• 15

    Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul

    Year: 1969

    Ah, Isaac Hayes: accidental sex symbol and civil rights icon. He’d lingered behind the scenes at Stax-Volt for years, writing for Sam & Dave with his partner, David Porter, and releasing one album, Presenting Isaac Hayes, which was, according to label president Al Bell, a drunken joke. Then Stax lost its entire back catalog in a bad deal with Atlantic and, beginning in 1968, Bell set about replacing the entirety of it by recording and flooding the market with nearly 30 albums. One of these was a project no one expected to do anything at all; Isaac’s second album, Hot Buttered Soul.

    Instead it was a surprise smash hit. With four tracks spread over 45 minutes, the album is a monster. Hayes, in what would become his signature style, essays Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Walk On By” for an awesome dozen-minute stretch. He then echoes early Funkadelic on “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic” (twenty years later, Public Enemy grabbed a piano snippet of this for “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”). Just as huge was Hayes take on Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” which has him delivering a spoken-word intro for the first third of the track’s 18-minutes; a holdover from his club days that was apparently enormously effective with women.

    The rest is history. The Shaft soundtrack. Jesse Jackson melodramatically removing his hat at Wattstax. Chef on South Park. Scientology. But it all began right here, because someone forgot to read the fine print.