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Breaks: Isaac Hayes

Well, out of the millions of album covers out there, newly wrapped in cellophane or sitting around in bargain bins, this disc by Isaac Hayes easily sports one of the most intriguing covers.

In addition to the startling imagery and title, though, the disc even opens up into a cross formation with Hayes looking like he’s ready to bless listeners. Maybe he was. And maybe this was perceived as semi-sacrilegious. If it was, though, that understanding of the disc didn’t hurt sales or the appreciation the album’s received over the last forty years.

First helming the studio crew responsible for just about every Southern soul track with a half life, Isaac Hayes hit the big time pretty early. It’s not that he didn’t work in relative anonymity while taking part in the late fifties RnB scene, it’s just that his talent made him a commodity pretty early on – and he hadn’t really even started working on all those sultry love songs.

By the time Hayes and company had arrived at 1971’s Black Moses, the song writer was coming off the success of Shaft’s soundtrack. In addition to the music for that film being of a variety all its own, the movie itself marked a mainstream embrace of seventies black culture. That was probably shocking.

Either way, this follow up, perhaps, works to cash in on that success. Black Moses isn’t phoned in, but it’d be hard to ape an attitude accompanying the album’s design if one’s previous album was a flop.

With that said, a huge portion of Black Moses comprises cover tracks. Each song, no matter if it came from Kris Kristofferson’s pen or Burt Bacharach’s, was updated to include some relatively lush arrangements. So, if the first Barkay’s material is what you’re gaging Hayes’ career by, the music found here isn’t going to fill whatever perceived hole in your record collection there might be.

It’s not all overblown soul theatrics, though. The music accompanying “Nothing Takes The Place Of You” might reach back to Hayes’ earlier days with its slow RnB groove gently moving the song along. His voice, that deep and inviting tremble, is there as always. Here, though, Hayes doesn’t sound as if he’s the godfather or rap so much as a sad crooner trying to forget a memory. And that’s the toughest thing to forget.

The rest of the disc sports a subtle variance on all these forms. There’s no heavy funk, if that’s what you’re looking for. But there are some well put together love songs as long as you can handle a bit of sap in your soul.