The Isley Brothers
Celebrating their 40th anniversary, singer Ronald “Mr. Biggs” Isley and guitar wizard Ernie Isley lay on the slow jams and team up with some all-star collaborators on this, the first new Isley Brothers' album in five years.
If you're trying to figure out how long these guys have been around, keep in mind that it was The Isley Brothers who had the original 1962 hit of “Twist and Shout,”—before The Beatles made it even more famous—and it was The Isley Brothers who delivered later hits like “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You)” in 1966 and “Who's That Lady” in 1973. And yes, it was the same Isleys who brought along a then unknown guitarist by the name of Jimi Hendrix to back them during their first tour of England in 1964.
But all those years in the business haven't softened their soulful sting, and Ronald's voice and Ernie's highly distinctive guitar style sound as strong as ever.
Inspired in part by Santana's success with a similar effort, the brothers collaborate with an A-list group of guest artists and writers here. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis cowrote and coproduced several cuts, including the deeply romantic “You're All I Need,” while new soul queen Jill Scott provides a stirring counterpoint to Ron on “Said Enough.”
R. Kelly produced and arranged the killer lead radio track, Contagious, a done-wrong tale of infidelity that has the potential to go down as an Isley Brothers classic, while Steve “Stone” Huff was involved with the writing of several other tracks, most notably the groove-filled “You Deserve Better.” And speaking of grooves, the Isleys lock into one with their brilliant remake of Chic's “Warm Summer Night,” a great track to begin with that retains its extraordinarily erotic flavor, complete with Ron's new lyrics.
The only downside to the disc is that several of the cuts drag on for far too long, especially “Settle Down” and the eight-minute-plus title track. The latter is lifted, however, by an especially soaring guitar solo courtesy of Ernie Isley.