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Black Moses is the fifth studio album by Isaac Hayes and a superb double album at that, released on Stax Records’ Enterprise label in 1971. It was the follow-up to his “Shaft” soundtrack, and I remember picking up this record as a kid in my grandfather’s collection. I didn’t care what was on it, but couldn’t take my eyes off the cover and the ability to open it up with gatefolds all around. Once I got home and put it on, the funky sounds just blew my mind, and very few records are as potent and brimming with confidence as this one is. Rob Bowman’s excellent Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records tells the story of how this iconic cover came to be.

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It was Dino Woodward who came up with the “Black Moses” tag. “Dino said, ‘Man, look at these people out there,’” explains Isaac Hayes. “Do you know what you’re bringing into their lives? Look at these guys from Vietnam, man, how they’re crying when they see you, how you helped them through when they was out there in the jungle and they stuck to your music. You like a Moses, man. You just like Black Moses, you the modern-day Moses!”

“Somebody got wind of that and when I opened in Philadelphia at the Spectrum, [in front of] eighteen thousand people, Georgie Woods, who was a local radio personality and a promoter, introduced me that night. He said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I bring to you the Black Moses of the music world—Isaac Hayes,” and the whole place stood, people just screaming and it caught on. A writer for Jet magazine named Chester Higgins did an article on me and he used the term Black Moses, and then [Stax Records’ creative director] Larry Shaw had the savvy to capitalize on it and entitle the album Black Moses.

“I had nothing to do with it. I was kicking and screaming all the way. But when I saw the relevance and effect that it had on people, it wasn’t a negative thing. It was a healing thing, it was an inspiring thing. It raised the level of black consciousness in the states. People were proud to be black. Black men could finally stand up and be men because here’s Black Moses, he’s the epitome of black masculinity. Chains that once represented bondage and slavery can now be a sign of power and strength and sexuality and virility.

Ever since he had come to Stax, Larry Shaw felt that the company had severely lagged behind in its cover art department. The nadir for Shaw was David Porter’s Gritty, Groovy And Gettin’ It LP, released in February 1970, where a naked Porter was pictured with an equally naked female partner from the armpits up.

“To me,” confesses Shaw, “it was just a nasty presentation of an artist humping some chick. The disrespect that the designers of it had for the artist and the music was not necessary. It was their translation of guts. It was not appropriate.

Stax artwork had improved tremendously since Shaw, with help from former Bar-Kay Ron Gordon, took over its direction. With Black Moses he outdid himself, designing what has to be the most elaborate album package for a black artist up to that point. The two records were encased in a regular cover that portrayed Hayes from the neck up, shrouded in a caftan against a backdrop of endless sky. The cover clearly signified the notion of Hayes as Moses in the Middle East. Enveloping the regular cover was a multi-panel graphic that unfolded into a cross shape four feet high and three feet wide. Here was the same image of Hayes as Moses, but now it was a full body shot with the artist at the edge of a large body of water.

Via Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records by Rob Bowman

Malaysia-based Lego fan Adly Syairi Ramly created these images using Lego and a lot of time, I would guess!

 

Via Buzzfeed