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by: Isaac Hayes

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Isaac Haynes rose from the Memphis slums to the top of the list in the black music world. In 1971, Hayes’ Shaft soundtrack, recorded at Stax Studios in Memphis, became a #1 album on both pop and R & B charts. Shaft stayed on the chart 60 weeks and became the first soul soundtrack to a motion picture that earned a Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe. 

Shaft is based on the black detective who fought, played and worked hard onscreen. This deluxe re-issue reminds of the cultural cornerstone this soul music soundtrack served as during this 70s time period for music in cinema. Later, the Shaft soundtrack influenced many hip hop musicians, but the soul music still resonates with audiences then and now.

By 71, Hayes was already a star with hits like Hot Buttered Soul, but Shaft propelled him into rare air. Once most people get over the Blaxploitation genre surface reaction of the film, the music stands as undeniable soul, R & B and cosmic jazz. Of course, the title track gains the most recognition, but these other compositions represent the heart of Stax Records. “Ellie’s Love Theme” proves medicinal…like smooth Modern Jazz Quartet, whereas “Shaft’s Cab Ride” conjures the Stax horns’ R & B glory.

“Early Sunday Morning” feels just like it sounds. “Be Yourself” contains, a joyous, upbeat theme that blended well with images on the screen. The centerpiece song, “Soulsville”, sang by Hayes evoke hard luck, and harder reality down in the city. “No Name Bar” swings like a cross between Memphis and New Orleans bloodlines. The 19-minute “Do Your Thing” ranks as some of the most funk/R&B-rooted music you can find.

For most folks, these days, this Shaft soundtrack will sound better than ever. It certainly still stands up against time.

 James Calemine

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