Old/New Albums: Isaac Hayes’ “Hot Buttered Soul”

isaachayesI was excited to listen to this album, as I had known about Isaac Hayes since junior high but not heard anything except the “Theme from Shaft” used as a pop culture reference in various places. For some reason, the cover of Hot Buttered Soul has stuck out to me for a long time and it’s always piqued my interest whenever I see it; it’s this album that’s generally considered a landmark in soul music but I knew nothing about it at all. Isaac Hayes seemed more a Barry White singer than a Curtis Mayfield, but again this was basically rooted in my assumptions and I was looking forward to finding out what he was all about through this album.

And it’s kind of weird to me. Especially for a soul album from 1969. The album consists of four tracks, with three of them being very nearly 10 minutes or longer. After I got through it, I kind of felt cheated. Like four songs would be permissible if they were really groundbreaking songs or something I’d never heard before.

But how much variety can you expect with four tunes?

I will admit, after repeated listens, the extended jams started to coalesce better and sound more distinct. There were points where I thought the length of these tunes were maybe justified. But still, so much could have been cut from this record, more songs added and I feel like it could’ve had a bigger impact on me. “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” has about a nine-minute speaking intro for crying out loud. And when the music over which the speaking occurs isn’t really that memorable, I was constantly left wondering why Hayes made the stylistic choices he did.

And as I read about this album, I keep seeing things about the innovative production and engineering style and they’re just lost on me. I’m not sure if I don’t have enough of a background in soul music (and I feel like I know a fair amount of it) or if I just don’t have the technical knowledge to understand why this was such a groundbreaking album.

For me, this album is meh. In terms of soul, there are so many landmark albums I’d rather listen to than this one. This album was a little self-indulgent to me and I wasn’t really moved, either by the lyrical content or by the extended musical jams, none of which really made me groove. This record was a letdown.

Top 3 Tunes:

  1. Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic
  2. One Woman
  3. Walk On By
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