ISAAC HAYES: COVER HIM!


Mighty Voices of Wonder: I Thank the Lord
From Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal (Numero Group, 2006)

JoAnn Garrett: Walk On By
From Just a Taste (Chess, 1969)

Joe Bataan: Shaft
From Saint Latin’s Day Massacre (Fania, 1972)

Lyn Collins: Do Your Thing
From James Brown’s Funky People Pt. 2 (Polydor, 1988)

El Michels Affair: Hung Up On My Baby
From Sounding Out the City (Truth and Soul, 2006)

As promised, a few cover songs of Isaac Hayes tunes and compositions in honor of the late master’s catalog. To be honest, it’s not quite as easy as you’d think. True, there’s a gazillion “Shaft” covers but remember that in Hayes’ post-Hot Buttered Soul career, most of his groundbreaking songs were reinterpretations of other people’s songs rather than original compositions. That said, in the case of JoAnn Garrett’s “Walk On By,” it’s clear that she’s working off of Hayes’ epic version rather than playing with the Bacharach/Warwick versions.

We start though with a Hayes/Porter composition, a very striking gospel funk cover of Sam and Dave’s “I Thank You” renamed into “I Thank the Lord” by the Mighty Voices of Wonder. The gospel group takes a more lo-fi approach which only makes the opening drums that much rougher. Good god, indeed.

I generally am not a huge fan of the “Shaft” theme regardless of who is performing it but hey, if my man Joe Bataan is going to cover it, I might as well let it shine. This was a surprising hit for him, so much so that Fania came out with a second run of his Sweet Soul LP and put it on there and then released it, again, on Joe’s last album for Fania, Saint Latin’s Day Massacre. Caliente!

Lyn Collins’ incredible cover of “Do Your Thing” (probably the best thing to come off the Shaft soundtrack) actually never was released back in the ’70s when it was first recorded. Instead, it found exposure finally in 1988 as part of Polydor’s hugely successful James Brown’s Funky People series. How successful? Enough so that Collins’ long-delayed version found instant fans amongst rap producers, including Dr. Dre who hooked it up lovely for Above the Law’s “Another Execution” circa 1990.

“Hung Up On My Baby,” from the Tough Guys soundtrack was another hip-hop favorite back in the ’90s which no doubt influenced Brooklyn’s El Michels Affair to cover the song on their excellent, slept-on 2006 debut (they also did a nice job with “Walk On By” as fans of Soul Sides Vol. 2 already know). I like their take on “Hung Up,” – it’s cooler, a bit chiller in the cut but still has that classic melody that’s so haunting.

Feel free to add your own favorite Hayes covers in the comments.

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