Isaac Hayes
" Shaft "

Blueswax 8
Rating 8

A Bad Mother, No Doubt, (11/26/09)

Isaac Hayes made music that sounded like nothing else in its time, making Shaft one of the most powerful soundtracks in soul music. Stax/Concord Records reintroduces this strong piece of music in an all-new digital re-mastered deluxe edition featuring a "suspicious" bonus track, which also sports expanded liner notes by well known music writer Ashley Kahn. Isaac Hayes' classic soundtrack to Shaft hasn't been hard to obtain. This Oscar and Grammy winner has been re-released numerous times. This latest version includes one bonus track that's not really a bonus. Rather, it's mostly "Theme From Shaft" remixed from the already included original version. So it's not like Stax/Concord unearthed anything significant from its vaults that would have been a true bonus track. Better yet, how about two or three additional bonus tracks from the original sessions more like a lot of the Rhino and Polydor/Chronicles Deluxe/Expanded Edition reissues that tempt and tease fans to explore and entice a whole lot more.

On to the music: "Theme From Shaft" holds up delightfully well with gorgeous and lavish production values, a great orchestra that is loaded with top-shelf musicians and, of course, Isaac's smooth, sexy and hypnotic vocals....can you dig it? Shut your mouth! The lavish instrumental "Bumpy's Lament" segues beautifully to "Walk From Regio's," another instrumental that's shifts to a more funky groove with heady horn charts arranged by Hayes and the great J.J. Johnson. "Shaft's Cab Ride" is a punching hunk of funk that unfortunately at one minute and eleven seconds is too short, but we have to remember that this is a soundtrack recording.

The breezy and jazzy "Cafˇ Regio" is a tasty workout for guitar (unclear if it's Michael Toles or Charles Pitts) and Isaac's keys and nifty orchestral arrangements. "Be Yourself" marches on a theme that's propelled by James Alexander's humping and thumping bass lines and the punching Memphis Horns who storm through "No Name Bar" with drummer Willie Hall's signifying in your face drumming. "Bumpy's Blues" is a soulful Blues complete with fuzzy wah-wah guitar and is a sophisticated uptown take on the Blues.

The hefty (19:28) "Do Your Thing" brings back Isaac's third and last vocal inclusion, and it's a simmering slow funk that despite some fine solos meanders on for far too long. It does have some intense peaking moments but never reaches climax, with too many "Do your thing" rants that make this never ending piece generational and out of date. "The End Theme" is just a shortened rehash of "Theme From Shaft." Though it's a cool instrumental, it's mostly unnecessary. The so-called bonus track closes "Shaft" with the third "Theme From Shaft" version.

The vast majority of Shaft is instrumental. Other than the title theme, the only vocal tracks are "Soulville" and "Do Your Thing." What this reissue does scream is that Isaac was a major arranger, composer, and the man in charge of these proceedings. Kudos to Stax/Concord for its fact-filled twenty-page booklet with anecdotes by the late and renowned jazz and pop critic Leonard Feather, Isaac himself, and brand new liners from Ashley Kahn. In summary, if you have this recording, there's no reason to purchase this edition, but if your vinyl copy is beat up, or for some strange reason you have not heard or own "Shaft," buy it and enjoy it

Bob Putignano: