Presenting Isaac Hayes (1967) is the debut long player from soulman extraordinaire Isaac Hayes, although he had been a major force on the Memphis R&B scene as an instrumentalist/arranger/producer. With partner David Porter, he was also a songwriter for artists associated with the legendary Stax label. Along with Donald "Duck" Dunn (bass) and Al Jackson, Jr. (drums) of Booker T. & the MG's fame, Hayes unleashes his familiar blend of highly introspective jazz, soul, and blues. He turns Willie Dixon's blues standard "I Just Wanna Make Love to You" into a sensual medley with B.B. King's signature composition "Rock Me Baby." In direct contrast to the aggression in much of his later work, his originals -- most notably the sexy "Precious, Precious" and a blast from his past, "You Don't Know (Like I Know)," are almost discomfortingly intimate. His stylish and classic rendering of "When I Fall in Love" demonstrates Hayes' obvious understanding and deep abiding appreciation of pop standards. His emotive rendering is not unlike that of Nat King Cole -- who recorded the song himself to great effect. The long, spoken "raps" that Hayes would become known for on subsequent releases had yet to be fully developed. The idea of stretching the song out melodically and extending the arrangement, however, yields one of the most poignant and unlikely medleys of all time, combining the Count Basie/Jimmy Rushing classic "Going to Chicago Blues" with, of all things, "Misty." This reveals the extreme sensitivity that exists between music and musician. In fact, so densely packed and involved are some of the passages that it's easy to dismiss that all the sounds are coming from a trio. Although die-hard soul fanatics will inevitably include Presenting Isaac Hayes in their library, it should also be considered essential listening for the burgeoning enthusiasts of not only R&B, but anyone who loves well-arranged pop music.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer