Isaac Hayes ‘Once Again’ (BBR) 3/5

Isaac-HayesBy 1980 disco was officially on the wane (though in reality it had simply gone underground and morphed into various sub-genres) and the former recipient of lead male disco vocalist was back to where his roots always lay: quality soul music. Thus, although there was a major nod to the dancefloor with ‘I ain’t never’, coupled here with its ten and a half minute 12″ version (one of four bonus cuts), and another uptempo song, the remainder of the album was overall very laid back in nature and a return of sorts to the Stax formula that had worked so well, albeit with a subtle modern update. While not as strong as its predecessor, ‘Once Again’ does contain some superior and lengthy cuts with female background vocalists Hot, Buttered and Soul back in town and a brand new backing band recorded once again at the Master Sounds studios in Atlanta, Georgia.

Pride of place goes to the epic ‘It’s all in the game’ which features one of Isaac Hayes’ famous rapped dialogue intros that he deployed to such devastating effect. Similarly a gentle horn solo intro with strings leads into the medley of ‘Ike’s Rap VII/This time I’ll be sweeter’, the latter tune penned by none other than Gwen Guthrie and this is very much in the early 1970s vein when Hayes was at his absolute creative peak. If ‘I ain’t never’ does sound a little dated now with, perhaps, too obvious a disco approach, ‘Love has been good to us’ is a far more sophisticated and ultimately satisfying musical experience and, if anything, has a classic early 1980s feel to it similar to Donald Byrd and 125th Street. Earth, Wind and Fire were clearly in Hayes’ mind with a close resemblance to their collective horn sound. Rounding off proceedings is a duet ballad on ‘Wherever you are’ which demonstrates, if any evidence were needed, that Isaac Hayes could still deliver a masterful soulful vocal whenever required. Not essential, but quality music all the same.

Tim Stenhouse