Now occupied with a drive-time radio show in New York City, Hayes’ musical flights are sporadic, but he did release two CDs on Pointblank/Virgin last year — a fine new one, “Branded,” and a collection of mostly old instrumental demos, “Raw & Refined.”
The Isaac Hayes of 1996 is a changed man — more modest in presentation, more of a preacher than a seducer in delivery.
Along with his trademark spoken intros about love, Hayes now does a rap about the fragility of life on this planet, leading appropriately into Sting’s “Fragile.”
Yet Hayes can still tap into the emotional and physical groove of an old extravaganza like “Walk On By,” urging it on with his funky keyboard and sensuously husky voice. Only one remnant of his long disco period remains — a percolating cover of “Don’t Let Go.” And inevitably, the theme from “Shaft” remains his most striking, most influential piece of music, driven here by Skip Pitts’ gloriously manic guitar.
Of the other acts, the Brothers Johnson delivered the most pizzazz, largely from George’s stinging psychedelic guitar and Louis’ furious bass licks. The Emotions were unintelligible and a bit ragged in ensemble, defeated by the poor sound that plagued the whole program. Billy Preston, for all his natural ebullience, displayed less verve than he did last year in Ringo Starr’s show.