In many ways an album just as ground-breaking as Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Sly Stone’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On (and, indeed, pre-dating these albums by two years) Stax writer-producer legend, Isaac Hayes’ 1969 recording Hot Buttered Soul has lost none of its hypnotic power and sublime soulfulness over the intervening years. Up to this point, soul albums tended to be mere 'showcases’ for hit singles (albums being customarily padded out with inferior material), but with 'Soul’ Hayes threw this template out of the window, instead giving us a 40-minute recording comprising a mere four songs, including the stunningly original extended versions of Bacharach & David’s Walk On By and Jimmy Webb’s By The Time I Get To Phoenix (the latter running to over 18 minutes and having been previously a hit for Glen Campbell!). An integral part of the album’s reputation rests also with its production, courtesy of Al Bell, (band member) Marvell Thomas and Allen Jones, plus Motown arranger Johnny Alllen, whose sweeping string and horn orchestrations on 'Walk’ and 'Phoenix’ are a key part of what makes the album so iconic.
More akin to a Sly Stone composition, Hayes’ own (curiously titled and misspelled for the album cover!) Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic is another highlight, a hard-driving piece of funk and providing an ironic take on verbal pomposity (where else have you heard 'medulla oblongata’ in a song lyric?). The album’s most 'conventional’ (and shortest) song is undoubtedly songwriter-saxophonist Charlie Chalmers and singer Sandra Rhodes’ soul ballad One Woman – nevertheless it makes for pleasant (if unspectacular) listening. A mention should also be made of Hayes’ backing band here – the Bar-Kays, excellent throughout – plus there is a particularly memorable guitar solo by Funkadelic’s Harold Beane during the opening of Walk On By (which, in keeping with much of the album’s recording, feels spontaneous and part-improvised).
The 2009 remastered version of the album also includes the single edits of each of Walk On By and By The Time I Get To Phoenix – fine in themselves, but, for me, largely redundant when compared with the full-length versions.
I can remember well the first time I heard this album. Used to a diet of Soul from the more commercial end of the spectrum, this was the album that sent me on a journey to discover Soul and Funk in all its forms - and what an album!!
I cannot hear Ike's version of "Walk on By" without marvelling at the sheer audacity of the man - but I love it, the strings, the guitars, the slow build up (will he ever sing?) and then the gravelly vocal - epic stuff.
There' more - "...Phoenix" is the same but more so, and while "One Woman" is almost standard fare, Hyper..." was the forerunner of the funk workouts Ike would become famous for on "Shaft".
No. this is not for everyone, and there are better albums but Soul music would not be the same without it and I love it.
Funky, soulful, romantic, groundbreaking and a very good listen. Just a few of the hyperbolic adjectives that spring to mind when thinking about this superb album.
This is an album of deeply funky soul. With the extended cuts and luscious orchestration, mixed with Hayes unique soulful vocals it feels like Stax soul meets prog rock. The 10-20 minute tracks never outstay their welcome though.
The standout is the opening 'Walk on by', a 12 minute epic that slowly builds annd builds, with Hayes almost teasing you as whether or not he's going to sing. The other tracks follow in a similar vein, long, laid back grooves.
Very much an album to played late at night, alone with that special someone.
on 12 April 2013
Along with seminal albums of the era by Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder and Al Green, this prime slice of Funk'd up SoulJazz by Isaac is an essential part of any study into the Black rhythms and sounds of the early 70s, providing a comfortable, grounded counterpoint to the more airborne efforts by Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Donald Byrd and adding musical context to the more wordy-but-no-less-groovy efforts by Gil-Scott Heron. This is an album in the sense that we know an album to sound like in 2013, with all the benefit of the proceeding 40-odd years since to give us evidence of its value and influence. It's a 4 track collection of extended wig-outs on familiar themes, a nod to Jazz and the evolution happening in that genre, and provides many, long and uninterrupted sections of pure, unsignposted, eyes-closed-and-headz-nodding groove-heavy chill-out music, a template that was sped up and given a 90s rush 25yrs later and renamed Trip Hop, Downbeat/tempo and Balearic.
So what we have here is the album as meditational tool and technology of relaxation on the one hand, and on the other, a glimpse in time of a genre previously centered around the 3min single stretching out and making itself at home in our retro 70s lounges, propped up next to the leopard-skin wall hanging and lava lamp, and awaiting further use as trendy artifact of early90s turntablism and beat compiler.
No complete archive of Beat music should be without this Solid Gold album.
on 5 May 2010
This is a classic landmark album, just read the other reviews on the previous CD editions to get more about the great music on this CD.
If you already have this album on a previous CD, you will want to know about the remastering - on the whole it's pretty good although this version is way more hissy than the previous CD I owned, it does have a much more upfront in-your-face sound and the drumkit is especially way clearer than before. However the track "hyperbolic....." has for some reason almost all been stuffed into the right channel (totally unlike this track on the original CD, or the other tracks on this remaster), the left channel is muffled to near-silence, and this sounds particularly bad through headphones. Something has gone badly wrong and I suggest you avoid this reissue until they fix the problem.
Big shame - the music is sensational but a big black mark against Stax's quality control for this.
on 11 April 2001
This really is a landmark album in black music, whereby taking white MOR tunes and covering it for the soul movement was something that had never been done before. It also blazed a trail for the lush 70's soul movement that this album undoubtedly influenced. You'll probably be aware of the opening of Walk on By from the Wu Tang sample, but the epic, drawn out melodrama is nothing like Burt Bacharach intended. Hyperbolic... has the most lasciviously funky riff that no white person could ever pull off convincingly, while it's safe to say that during the 18 minutes of By the Time I Get To Phoenix, the couple could have patched up their differences, renewed their marriage vows and booked a dirty weekend with minutes to spare. A preposterously overblown epic, this is Isaac Hayes at his most wonderfully and excessive and every home should have a copy.
