The title track's perennially recognizable hi-hat and wah-wah guitar intro, interlocking horn/string parts, and smooth, proto-rap verses conjure the name SHAFT as surely as a snake-charmer's incantation. It also conjures the name of Isaac Hayes--the songwriter, arranger, musician, and producer responsible for the phenomenally successful soundtrack to the landmark 1971 Blaxploitation film. Hayes's status as a key player in the Stax/Volt soul empire, and as a solo artist of considerable renown, went through the roof with this double-LP.
Hayes's lush, ambitious arrangements are performed by the Bar-Kays, one of Stax's premier house bands, along with guest string and horn players. Aside from the highbrow funk of the title track and two other vocal cuts ( Hayes's ballad "Soulsville" and the near-20-minute mid-tempo funk of "Do Your Thing" ), this is an instrumental set with a strong "cinematic" feel. Jazz, lounge, R&B, and atmospheric interludes are blended to give ample evidence of Hayes's brilliance as a composer and arranger. SHAFT was a commercial zenith for Hayes, and made his name as a giant of soul.