January: Isaac Hayes Tough Guys

In January, Classics will feature the first-ever vinyl reissue of Isaac Hayes’ soundtrack for the blaxploitation movie he starred in, Tough Guys. Remastered AAA from the original analog tapes by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound and pressed on 180g black vinyl at QRP, this one features liner notes by our own Classics A&R Andrew Winistorfer, who had this to say about the album in his notes:

“In mid-1973, Hayes was on top of the world. He had creative control over his music, a favorable royalty rate, was able to tour the world for big bucks, and had more fancy cars than he could drive. His grandma was well taken care of. But he still had an itch he wanted to scratch: He wanted to act. He never got the opportunity to with Shaft — though he appeared in a cameo role — and he felt like he would prove to be great at it, just like he had with organ playing, songwriting, and film scoring.

“He’d get his chance in late 1973 and 1974. Twice, in fact.

“For the soundtrack for Tough Guys, Hayes didn’t have the backing of MGM to fly out to L.A. to work with their orchestra. Instead, he kept close to home, working with the group that laid down strings when he needed them on his own LPs: The Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Tough Guys, unlike Shaft, features virtually no singing from Hayes; with the exception of him saying a few lines on ‘Title Theme ‘Three Tough Guys,’’ the only sounds you hear are Hayes’ swelling orchestration and the funky rhythmic backing of his band, The Movement.

“But that doesn’t detract from what the soundtrack to Tough Guys ultimately is: a daring, widescreen, progressive funk album from one of the genre’s finest craftsmen. Because Hayes was Black, and rooted in R&B radio, he didn’t get lumped in with the prog-rock groups then making waves on the rock charts, but he should have been. He was making music as expansive and expressive as Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Yes; he was just doing it in a different context.”

February: Frederick Knight’s I’ve Been Lonely For So Long

In February, Classics will feature another album from the Stax family: Frederick Knight’s I’ve Been Lonely So Long, a heart-wrenching soul album that is seeing its first U.S. vinyl reissue since its release in 1973. Remastered AAA from the original tapes by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound, it was pressed at QRP on 180g black vinyl.

The liner notes are written by Jared Boyd, a Memphis music writer who recently wrote the liners for a Stax compilation of singles from their gospel imprint Gospel Truth. Here’s what Boyd said about the album in his liners:

“As an artist out front, Knight, 76, made his biggest splash with the million-selling hit single, ‘I’ve Been Lonely for So Long.’ The track is a harmonious composition, characterized by a dreamy facade, cast against the sensibility of the deep soul of its era. Through time it has endured, largely for the same reasons it stood out in its day. In his falsetto, Knight powers through the song’s measures to conjure apparitions of Northern doo-wop, as his drifting voice nestles itself in an imaginative bed of psychedelia.

“A native of the Birmingham suburb of Bessemer, Alabama, Knight recalls submitting the self-produced recording to Stax, the powerhouse soul stronghold that sat nearly 300 miles away in Memphis, Tennessee. He’d sign with the label in 1972 and begin work on an album to accompany the smash single. Released in 1973, his debut LP, which bears the song’s name, finds Knight working overtime as a zealous, thorough, and thoughtful lover. The entire piece is held together by its audacity to be so sincere.”

March: Leon Ware’s Musical Massage

In March, Classics will feature songwriter and performer Leon Ware’s sophomore album and Motown debut, Musical Massage. Written after all the material Ware prepared for his sophomore album was turned into Marvin Gaye’s I Want You, Ware delivered one of Motown’s most sensual slow jam albums ever. It was remastered AAA from the original tapes, and pressed on 180g black vinyl by QRP, and is here in its first U.S. vinyl reissue since its release in 1976.

This album was a labor of love for Senior Editor Amileah Sutliff, who brought up the album in a VMP Music Team meeting almost two years ago, and kept pushing for it until we were able to make this reissue happen. She wrote the liner notes for our release, and here’s what she had to say about the album in them:

Musical Massage is of the body, and beyond the body. Far past merely the physical or the sexual, or even the romantic — the engine of Musical Massage is a spirit, a cohesion, a rhythm, a way of life, and a shared understanding. It’s in Bobby Womack and Marvin Gaye’s vocal features on ‘Holiday,’ in the steady, toe-curling percussion on ‘Turn Out The Light,’ in the wandering, thrilling bass line on ‘French Waltz.’ Most unmistakably, it’s in Leon Ware’s performance. From the wistfully whispered questions of ‘I Want To Be Where You Are’ to the funkier snarls of ‘Body Heat,’ Ware lived, created, and preached sensuality in every vocal phrase, and every pause between them.”

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