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Soul - Released November 18, 2016 | Stax

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Soul - Released January 1, 2009 | Concord Records, Inc.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Soul - Released November 18, 2016 | Stax

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Soul - Released November 18, 2016 | Stax

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Soul - Released November 18, 2016 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

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Soul - Released November 10, 2017 | Stax

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Soul - Released November 18, 2016 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

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Soul - Released November 18, 2016 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

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Soul - Released May 19, 2017 | Stax

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Soul - Released January 1, 1982 | Stax

One of the best-available Isaac Hayes compilation, Greatest Hit Singles bypasses a couple of his later disco hits, but the result is a more unified sound that helps illustrate why Hayes was so important to the development of '70s soul. Of course, a major part of his legacy consists of the epic-length suites that helped usher R&B into the album age, and that facet of his work is necessarily underrepresented here. But as a concise, easily digestible introduction to Hayes' work, Greatest Hit Singles is indispensable. Hayes may have been a master of mood and flow when he crafted his albums, but his innovative, slow-building style also lent itself to indulgence. Greatest Hit Singles presents just what the title suggests -- the single versions of these songs, which prune away Hayes' excesses and boil his core sound down to the bare essentials. Even if this doesn't capture the full scope of his talents, it still gives a sense of Hayes' genius as an arranger and the groundwork he laid for the R&B love-man archetype. There's only one of his trademark "raps" here, on "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," which is slimmed down to seven minutes. Everything else clocks in under five, which usually involves heavy editing. Oddly, for one of the most accomplished soul songwriters of the '60s, Hayes' solo hits tended to be covers; only four of the 12 tracks here are Hayes originals, and two of those were movie themes. His vision as a solo artist lay more in the elaborate presentation and, often, reimagination of his repertoire. If you want to experience the full-length versions, see Stax's two volumes of The Best of Isaac Hayes, or buy the original albums. But for a more concentrated dose of Hayes at his best, Greatest Hit Singles is hard to beat. ~ Steve Huey
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Soul - Released December 18, 2015 | Stax

One of the better and more thoughtful Isaac Hayes compilations, Ultimate Isaac Hayes: Can You Dig It? is a three-disc (two CDs and one DVD) set that covers his years on Stax. There's a wide range of material here, from singles to deep album cuts, that provide a very representative look at these years, and Stax is even wise enough to include "I Stand Accused" and "Walk on By" in their full 12-minute versions. Only minor quibbles could be made with the selections. The third disc, a DVD, contains three songs performed by Hayes at Wattstax. And then there's the cherry -- er, some other spherical object -- on top: Hayes' performance of Chef's "Chocolate Salty Balls." ~ Andy Kellman
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Soul - Released November 18, 2016 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

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Soul - Released January 1, 1995 | Virgin Records

With about seven years of downtime on the recording front, Isaac Hayes burst to life again in 1995 with not one but two albums, released simultaneously with cover art that merges together when placed side by side. One was a collection of old demos and new instrumental tracks (Raw and Refined), but the other -- the disc at hand -- was a brand-new package hearkening back to Hayes' old extravagant ways. In a major attempt to restart his commercial engines, Hayes goes so far as to record in his original headquarters, Memphis, gathering around him many old cronies -- most notably his old writing partner from the Sam & Dave days, David Porter, and guitarists Michael Toles and Skip Pitts from the Stax period. Once again, Hayes attempts to transform well-known pop hits into wide-screen spectaculars, and he revisits tunes and ideas from his heyday. In a blatant imitation of the fold-out jacket of the original Black Moses LPs, the CD booklet even folds out in the shape of a cross. Yet there is a noticeable change in emphasis right at the start. "Fragile" begins with a rap that deals not with the usual Hayes topic of love gained or lost, but with a message about preserving the planet, and his treatment of Sting's song has a conga-driven momentum that ranks with many of Hayes' better extended rap/songs of the past. John Sebastian's "Summer in the City" is a tense amalgam of '70s funk and '90s digital synthesizers, a really effective update of the Hayes formula. But Hayes gets down to serious lovemaking business soon enough with new material like "Let Me Love You" and "I'll Do Anything (To Turn You On)." The Porter collaboration, "Thanks to the Fool," is a fine, humorous rap/song that picks up where "I Stand Accused" left off (this time, Ike gets the girl, albeit 25 years later!). The two golden oldies are handled in pointedly different ways. "Soulsville" (from the Shaft soundtrack) is almost unchanged from the original -- itself a comment that little has changed in the ghetto since 1971 -- while Chuck D. grafts a contemporary rap onto "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic" -- which doesn't do much for the tune, but doesn't hurt either. Though it came too late for his heyday, and a bit soon for his comeback on the wings of the cable series South Park, this is actually one of Hayes' best albums -- and it holds up under repeated plays. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Soul - Released November 18, 2016 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

