R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

The Book Of Isaac


Isaac Hayes' Essential Albums: Hot Buttered Soul/Black Moses/Shaft is a gorgeous four-CD box set, and because we're nearing the holidays perhaps it's fitting that opening the set feels a little like Christmas come early. Inside you'll find each disc outfitted with individual and lovingly detailed liner notes, complete with photos, lots of interesting Stax history, and a raft of other cool perks.

For starters, the Hot Buttered Soul liner notes are affectingly prefaced by Jim James, vocalist and songwriter for indie darlings My Morning Jacket and a Hayes devotee, while the cover of Black Moses unfolds into a cross depicting Hayes as Moses, just like the original vinyl.

Yet what many listeners may find most fascinating are the liner notes to Shaft, which chronicle the making of the groundbreaking movie and the score that in 1972 earned Hayes a Golden Globe (Best Original Score) and later that year an Oscar (Best Original Song), marking the first such award for a black artist in a non-acting category and giving rise to a new generation of black musicians creating film scores, including Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Aretha Franklin.

1969's Hot Buttered Soul is a masterpiece of the long song, in itself something of a rarity in an era of three-minute pop and soul hits. Reaching #8 on the charts, the album represents another cultural shift for which Hayes can take abundant credit, as song arrangements became more extended and a number of top artists began focusing on the listening experience more than commercial interests. Black Moses and Shaft, both released in 1971, underscore Hayes' artistic scope. Black Moses, a double album's worth of cover songs and originals charted at #10 and displayed Hayes' ability to transform a variety of songwriting styles into a signature sound.