It’s our first official full day of vacation and we’re eager to get on with it and we even managed to secure two deck chairs on the main beach to pass the day. Well, a good portion of it anyway. I completed a 1500m in pretty heavy surf and saw a few fish, a crab, a small sand shark and an old beer keg. Awesome. Anyway, I’m settling down now to take it all in from my deck chair and, hopefully, catch a few rays. And, hey, I even have one more soul-inspired album to listen to that I’ve been saving for just such an occasion, the ‘Hot Buttered Soul‘ album by Isaac Hayes.
Isaac Hayes is all over the book I just finished, ‘Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion‘ (Robert Gordon), so I figured I needed to check it out given there is – apparently – much more to the guy than ‘Chocolate Salty Balls‘. Who knew?
Released at the tail end of the ’60s, ‘Hot Buttered Soul’ set the precedent for how soul would evolve in the early ’70s, simultaneously establishing Isaac Hayes and the Bar-Kays as major forces within black music. Though not quite as definitive or as well-known as ‘Shaft‘, this album in particular remains an undeniably seminal record; it stretched its songs far beyond the traditional three-to-four-minute industry norm, featured long instrumental stretches where the Bar-Kays stole the spotlight, and it introduced a new, iconic persona for soul with Hayes’ tough yet sensual image.
With the release of this album, Motown suddenly seemed manufactured and James Brown a bit too theatrical. Surprising many, the album features only four songs. The first, ‘Walk on By‘, is an epic 12-minute moment of true perfection,particularly given my current surroundings where there is a constant parade of people all strutting by in very interesting, and often inappropriate bathing suits, all proudly showing off their awkward patches of body hair like rare birds of paradise. I swear, it looked like one old woman was trying to smuggle a nest of squirrels down her bikini bottoms.
Some shit I will never be able to unsee!
The following three songs aren’t quite as stunning but are still no doubt impressive: ‘Hyperbolicsyllabicsequedalymistic‘ (say that three times fast after a few cerveza’s) trades in sappy sentiment for straight-ahead funk, highlighted by a stomping piano halfway through the song; ‘One Woman‘ is the least epic moment, clocking in at only five minutes, but stands as a straightforward, well-executed love ballad; and finally, there’s the infamous 18-minute ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix‘ and its lengthy monologue which slowly eases you toward the climactic, almost-orchestral finale, a beautiful way to end one of soul’s timeless, landmark albums, the album that transformed Hayes into a lifelong icon. It also might just be the best beach song ever next to, say, ‘Moments In Love‘ by the Art of Noise’ and, maybe, ‘Sadness (Part I)‘ by Enigma. It was so good I just had to serenade a little of it to Kelly because, well, you know…somethings just have to be done.