Last week I looked at Gordon Parks’ Shaft. It’s a groovy film about a black P.I named John Shaft who gets caught up in a gang war while trying to rescue the local hood’s daughter. Now it’s time to look at the equally groovy soundtrack by Isaac Hayes.
#1- “Theme From Shaft”: This is one of the coolest songs ever conceived. It makes this slow opening shot of Shaft walking down New York exciting (Smooth funk makes all actions exciting). It builds slowly until it reaches Isaac Hayes’ smooth vocals, which relay all the information you need to know about John Shaft: he’s a Private Eye “that’s a sex machine to all the chicks.” This song is engraved into the film. I wish that Shaft later became a TV show instead of having two film sequels that were made to follow up on Shaft’s success. There was already a recurring cast with characters like Bumpy, the cop friend and Black Panther guy. This song would make for one of the best TV show openings ever.
#2- “Bumpy’s Lament”: This song is more soulful. It is used to show Bumpy’s emotional turmoil over the loss of his daughter (because the actor sure can’t show it). I don’t automatically think of the film when I hear this song, but it’s a nice song to play when sitting alone and reflecting on past experiences.
#3- “Walk From Regio’s”: This is the most well utilized song in the film. Its musical prowess is enhanced by the scene it plays in. It brought out intensity during the trailing the culprit scene. It also made people look damn smooth while walking.
#4- “Ellie’s Love Theme”: It’s easy to instantly locate this song in the film because it pops up in Shaft’s first sex scene. Isaac hayes uses soft xylophone tones that go along with soft strings, soothing the soul, while Shaft has weird close up, cross dissolving crystal sex with Ellie (one of many ladies he sleeps with).
#5- “Shaft’s Cab Ride”: All that happens in the scene is Shaft rides a cab. This music sounds like car chase music or music for one of the more action packed scenes, but no, it’s used for Shaft’s very short cab ride.
#6- “Cafe Regio’s”: This is one of my favorite songs from the soundtrack. It sounds like really smooth old school elevator/mall music from the 70s, but better. If more establishments had this song playing on a daily basis, I’d go there more often.
#7- “Early Sunday Morning”: This is another one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s incredibly soothing. I wish I could wake up every Sunday morning with this tune playing.
#8- “Be Yourself”: This is one of the few forgettable songs from the Shaft soundtrack. It’s upbeat and repetitive, and that’s about it. I can’t actually remember at what point I heard it in the film.
#9- “A Friends Place”: The song is inviting and comforting. I feel welcome and content when I hear it. I don’t feel at home, it gives that feeling of someplace new, but a place that I could get used to. Have this song ready whenever you have new guests visiting.
#10- “Soulsville”: This is one of the few vocal songs from the soundtrack. This song is also the most politically charged song of the album. Isaac Hayes describes the impoverished part of New York City that Shaft works in. It sounds like a cruel place. The melody gives a feeling of withered acceptance of this state. The song isn’t preaching; it’s just describing another day living in Soulsville.
#11- “No Name Bar”: A cool bar with a sweet theme. Sitting in a bar with this song playing makes sitting in a bar the coolest thing you could be doing.
#12- “Bumpy’s Blues”: I constantly confuse this song with “Bumpy’s Lament.” Both songs are used to convey Bumpy’s emotions, but this one does it slightly smoother. There is some type of guitar sound mixed with saxaphone that oozes coolness.
#13- “Shaft Strikes Again”: Another mediocre song. It’s the resolution song. The winding-things-down song.
#14- “Do Your Thing”: The song is around 20 minutes long, yet only 1 minute of it plays in the film. This is one of the few vocal tracks on the album. Isaac Hayes was just doing his thing on this song. If you listen to it, you will get lost in its melody.
#15- “The End Theme”: This is just a non-vocal rehash of the opening theme. It’s used to close out the movie, and have the viewer/listener reflect on what they just heard/saw.
The soundtrack and film complement each other well. The music and film work on different merits.Some tracks stand out better when heard separate from the film. Other songs can not be heard without immediately thinking of the scene in the film that it plays during. There are some forgettable songs, but it’s still a great album.
Favorite Track: “Early Sunday Morning”
Written By Tyler Ducheneau
Images from Shaft Soundtrack