Monday, September 08, 2008
Ike's First Mood
Isaac Hayes - You Don't Know Like I Know
The recent passing of Isaac Hayes has been commemorated in many blogs, including this one, but another Hayes feature is never a bad thing, especially when it comes from Hayes' lesser-known album debut, Presenting Isaac Hayes, right?
Although Hayes had recorded as a solo vocalist at the dawn of his career (the 1962 Youngstown single "Laura, We're On Our Last Go-Round " b/w "Sweet Temptation," credited to "Sir Isaac & The Doo-Dads"), and had released an instrumental 45 on Stax under the same billing ("Blue Groove," which is one of the rarer "blue Stax" 45s, as Atlantic did not pick it up for national distribution), until 1968 Hayes was best known at Stax for his songwriting and production partnership with David Porter. Jim Stewart had declined to record Hayes as a singer (Rob Bowman notes in Soulsville, U.S.A. that Stewart thought Hayes' voice was "too pretty"), but Al Bell thought that Hayes had a certain "something" that was marketable, and he cajoled Hayes into getting in the studio to record a solo project. After a party in January 1968, a drunken Hayes, joined by M.G.'s members Duck Dunn and Al Jackson, Jr. - who were also intoxicated - went into the studio and improvised an album's worth of material, both instrumental and vocal, in a piano jazz trio format. The LP, Presenting Isaac Hayes, was the first release on the newly-created Enterprise label, which had been created as a jazz label but would eventually serve as a vehicle for soul, rock and even country releases. Although the set was very strong, as is discussed below, neither the LP nor the single pulled from it fared well commercially. Stung by the failure of the album, Hayes did not record again until he cut Hot Buttered Soul, again at the behest of Al Bell (who was seeking to build an instant Stax LP catalogue in the wake of Atlantic's acquisition of all of the "blue Stax" masters upon the end of its distribution of the label), who gave Hayes full control over the project. (For its part, Atlantic re-released Presenting Isaac Hayes in 1972 as In the Beginning as an attempt to cash in on Hayes' later success.)
In my opinion, the commercial failure of Presenting Isaac Hayes probably lay with the fact that it was released near the end of the Atlantic-Stax distribution arrangement and the fact that Stax was not a "jazz" label (I can't help but think that this album would've fit in nicely with the Cadet jazz catalogue of that time). Hayes, Dunn and Jackson's improvisations are superb, and Hayes' soon-to-be-famous forward thinking toward song arrangements is evident in tunes like "Precious, Precious" (which was edited down to single length from a 19-minute take), the medleys "I Just Want to Make Love to You / Rock Me Baby" and "Going to Chicago Blues / Misty" and today's selection, a reworking of the Hayes-Porter hit on Sam & Dave, "You Don't Know Like I Know." The gospel urgency of the hit version of the song (Hayes based the song on the gospel song of the same name) is replaced with a relaxed swing, and the resulting eight-and-a-half minute piece, which features a great drum solo by Al Jackson, is a fine piece of soul jazz. Fortunately, the LP has been reissued on CD, and the reissue includes the full take of "Precious, Precious." I strongly recommend it for any fan of Isaac Hayes' work or for any soul or jazz fan.
(EDITOR'S NOTE - Red Kelly has added an epilogue to the Lattimore Brown story featuring Lattimore's Sound Stage Seven labelmate Sam Baker, who, like Lattimore, was also believed to have died some time ago but is in the land of the living. It's a great story; I've added a link to it in the "Rediscovery of Sir Lattimore Brown" section.)