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Soul - Released November 18, 2016 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

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Soul - Released January 1, 1979 | Universal Records

Isaac Hayes' 1977-1982 stint on Polydor had him often doing strong work that differed from both his efforts at Enterprise and ABC. By the late '70s, Hayes had refined and updated his sound and stopped recording in Memphis. Although this album's predecessor, New Horizon, wasn't a big seller, it certainly helped him adapt to the changing musical landscape. In turn, Don't Let Go has Hayes even more confident and comfortable with his new sound. The title track has Roy Hamilton's jaunty classic all but unrecognizable with Hayes' propulsive and expert disco take. With pushy horns, cooing background girls, and his subdued vocal, he effortlessly attained disco's sense of fun. The song's insouciance seemed to rub off on the rest of this album. "What Does It Take" has Hayes steaming it up with help from a high-pitched bassline and a subtle buzzing guitar. On the best ballad here, the teasing "Few More Kisses to Go," Hayes plays the pathway to adulthood as waits for his "precious moment," singing "girl's gonna be a full-grown woman, before this night is through." The best tracks on this album have Hayes' infallible sense of melody, but there are a few duds. His disco version of "Fever" comes off a little desperate and pointless. The last track, "Someone Who Will Take the Place of You," is a good angry ballad, but clocking in at ten-and-a-half minutes, it's a little too much of a good thing. Don't Let Go is Hayes' most successful effort for Polydor. ~ Jason Elias
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Soul - Released January 1, 2016 | Stax

Released in late 1970 on the heels of two chart-topping albums, Hot Buttered Soul (1969) and The Isaac Hayes Movement (also 1970), Isaac Hayes and the Bar-Kays retain their successful approach on those landmark albums for To Be Continued, another number one album. Again, the album features four songs that span far beyond traditional radio-friendly length, featuring important mood-establishing instrumental segments just as emotive and striking as Hayes' crooning. Nothing here is quite as perfect as "Walk on By," and the album feels a bit churned out, but To Be Continued no doubt has its share of highlights, the most notable being "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." The album's most epic moment opens with light strings and horns, vamping poetically for several minutes before Hayes even utters a breath; then, once the singer delivers the song's orchestral chorus, the album hits its sentimental peak -- Hayes elevating a common standard to heavenly heights once again. Elsewhere, "Our Day Will Come" features a nice concluding instrumental segment driven by a proto-hip-hop beat that proves just how ahead of his time Hayes was during his early-'70s cycle of Enterprise albums. It's tempting to slight this album when holding it up against Hayes' best albums from this same era, but a comparison such as this is unfair. Even if Ike isn't doing anything here that he didn't do on his two preceding albums -- Hot Buttered Soul, The Isaac Hayes Movement -- and isn't quite as daring as he is on his two successive albums -- Black Moses, Shaft -- To Be Continued still topples any Hayes album that came after 1971. It didn't top the R&B album chart for 11 weeks on accident -- this is quintessential early-'70s Isaac Hayes, and that alone makes it a classic soul album. ~ Jason Birchmeier
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Soul - Released November 18, 2016 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

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Soul - Released January 1, 2016 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

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Soul - Released January 1, 1978 | Polydor

Two of Ike's best disco takes -- "Zeke the Freak," with its ultra-funky bassline, and the ear-buzzing "Shaft II" -- act as adrenaline for the slower tracks here; also upbeat is the inspiring "If We Ever Needed Love." The rest of the songs are slow, romantic items, with Ike's traditional raps inserted in just the right spots. He tacks a rap onto the beginning of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are," slows it to a rush-hour crawl, and drains it for every drop of emotion he can; he uses the same technique on "Believe in Me" and the best performance -- a slow, heartfelt rendition of James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight." This is the best album from Ike in some time. ~ Andrew Hamilton

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Isaac Hayes in the magazine