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Shaft - Isaac Hayes Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 January 2004

Isaac Hayes

Motion Picture Soundtrack To Shaft
format: Hybrid Stereo SACD
label: Stax Records
release year: 2003
performance: 10
sound 8.5
reviewed by: Jerry Del Colliano

ImageI admit that I often dream of being “the black private dick who’s the sex machine to all the chicks.” Who doesn’t? When Isaac Hayes was tagged to compose a soundtrack for the blaxplotation film “Shaft,” starring Richard Roundtree, I don’t think there was any way he could have know how popular the project was going to be. I have taken the time to watch the film some 20-plus years after its release and I can tell you the music for the film passed the test of time exponentially better than the slow plot of the movie.

The “Theme From Shaft” is possibly the most recognizable use of a wha-wha pedal in the history of music (sorry Jimi – Voodoo Chile Slight Return was killer, but…). The badass shtick that makes up the lyrics as performed by Hayes have transcended into American culture to the point where Lisa and Bart Simpson sing the tune at a karaoke bar as their father eats potentially poisonous fugu. Not many R&B songs make it that far.

The reissue of the “Shaft” soundtrack onto Hybrid SACD allows people with SACD players to hear new levels of audio resolution. The record was remastered for SACD and, in direct comparison to the Stax CD version I also own, I can say that the SACD is superior in every facet. The most notable improvements are heard in the openness and airiness on “Theme From Shaft.” On the CD, the high hat sounds crowded and cluttered vs. the SACD remastered edition, which reproduces the high hat with much clearer sound and more energy.

Motion picture soundtracks generally struggle to make up a cohesive album. “Pulp Fiction’s” soundtrack is a good example of some great R&B songs intertwined with clips from the movie. With the “Shaft” soundtrack, there is no need for clips; the music speaks for itself. There are a handful of gems on the record ,including “Ellie’s Love Theme,” where the extra resolution of the SACD format shines as Ike Turner absolutely goes off on the vibes. This cut is beyond cool and should be considered on your short list of tracks for demonstration for your buddies.

Hayes uses a large number of musicians on this project. Beyond his own performance on vocals, vibes, organ and electric piano, Hayes utilized the BarKays as his rhythm section, along with his band, The Movement. One of the best examples of the rich depth you can hear on this album is on “Café Regio’s.” This instrumental is led melodically by an ultra-smooth guitar lead not too far from some of the work you will hear on the recently reviewed release of Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow. In this case, I prefer the more soulful work on Regio’s. Audio enthusiasts will flip to hear the depth of instrumentation, especially the horns and the strings mixed into this tune. It is an outright, no-holds-barred jam.

There are a number of songs from the film that neatly fit into the album. One that seems slightly out of place is “Do Your Thing (vocal),” which is a 19-and-a-half-minute epic. If you have the time, it is worth the investment in the nasty, bluesy soul tune. Hayes takes you through a musical journey on this one and it is worth it.

Even if you have a CD copy of this Academy Award-winning album, it is worth strong consideration for you to pick up as a hybrid SACD. The CD layer benefits incrementally from the remastering, but the SACD version really shines. I struggle to get it out of my player to make room for other discs to review. It is rare for a disc to get a “10” on, so take this compliment into consideration the next time you are looking to buy a hot-sounding new disc.

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