Over on Detroit’s northwest side of town sits a nondescript grey brick building upon the top of which is an eagle with open wings.
This building was home of the famed Rainbow Records and Terra-Shirma Studios. Studio A – home of the Rainbow Records – is now a gas station at the corner of Fenkel and Livernois.
And just a few yards up on Livernois sits another abandoned building – the former Terra-Shirma Studio B.
This is the music studio that brothers Russ and Ralph Terrana built. People tend to think of Motown when they think of Detroit Music. But Terra-Shirma was the home of Detroit Soul, Detroit Blues and Detroit’s southern influence rock. If these walls could talk, they would speak of incredible talent such as The Sunliners, Patti Young, Jerry “The Iceman” Butler, Producer Fred Saxon, Producer Ahmet Ertegun (Atlantic Records), The Southbound Freeway, Johnnie Mae Matthews, Producer Ed Wingate (Motown Records), and Bettie LaVette among countless others.
But few remember when Isaac Hayes hired the studio to record his self produced album, “Hot Buttered Soul”. It was the summer of 1969, just shy of two years since the Detroit Riots.
Hayes’ first album, his 1968 debut “Presenting Issac Hayes” did poorly on sales. Depressed and prepared to return home to work as a producer and songwriter, Hayes was approached by Stax Records executive, Al Bell. Stax had just split with Atlantic Records and subsequently relinquished its entire back catalog in the split. Bell immediately wanted his cadre of artists to release new material and asked Hayes to do the same. However, before agreeing to record any new material, Hayes demanded that he be allowed to have complete creative control. Bell agreed.
Hayes’ producer, Detroit native Don Davis (who had been a session musician for many Detroit labels), took Hayes’ material with him to Detroit where he met with another Detroiter, Johnny Allen. Together Davis and Allen arranged Hayes’ tracks to have a more melodic and charismatic orchestral sound. The horns and strings were recorded at United Sound Systems on the corner of 2nd and Antoinette. Hayes was then brought to Detroit where he recorded his vocals and oversaw the final mix at Terra-Shirma studios with engineer Russ Terrana. Musicians on these tracks included Hayes on vocals and keyboards, and Detroit legends Marvell Thomas on piano, Willie Hall on drums, and James Alexander on bass.
The “Hot Buttered Soul” album has only four tracks on it. Most prominent is the 12-minute, soul drenched, melodic version of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s classic, “Walk On By”. The next cut is “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic”, a true funk classic complete with “wah-wah” guitars and engaging pianos. A deep cut on the flip side features an 8-minute spoken word introduction to Jimmy Webb’s country music anthem, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”.
The master tapes were taken to Archer Processing on Davison for the initial pressing.
Ralph Terrana went on as a writer, arranger and producer and Russ followed closely in his brother’s footsteps – sometimes working side by side – as a master recording engineer. Russ worked with Motown Records where he mastered tracks for Diana Ross, The Jackson Five, Meatloaf, Frijid Pink, Frankie Valle, Eddie Kendricks, Smoky Robinson, Jerry Butler, Dionne Warwick, Mary Wilson and Rare Earth among many others.
“Hot Buttered Soul” is a quintessential soul funk album that belongs in every music lover’s collection.