starred in seven novels, three feature films (with a fourth in recent years) and a TV series. FSM has compiled the best of Shaft’s 1970s previously unreleased-on-CD soundtracks as follows:

The original 1971 Shaft was one of the seminal films of “blaxploitation” movement, as Shaft gets involved in the Harlem rescue effort of a gangster’s kidnapped daughter. The score by Isaac Hayes not only set trends in film music but pop and R&B, with its spoken/sung lyrics, disco-era wah-wah guitar and high-hat cymbals, and lush, soulful orchestrations. The soundtrack was widely distributed on a 2LP set (later a CD) by Enterprise (Hayes’s personal label on Stax Records) but that was a re-recording done in Memphis. For the first time, this CD presents the original Hollywood-recorded film score featuring primordial versions of the source cues as well as all of the dramatic underscoring (little of which was adapted for the LP). It is a fascinating glimpse into Hayes’s creativity and an important archiving of this legendary work. As a bonus, disc one of this collection adds Hayes’s two singles released in 1972 related to M-G-M productions: “Theme From The Men” (a TV theme) and “Type Thang” (used in Shaft’s Big Score!).

The second Shaft film, Shaft’s Big Score! (1972), was scored by the director of the first two installments, Gordon Parks, when Hayes was unavailable. Parks was a multitalented musician, poet, author and photographer, in addition to filmmaker, who had scored his directorial debut, 1969’s The Learning Tree, and was technically assisted on his film scores (as was Hayes on Shaft) by Tom McIntosh. The Shaft’s Big Score! soundtrack called upon an earlier, Duke Ellington-style of sophisticated jazz compared to Hayes’s Memphis-style R&B, with a bravura climactic chase (“Symphony for Shafted Souls”) that has long made the soundtrack LP a treasured collectible. The complete soundtrack is presented here.

The third Shaft film, Shaft in Africa (1973), is not presented here for licensing reasons (though most of it was included on a 1999 compilation, The Best of Shaft). That film’s composer, Johnny Pate—the brilliant arranger for Curtis Mayfield on Superfly and other projects—returned for the short-lived Shaft TV series in 1973-74 (starring Roundtree), which had seven 90-minute episodes produced for CBS. Pate provided inventive adaptation of Hayes’s “Theme From Shaft” as well as his own groovy and suspenseful scoring—from an era in which most TV crime music sounded like Shaft, this is, delightfully, the real thing. Pate provided three full scores and two partial scores for the Shaft series (with the rest tracked with earlier cues), almost—but not all—of which are presented at the end of disc two and all of disc three of this set.

This entire collection is in excellent stereo sound, meticulously remixed from the first-generation M-G-M session masters. There are lots of afros in Joe Sikoryak’s art direction. The comprehensive liner notes are by Lukas Kendall.

I've pre-ordered my copy, how about you?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Soulsville USA

A comment left by fred in connection with yesterday's Issac Hayes post reminded me that I neglected to provide a link to Memphis' great Stax Museum, "Soulsville USA." As I mentioned yesterday, Hayes got his start as a session musician at Stax back in the early 1960s. We visited Memphis three summers ago with the explicit purpose of visiting Graceland--a visit which we thoroughly enjoyed--but while we were installed at the Peabody Hotel there I also used the opportunity to visit a number of Memphis' historic sites, including the Stax Museum. Visiting the Stax Museum was not only a great educational experience, but a great thrill for me as well, as so many legendary musicians recorded at Stax's studios, among them Otis Redding, Booker T & the MGs, Isaac Hayes, and in a series of sessions in 1973, Elvis Presley. While the numbers of visitors who trek to Memphis every year in order to visit Graceland numbers in the millions, the Stax Museum is one of Memphis great treasures, and I urge anyone planning a visit to Memphis to schedule a visit there also.

Perhaps because of the Scientology connection, Isaac Hayes and Lisa Marie Presley were close friends; I was going to post a picture of the two together, but given everything surrounding Elvis's image is so heavily guarded and copyrighted, I have posted the following link instead. Hayes happened to pass away at the beginning of Elvis Week 2008, a celebration of Elvis and the culture from which he came. I strongly suspect that Elvis, were he alive, would give "Soulsville USA" a strong endorsement.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Isaac Hayes: Soul Man, 1942-2008

By sheer serendipity, a few blog entries ago I wrote about Isaac Hayes' "Theme From Shaft" as being one of the more famous instances of rock songs that used the wah-wah pedal. Thus I was saddened to hear the news that Hayes died today at the age of 65. Apparently a family member found Hayes unresponsive near a treadmill and he was pronounced dead an hour or so later at a Memphis hospital. While the cause of death was not released to the media, my guess is that it was caused by a heart attack. A session pianist for Stax Records in Memphis beginning in the early 60s, he began co-writing songs with David Porter, composing hits for Sam and Dave such as "Hold On, I'm Coming" and "Soul Man." But before achieving fame in the 1960s, apparently he held down a number of low-paying jobs, including shining shoes on Memphis's famous Beale Street.

Isaac Hayes anticipated the cool romanticism of crooners such as Barry White by virtue of his sensuous, laid-back records like Hot Buttered Soul (1969), the jacket cover for which consisted, memorably, of the top of Hayes' bald head. As a black musician, he struck a powerful image, looking rather like an Egyptian pharaoh with his shaven head and ornate, vaguely oriental multiple gold chains regally draped around his neck. At the 1972 Oscar ceremony, Hayes performed the "Theme From Shaft" decked out in lots of gold, subsequently receiving a standing ovation. According to the Los Angeles Times obituary, TV Guide "later chose it as No. 18 in its list of television's 25 most memorable moments." He also won a Grammy that year for his 1971 album Black Moses, next to Shaft one of his best known works and perhaps his best.

But it was the "Theme From Shaft," which became a #1 hit in 1971, that cemented his fame and made him a household name. A few years ago we visited Memphis--the primary purpose for which was to visit Graceland--and stayed at the Memphis Peabody Hotel in order to see the famous "Peabody ducks." While staying there, a member of the hotel staff told us that Isaac Hayes' restaurant was within short walking distance of the Hotel, so we thought we would try it out. Our dinner at his establishment became one of the highlights of our trip--a soul food extravaganza.

It is easy to forget that Hayes also had an extensive film career--for me, one of his more memorable roles being that of "The Duke" in John Carpenter's Escape From New York (1981)--and in 1997 he became the voice of Chef on TV's South Park. He quit the show in 2006 after an episode of the show apparently mocked Scientology, his religion. "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," he said. Apparently a subsequent episode of the show killed off his character, suggesting there was a degree of animosity between him and the show's creators.

Elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, Isaac Hayes was an influential figure in rock music, the co-creator of several R&B hits and sole (soul) creator of a handful of significant records in the late 60s and early 70s. Ironically, his death occurred at the beginning of this year's annual "Elvis Week," reminding us that Memphis has lost another of its famous sons.