Live At The Sahara Tahoe

Isaac Hayes

Stax Records, 1973

REVIEW BY: Max Kaplan


Isaac Hayes’ 1973 live album Live At The Sahara Tahoe is a consummate representation of the man’s ability to make a live audience do a handstand. Unknown to most music historians, even perhaps soul music historians, is that Isaac Hayes was my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 sexy. Nothing like a bald black head to craft a completely unique vision in the realm of soul music.

There are several sounds distinct to the “Hayes sound,” all of which are available for listening on this double LP:

  • Hayes’ crooning, reminiscent of a sexed-up, down-right, right-on Frank Sinatra who’s been told “no” a few more times than Frank was.
  • A band with the heaviness you’d expect from a band coming from Memphis, Tennessee mixed in a fresh way with the psychedelic sounds of San Francisco—not in a rock fashion, but rather in a spiraling soul music sort of way.
  • Skipp Pitts screaming on the guitar.
  • Willie Hall righting the wrongs on drums.

Hayes, who had previously been exclusively a producer, delivers an unusual blend of band artistry with vocal sensuality. The color that comes to mind is a silvering light blue, not metallic, but almost like the start of an early morning before the sun rises on a warm bleak day. Truly, Isaac is not from this planet. Live At The Sahara Tahoe feels often as though Sun Ra had a child that cranked out soul hits.

Hayes’ music is darker than the soul we think of with stars like Sam and Dave or Otis. This was deeper, blacker, harder fought-for and harder sought-after than the previous controlled substances of Stax’s early days. Something no longer understood is said in the sounds from the album, something that was speaking to the current feeling of the misunderstood in 1973. Live At The Sahara Tahoe is a vulnerable album that invites the listener to either dance by themselves in the comfort of their bedroom or meditate on the world among friends.

Rating: A

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