Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter)
Side Three: Mint Minus Minus
Side Four: Mint Minus Minus
- Shaft is back, and here's one of the best we played, boasting Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides - reasonably quiet vinyl for Stax in 1971 too
- It took us years to find enough copies with good sound and quiet vinyl to do a shootout, and this fine pressing is the result of all that digging, cleaning and evaluating
- 4 1/2 stars: "Isaac Hayes was undoubtedly one of the era's most accomplished soul artists, having helped elevate Stax to its esteemed status... And with "Theme from Shaft," he delivered an anthem just as ambitious and revered as the film itself, a song that has only grown more treasured over the years, after having been an enormously popular hit at the time of its release."
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This copy of the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack has wonderful sound throughout, and that ain't no jive talkin'! We collected a bunch of these and after putting them through the shootout process we were delighted to find out that some of the material on here can sound amazingly good on the best pressings. What earned these four sides such good grades? They're simply richer, fuller and livelier than most. They're also more open and transparent, with notably improved clarity, much less smear, and tighter, more note-like bass.
Find your favorite song on here, drop the needle, and see if the dramatically improved sound doesn't bring back some special memories, and maybe even inspire you to bust a move!
What the best sides of Shaft have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We're Listening For on Shaft
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
A1 Theme From Shaft (Vocal) 4:37
A2 Bumpy's Lament 1:49
A3 Walk From Regio's 2:22
A4 Ellie's Love Theme 3:15
A5 Shaft's Cab Ride 1:07
B1 Cafe Regio's 6:09
B2 Early Sunday Morning 3:47
B3 Be Yourself 4:27
B4 A Friend's Place 3:21
C1 Soulsville (Vocal) 3:47
C2 No Name Bar 6:09
C3 Bumpy's Blues 4:01
C4 Shaft Strikes Again 3:04
D1 Do Your Thing (Vocal) 19:38
D2 The End Theme 1:58
Of the many wonderful blaxpoitation soundtracks to emerge during the early '70s, Shaft certainly deserves mention as not only one of the most lasting but also one of the most successful. Isaac Hayes was undoubtedly one of the era's most accomplished soul artists, having helped elevate Stax to its esteemed status; therefore, his being chosen to score such a high-profile major-studio film shouldn't seem like a surprise. And with "Theme from Shaft," he delivered an anthem just as ambitious and revered as the film itself, a song that has only grown more treasured over the years, after having been an enormously popular hit at the time of its release.
Besides this song, though, there aren't too many more radio-targeted moments here. "Soulsville" operates effectively as the sort of downtempo ballad Hayes was most known for, just as the almost 20-minute "Do Your Thing" showcased just how impressive the Bar-Kays had become, stretching the song to unseen limits with their inventive, funky jamming. For the most part, though, this double-LP features nothing but cinematic moments of instrumentation, composed and produced by Hayes while being performed by the Bar-Kays -- some downtempo, others quite jazzy, nothing too funky, though.
Even if it's not quite as enjoyable as Curtis Mayfield's Superfly due to its emphasis on instrumentals, Shaft still remains a powerful record; one of Hayes' pinnacle moments for sure.
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