Uncut - 6/03, p.1373 stars out of 5
- "...A thrilling counterpoint to his complex studio opuses, the performance feeds off the post-Civil rights mood of black power and highlights the full glory of his extraordinary 15-piece band The Movement..."
Personnel: Isaac Hayes (vocals, alto saxophone, keyboards); Reverend Jesse Jackson (spoken vocals); Onzie Horne (arranger, conductor); Charles "Skip" Pitts, Al McKay (guitar); Emerson Able (flute, alto saxophone); William Easley, Calvin Bennett, Tommy Williams (flute, tenor saxophone); Floyd Newman (flute, baritone saxophone); William "Nokie" Taylor, Mickey Gregory, Ben Cauley (trumpet, flugelhorn); Sidney Kirk, Lester Snell (keyboards); William Murphy (bass); Willie Hall (drums); Gary Jones (congas, percussion); Hot, Buttered & Soul (background vocals).
Recorded live at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California on August 20, 1972. Includes liner notes by Rob Bowman.
Though Stax records had previously released albums featuring outtakes from Wattstax, a festival of black music held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1972, ISAAC HAYES AT WATTSTAX, a full-length recording of the soul star's hour-long set, was not issued until 2003. The festival's headliner, Hayes was at the peak of his popularity at the time of Wattstax; his impassioned performance and the screams of 112,000 fans corroborate his mantle as the "Black Moses" of music.
Hayes and his backing band, the Isaac Hayes Movement (including a full string section), kick off their set with a blazing rendition of "Theme from SHAFT," replete with the song's archetypal wah-wah guitar line. "Soulsville," a protest song about life in the inner city, showcases Hayes's rich baritone, as does his stirring reading of "Never Can Say Goodbye." The nearly 20-minute medley of Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine" and Ray Charles's "Lonely Avenue," which features extensive alto work by the frontman (Hayes began his career as a saxophonist in the Stax house band), is the show's centerpiece. The finale, a rousing rendition of "If I Had a Hammer," puts the cap on this impressive performance by one of the era's top soulsters.