Shaft’s his name. Shaft’s his game. MGM’s distribution of Gordon Parks’ 1971 black action-crime flick lent a certain legitimacy to a film genre that was otherwise considered too niche (and too black) for mainstream audiences. It also provided a mainstream platform for Isaac Hayes’ expansive new strain of soul music. Sandwiched between Hayes’ ambitious To Be Continued and Black Moses albums, Shaft sees him (backed by The Bar-Kays) distilling his sprawling orchestral soul into neat 3 or 4-minute bursts (with the epic, 19-minute “Do Your Thing” being the obvious exception). It’s the best-selling album ever released on Stax (which is saying something), thanks to the ubiquitous, Oscar-winning “Theme From Shaft” which sort of became a caricature of the blaxploitation movement due to the scratchy guitar and Hayes’ slick pimp quips (“can ya dig it?”)… but listen to it again, it’s actually a phenomenal song. The tension created by the band’s scratchy guitar, rapid-fire hi-hats and soaring brass is out of this world. If it’s not your thing, don’t give up; “Theme” is actually the oddball here, as most of the other tracks are low-slung instrumental soul grooves. Ike & co. launch directly into slow-burning “Bumpy’s Lament” next (heads will recognize the melody from Dre’s “Xxplosive” and Lil Kim’s “Drugs,” but those joints are actually sampled from Soul Mann & The Brothers’ cover of the tune) and maintain a similar laid-back vibe for the majority of the record. The cool pimp strut of “No Name Bar,” regal jazz-funk of “Cafe Regio’s” (there’s footage of Hayes and the band playing this cut for director Gordon Parks in the studio, seek it out) and sentimental waltz of “Early Sunday Morning” are up there with Ike’s lushest moments from Black Moses or Hot Buttered Soul. Deluxe 180g double vinyl pressing with remastered audio, housed in old-school style tip-on jacket, limited to 1000 copies. Recommended.
- 180g double vinyl pressing
- deluxe old-school style tip-on jacket
- remastered from original analog tapes by Dave Cooley at Elysian Masters
- limited to 1000 copies
- music label: Craft Recordings 2018
reviewed by hannibal chew 03/2018
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