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Wonderful

Isaac Hayes

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Album Review

This odds-and-sods disc gathers nine cuts from a variety of non-LP sources — including 7" 45 RPM-only releases and seasonal offerings, and kicks off with a quarter-hour-long reading of "Ain't No Sunshine," Isaac Hayes' contribution to the Wattstax (1973) Original Motion Picture soundtrack. As there are only a few vintage archival live recordings to feature Hayes' early-'70s work, every one is worthy of, at the very least, a cursory listen. The 112,000 gathered for Wattstax benefit can witness to the righteously funkified the Isaac Hayes Movementas the Black Moses of Soul headlined the day-long charity event. Prior to the release of his complete performance on the thoroughly excellent Isaac Hayes at Wattstax (2003), this show-stopping rendition was all that was available from that historic concert. Hayes includes a trademark spoken rap building up to the lyrics. His remarkable falsetto vocals during Sidney Kirk's (piano) solo take the track to another level, building in intensity, and is essential listening. Although Lee Hilderbrand's liner note essay claims that the redo of the Main Ingredients' "Rolling Down a Mountainside" is also from the Wattstax benefit, all aural evidence indicates that, while it may have been used in the documentary film and subsequently issued as a single, it is most likely, in fact, a studio recording. It features a four-on-the-floor pre-disco groove with a punchy horn and smart string arrangement. The achingly tender reworking of Hank Williams' "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)" — featured on the flip side of "Never Can Say Goodbye," from the Black Moses set — is worth the price of admission alone, as Hayes turns it into a rapturous, orchestrated tale of longing and unrequited love. This set takes it name from the chart-topping side "Wonderful," from the spring of 1974 — which makes its debut on a Hayes' CD here. The seasonal single "The Mistletoe and Me" backed with "Winter Snow" is also nice to finally have in the digital domain. While Wonderful (1994) is a must-own for completist and serious enthusiasts, those looking for a definitive primer should point their attention toward Man!: The Ultimate Isaac Hayes 1969-1977 (2001).

Biography

Born: 20 August 1942 in Covington, TN

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Few figures exerted greater influence over the music of the 1960s and 1970s than Isaac Hayes; after laying the groundwork for the Memphis soul sound through his work with Stax-Volt Records, Hayes began a highly successful solo career...
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