November 20, 1971: Isaac Hayes, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Rita Wright, James Brown, Freda Payne

ISAAC HAYES: Theme From Shaft (Enterprise).
Truly one of the hottest records of this or any other year, as well as the biggest success story of 1971, must be ‘Shaft’. ‘Shaft’ is a movie about black private eye John Shaft, made by black director Gordon Parks unabashedly with an eye to pleasing the black audience in America, with incidental music penned and performed by the black superstar of Atmospheric Soul, Isaac Hayes.

Ike’s music has been released as a double album, plus the opening credit theme as this single, and taken as a whole it has broken all previous records in the American music trade charts. Record World’s Charts present the most awe-inspiring placings, but Billboard and Cash Box have similar combinations that are almost impressive.

Can you dig it – Number One on the Pop Album Chart, the R&B Album Chart and the Jazz Album Chart, and on the Pop Single Chart and the R&B Single Chart (rising fast on the Easy Listening Single Chart)? All on the same week!

If you didn’t realise it, apart from the C&W Charts (and there’s not much chance of it scoring there!) and some small local Latin-American surveys, there’s nothing else for it to top!

All this, and the success of the very realistic true-to-life Manhattan- set movie, are directly attributable to the cunning concerted promotional efforts of MGM and Stax Records (the movie’s and Enterprise Records’ parents respectively), who ensured that both media worked together to build demand for the whole package. And they had a good package.

Isaac Hayes may not be widely known in Britain, but in America his last three LPs have been gold winning million sellers. Although famous for his lengthened versions of contemporary standards that are enhanced by his mesmeric orchestral arrangements and croaky non-singing delivery, Ike’s had room on this double album to reveal more facets of his talent and to expand on the funkier aspects of his music.

For obvious reasons, most of the music is instrumental. Some is very pretty in a lightly Jazzy, Bossa Nova-ish way, some is tough and dramatic in a menacingly Big Band-ish way, while the music called ‘Do Your Thing‘ which accompanies the satisfyingly well-planned climactic attack on the Mob’s gunmen is one of Ike’s extended pieces, featuring wah-wah and acid guitar lines over an unremitting plodding foundation.

The single hit, ‘Theme From Shaft’, echoes (if something at the start of a film can echo the final climax) the wah-wah from this, but amongst a much more sprightly, ever-changing and thundering bass-accentuated arrangement. This almost perplexing instrumental pulse-quickening build-up only lurches unexpectedly into being the backing for Ike’s mooing vocal about John Shaft after two or more minutes.

Scarcely a song, scarcely a conventional instrumental, and difficult to get into fully without the context of not only the album but also the movie, its exceptional success must only reflect on the power of Isaac Hayes’ name in America (and the promotion). How long before he hits Britain?

MARTHA REEVES & THE VANDELLAS: Bless You (Tamla Motown TMG 794).
For a change, this is brand new material … although it doesn’t sound it. Consequently, it’s full of life, zest, zing, bouncy Motown beat and all the other qualities that spell H-I-T.

RITA WRIGHT: I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You (Tamla Motown TMG 791).
Mrs Syreeta Wonder’s 1968 Holland & Dozier-produced Ashford-Simpson-Holland-penned Diana Ross-like noisy keening stop-and-start slowie has been resurrected to combat the new and lusher version by VIKKI CARR (CBS 7583).

Syreeta’s original and its label credits mark an interesting transitional period of Motown’s history and will obviously appeal to label freaks, but may be too piercingly shrill for even Diana Ross fans, who will possibly prefer Vikki. Continue reading “November 20, 1971: Isaac Hayes, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Rita Wright, James Brown, Freda Payne”