Isaac Hayes ‘For the sake of love’ (BBR) 4/5

isaac-hayesIsaac Hayes was enjoying a new lease of life when he signed for Polydor records in the mid-1970s. The first album, ‘New Horizon’ from 1977 (recently re-issued last year on BBR – see previous reviews), was notable for the inclusion of what has become an underground disco classic in ‘Moonlight lovin (Ménage à trois’)’ and the album as a whole was mixed by Tom Moulton. As a follow up, ‘For the sake of love’ is something of a triumphant return to the soulful Stax era, enlisting the support of former musicians from that label who would record in the sympathetic southern soul surroundings of Atlanta, Georgia, as well as the odd nod to dancefloor pleasures. Opening proceedings was an extended reworking of the Billy Joel pop hit of the time, ‘Just the way you are’, but in typical Hayes fashion this was drastically elongated with a near three minute intro rap before the all too familiar chorus kicks in. This compares most favourably with another version by Barry White and was in the tradition of masterful re-interpretation of popular songs of the day that Isaac Hayes was capable of imbuing with his own highly distinctive style of phrasing. Social and political concerns were omnipresent in Isaac’s mind at the time and the spectre of the Cold War is the subject of the introspective, mid-tempo number ‘If we ever needed peace’. Given current tensions in the Ukraine, this song is still relevant today. A quality soul ballad penned by James Taylor, ‘Don’t let me be lonely tonight’ provides yet more evidence of Hayes’ deftness at transforming other singers songs and making them his own. Perhaps the second major highlight on the album, though, is the updated take on the iconic Shaft theme, ‘Shaft II’, which is available in two versions here, the discofied 12″ and a still lengthy nine minute album version. The album may have been out of kilter at the time with disco very much to the fore, but that would rapidly change. Major success for Luther Vandross and Anita Baker were just around the corner and Bobby Womack would embark upon a spectacular return to favour. Quality soul will never die and neither will Isaac Hayes’ music. Tim Stenhouse