Now I’m not entirely clear precisely what the Isaac Hayes Movement is, but I would suggest that it probably involves a lascivious rolling of the hips synchronised with rude pumping motions of your arms, with your head thrown back at an ecstatic angle. Just a guess.
It also happens to be his 1970 follow-up to Hot Buttered Soul, which was always going to be a hard ask. But you know what? Ike had some real smooooth tricks up his sleeve.
#1: Lower expectations with a bit of a wack cover. Bear in mind the astonishing Baldysexiosityness of his previous LP cover, a picture of Ike either taken staring meaningfully and manfully into the vortex of time/space/lurve, or through a tiny hidden camera from his lover’s mouth, or her, OMG, surely not!! This ends here! Now!! Stop thinking about it!!
#2: You have to check out Mr Hayes’ outfit on the back cover. (pauses whilst everyone marvels at it for at least 13 minutes) What the MF hell is the man wearing! I know this was 1970 and I know they did things very differently back then, but surely zebra skin all-in-ones with an integral cloak, hood AND hat combo were a little unusual. Also, assuming you own such a set of natty duds precisely what would be the occasion you’d reach for them? first date? probably not; office wear? a bit understated for me, thanks; it really wouldn’t strike the right note down the supermarket; the funeral of the dictator of a minor African republic? yup, on it goes!
#3: What is the best EVER thing that can happen on a record? you all know the answer if you read me regularly. No, not whooshy space noises*, I’m talking about TALKING BITS! Oh yes, now Ike’s spectacularly good at these. So, when does he choose to deploy this particular blade in his arsenal? only for almost 5 minutes at the beginning of the first song!!
It’s okay I surrender. Whilst you won’t find anyone out there** who will argue its his best LP, The Isaac Hayes Movement is a good one, although you do feel you may have been coerced into it a little bit by the end. Consisting of four songs, all covers Ike gives himself plenty of time to groan, swell and emote all over the grooves. I find it really interesting that such a prolific and successful songwriter used so many covers on his own albums. My two non-mutually exclusive theories are that a) he alters them all so radically he turns them into his own songs anyway, and b) he just enjoyed playing someone else’s material.
Take his cover of ‘Something’ by that obscure Liverpool band, after a nifty piano intro just transforms the original’s 3:03 into a 12:00 tour de force. If I was looking to pick a single adjective for this song I’d plump for ‘unhurried’. The instrumentation is lush but not cloying, featuring some great violining by John Blair (almost Jean-Luc Ponty like at one point) and some real faux jiggy-jiggy epic build-ups and, umm, climaxes^. The female backing vocals are great too, but even though Ike carefully keeps enough of the original tune’s melody here and there, it’s all a bit like drowning in treacle by the end – really top-notch world-class artisan-made treacle, but treacle nonetheless. You have to suspend all normal critical faculties to enjoy this and just get swept up the sheer zebra skin luxury on offer.
Pessimistic misery-hound that I am, I rather like the sad ballad ‘One Big Unhappy Family’, which clocks in at (an almost Ramones-like, in this company) 5:45. Nothing more to say, other than that Ike just sings it right, not too much, not too little, just right. I also rather like the contrast between the song’s sentiments and the rather upbeat music, embodying the happy illusion sold by the lyrics. The cover of ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ is notable for some great brass again, courtesy of the ever-wonderful Bar-kays, but overall doesn’t take the song anywhere substantial for me. It does give you a good chance to just kick back and wallow In Ike’s baritone, although I do prefer the pep of the original.
But anyway, back to the first track ‘I Stand Accused’. I was astonished that I couldn’t find a transcript of Ike’s opening rap^* anywhere on the whole internet. I mean, Christ! how many hours have people devoted stuffing the internet chock full of a 90 million pictures of naked ladies, rubbish record reviews, facts and general nonsense, but Ike’s opening speech isn’t there. Listen up people’s of Earth, one day we may have to account for this when we are invaded by intergalactic space aliens who have based their entire civilization on copies of Stax records that got worm-holed to their planet – they’ll want to know why, in fact the fate of our race may depend upon it entirely.
Fear not fellow humans! For I, 1537, have spent a sizable wedge of this afternoon transcribing said rap. It wasn’t easy and thank God for Spotify, since much as I love it vinyl is not so conducive to such industrial quantities of stopping and starting. I will leave you with it here, it will be my legacy. Strong love to you all.
Now just imagine the scene: man engineers meeting with chick, to the sound of a throbbing guitar chord or two, tastefully underscored by piano (chicks love tasteful piano underscoring, trust me) …
Pardon me. Can I have a word with you for a few minutes? Sit down, get comfortable. Uhhh, how long have we known each other? About 10 months? Yeah I think its, yeah. You and John are real tight aren’t ya? Yeah. Oh is that an engagement ring? Awww, congratulations. Oh he slipped it on your finger last night huh? He’s the luckiest man in the world, you know, he should be real proud to have someone like you. Oh yeah, umm, what I wanted to talk to you about is, well, there is something that has been bugging me for about 5 months and I’ve been carrying it around with me and it’s getting heavier and heavier everyday…And, uh, yeah it’s almost to the boiling point and I have to get it off my chest. Yeah, I’m not trying to be fresh or anything, because I know your John’s girl, but I just have to tell you this. You see I have a great deal of respect for you…I’m not being, you know, not going left field on you …but dig.
You see I’m gonna take you back to my childhood for a minute….We had quite a big family and we weren’t very rich, sometimes we lived from day-to-day. But one thing we did do was go to church every Sunday. Mama took us to church, and I was in the choir too, hey yeah I sang a little bit in Sunday school. She taught us the golden rules, the 10 commandments, and she said, “Son do onto others as you have them do onto you”, she said “Don’t steal” “Don’t rob” You know all the things good parents try to instill into their children. Well you know I did a few little things like shoot hook, I guess every kid shoots hooky at least once. And umm, she said “Stay out of trouble” You know when I was a teenager I didn’t break in, burglarize, or rob anybody. I tried to work for what I got, you know, tried to be honest. Didn’t commit no crimes or nothing, but you know I had to wait, huh ’til I reached manhood to commit a crime, according to the court of love, if there is such a court. But you know….sometimes you’re forced into things like this, see sometimes Cupid can shoot his arrow so fast you can’t get out the way, you know? And you can fall and the more you, it’s like being in quicksand too, the more you wiggle the deeper you sink.
I’m not gonna take up too much of your time, you see I’m not very good with words and I had to tell you all of that, so I can really say what I got to say. See there is a lot of talk going around town that I’m on the make for John’s girl, “Ike’s on the make for John’s girl”. I don’t mean to do anybody wrong because I wouldn’t want anybody to bother anything that belongs to me. But you see I’ve never seen anybody like you, I’ve never known anybody like you, and there’s some things you just can’t help. At night I toss and turn, I try to keep it out my mind but you see….I find myself thinking about you. I just can’t help it, and right now……
History does not record the response of ‘John’s Girl’, maybe she too gave a moving, heartfelt speech abut mutual attraction and the impossibility of hurting someone whose happiness depended solely upon you. personally, I think it was ‘For God’s sake Ike do you have to do this every time you come here! Now I said, do you want fries with that!’
The rest is silence.
381 Down babe down.
*that’s the second best thing.
**I asked my elderly neighbours, the young bloke at the petrol station and the bored lady at the deli counter in the supermarket earlier today in order to prove this in strict, scientific conditions.
^couldn’t think of a better way, or other, way of putting it folks.
^*used in the archaic sense of ‘talk’.