It really caught me off-guard when I heard that Isaac Hayes had died on sunday. He is really one of my all-time favourite musicians, crooners, arrangers and all around SEX GOD!
My absolute favourite, close-to-tears-Isaac-moment is the 18 minute version of "By the time I get to Phoenix". That 10 minute intro is the closest you can come to an aural seduction of pleasure and pain.
A simple stroke on a closed hi-hat underlined by a monotone organ sound, it´s consoling and threatening at the same time. I soon found out that Isaac can pretty much say anything with his deep, soothing voice – even pamphlets for obscure religious cults- I don´t care. Here, he tells the story of a man who is cheated on by his selfish wife only to return to her time and time again.
By the time this hypnotic intro has lulled you into submission and/or a hypnotic state the song begins with one of the most amazing transitions and soul-releasing moments in music. Let´s just say it´s flat out breathtaking.
Suddenly the steady organ sound is transposed by a half-tone and the closed hi-hat opens up into a slow rhythm. Isaac, who was preaching his intro in a detached but pleading way just oozes into a slow singing style in the very same moment. Although it is musically not exactly a revelation, and you can certainly feel manipulated by the quasi-religious trickery of this tension-release-spiel, it always forces me to sit down.
But that´s not all. The tension that was built up during the long intro was only transposed onto another level. The pressure is still lingering in the air and it is here that Isaac Hayes really put his arranging skills to full effect. When the strings finally come in they arrive with such a subdued force that wipes away the dark clouds that were hovering over the prior 11 minutes. It´s sonic sex, aural torture, rapture and tent-preacher-trickery rolled into a symphonic soul opera.
Sadly, later in his life Hayes would suscribe to the tent-preacher mentality himself by joyining Scientology. I was more than a bit disappointed when I became aware of this.
Over the weekend I have had two "Ike Moods" which were both strangely triggered by his absence.
I entered a store and heard a really great reggae/rocksteady version of "Shaft"! I immediately asked the girl behind the counter what it was but she was unable to locate the file on the computer and considering the speed with which she was packing my purchase, "asking the chef" would have outlasted my holiday. Remember the days when clerks brought their own tapes to work?!
Thanks to the wonderful blog Versions Galore I found it along with more great versions to shake a SHAFT at! Highly recommended! From the infamous Cabaret Voltaire version to Bert Kaempfert and more...it´s all there. Here it is in a version by the Jamaica Groove Band.
On sunday we were cruising down Marine Drive in West Vancouver, enjoying the "Southern France" ambience of the place while listening to Bachararch´s "Look of Love" in the Dusty Springfield version. Since I don´t particularly like that version (actually, many of Dusty´s songs leave me a bit underwhelmed) I nagged that I didn´t have the ultimate Isaac Hayes version handy, although I have to admit that the original probably suited the place much better.
At only 65 one of the most influential musicians of the past 40 years has died. He should be remembered for more than being “Chef”; scoring “Shaft” and driving around with candelabras on his hood as “the Duke”. Although, these are gigantic moments in their own right.