I can remember well the first time I heard this album. Used to a diet of Soul from the more commercial end of the spectrum, this was the album that sent me on a journey to discover Soul and Funk in all its forms - and I never got to thank him!!
You have to remember that, 40 years ago, Soul albums to this point had usually consisted of 2 or 3 hit singles and a few other tracks that weren't considered commercial enough for single release. Ike changed all that with this, his second album for Stax, released as part of a 27 album blitz, designed to put Stax back on top after the death of Otis, and the loss of the back catalogue to Atlantic (both in '68).
The track selection probably didn't take too long, there are only 4 tracks after all, and the format had been established by Ike in his live shows, as he stretched out standards with raps and instrumental breaks, to take Soul places it had never been before. It was all a long way away from the gritty, sweaty Southern Soul Hayes had written with David Porter for Sam & Dave, among others, and which had earned him the right to do things his way.
I cannot hear Ike's version of "Walk on By" without marvelling at the sheer audacity of the man - but I love it, the strings, the guitars, the slow build up (will he ever sing?) and then the gravelly vocal - epic stuff. There's more - "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" is the same, but more so, and while "One Woman" is almost standard fare, Hyper..." was the forerunner of the funk workouts for which Ike would become famous on later albums.
Isaac Hayes would go on to make one of the best known Soul/Funk albums in "Shaft", which has come to overshadow "Hot Buttered Soul" to some extent, but the impact of this album can hardly be underestimated - it ushered in an era where the album became important in Soul, bringing in Orchestral, Jazz and Rock influences, and predated equally influential sets by the likes of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway among many others,
This may take a couple of plays for you to get into, but it's worth the effort, just play it through the way it was meant to be heard - there was no-one quite like Ike, gone but not forgotten. RIP.
on 7 November 2013
Was into Isaac Hayes way before Shaft and this album was so brilliant I had friends drop by just to listen to it when it first came out. Vinyl version has been in storage for ages and I recently had to hear it again so bought the cd. It did not disappoint and took me back over 40 years. Needs a low light room, good company and a listening audience. Just become totally immersed in a 19 minute version of By The Time I Get To Phoenix which transforms it from a good song to a heart wrenching story. If you like this, try Live at the Sahara Tahoe and revel in his version of Aint No Sunshine.
on 14 January 2002
Isaac Hayes' treatment of sixties standards on this album must have been a real door opener for the soul music genre. Long before Prog Rockers bored people to death with their quiet 20 minute mumblings, Hayes gives a heart rendering performance of 'By the time I get to Phoenix', that in terms of audible pain is right up there with the clear torment heard on Elvis' late sixties classics, 'If I can dream' and 'Suspicious Minds.' Hayes' version of 'By the time I get to Phoenix' is the best part of the album, but his styling of 'Walk On By' removes the track from it's easy listening roots. The album seeps of originality and new direction. This certainly was the beginning of the deep Soul roots that would follow into the seventies, as other bands, (particularly Motown faves such as Stevie Wonder and the Temptations) followed Isaac Hayes' mind blowing lead.
It starts with a crisp peal of percussion and then the strings flow dreamily in. They seethe with honeyed intensity but then glistening steely bursts of guitar crackle like lightning on the horizon. Then they sound suddenly wonky, slightly out of key before that incredible rumble of a voice joins the fray with admirable restraint. Over the next ten minutes Isaac Hayes takes us through a rendition of “Walk on by” that is both graceful and majestic ending with a string twanging fevered intensity and along the way incorporates girly backing vocals, a clarinet and fermented key boards.
Isaac Hayes recorded “Hot Buttered Soul” in 1969, his first album for Stax records he was shoved into a studio at short notice along with three producers and the Bar -Kay’s rhythm section under the instructions to produce anything as long as he did it with alacrity. Which is why Hayes got away with producing an album that contained just four songs, only one of them an original, and saw him produce not so much cover versions as stretch -limo versions as he distend the originals way beyond their intended lengths through audacious instrumentation arrangements and slow-mo raps that if done by any one else would be so corny they could be sponsored by Green Giant.
His opening take on Bacharach/Davids “Walk on by” leads into the one original song on the album the tongue dislocating “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic” which is a fantastic funk work out with hip swivelling bass and swanky licks of wah wah which ends with demented piano. His version of Chalmers/Rhodes “One Woman” is relatively restrained coming in under six minutes with more female backing and those trademark strings which leads into his truly extraordinary version of Jimmy Webbs “By the time I get to Phoenix”. Here Hayes over lachrymose organ and swishes of hi-hat actually introduces the song he’s going to sing before embarking on an epic tale of betrayal and love gone bad. Then those strings quiver in, the horns break out like a rash, the clarinet and piano motifs weep sympathetically in the background and Hayes sings the song with increasing crooning vehemence while the instruments rise in fervour until it reaches a point of such glorious epiphany it’s almost masochistic. “You had a good heart and you abused it” he sings. Listening to this it’s hard to disagree.
This is a brilliant album One of the truly great soul releases up there with anything by Green, Gaye or Mayfield. In fact in terms of its fervent emotional catharsis it’s up their with anything in the entire musical canon.