Song Of The Day 4/11/2015: Isaac Hayes – “I Stand Accused” + “Thanks to the Fool”

We Need to Talk: The Isaac Hayes Movement was the Stax in-house handyman’s third solo album, but only the second on which Hayes was given what executives call with some trepidation “complete creative control.” That’s because the first Hayes solo album was something of a commercial disappointment. In fact he was going to retreat back behind the scenes, until a sudden loss of Stax’s back catalog as result of their break with Atlantic Records forced whoever was still hanging around in Memphis to record new material quickly. Hayes, having them right where he wanted them, recorded Hot Buttered Soul answering to no man but himself. The album was a huge hit. Silly executives.

With Hot Buttered Soul and The Isaac Hayes Movement Hayes pushed the constrictions of pop formula about as far as one could without piercing a lung. Both albums had four songs. Hayes, already an expert R&B songwriter, concentrated on covers with equal ferventness. But where Glen Campbell wrapped up all the elements of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” in just under three minutes, Hayes began his version with an eight-minute introductory monologue before singing a note. He added some post-climax organ drones, bringing the final time of the Jimmy Webb song to eighteen minutes, forty seconds. There were entire punk albums that weren’t that long.

The monologue model fit Hayes especially well, and my favorite track is his cover of Jerry Butler’s “I Stand Accused” from Movement. Hayes invented an entirely separate short story for this song, giving his victorious rival an actual name. Sure, it was just “John,” but that’s fine. There are lots of Johns. The musical payoff is more enlivened too. It’s a great sentimental journey – so indelible is its legacy that Hayes even recorded a sequel 25 years later for his really good 1995 album Branded. It’s called “Thanks to the Fool.” Whereas “I Stand Accused” had an Empire Strikes Back ending, you can rest pretty assured “Thanks to the Fool” has a proper, Return of the Jedi denouement. Which I’m sure is exactly as Hayes intended.

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