Thursday, 14 July 2016

"The Brothers: Isley" by THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1997 'Legacy Rhythm & Soul Series' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...





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"...Got To Get Myself Together..."

You take one look at the three monks dressed in lurid pink on the cover on this long forgotten T-Neck Records LP from late 1969 - and you know you're in the presence of some serious dig-the-flowers-in-the-garden hippy-hoppity transcendental psychobabble (with a Funky Soul twist).

But then I think - what's wrong with that. And given the sonic evidence presented on this fantastic-sounding June 1997 CD of "The Brothers: Isley" - I'm down with the boys regardless of their garish garb. As a post Brexit Theresa May would say – bring it on baby. Here are the details...

UK released June 1997 - "The Brothers: Isley" by THE ISLEY BROTHERS on Epic/T-Neck/Legacy 487515 2 (Barcode 5099748751522) is a straightforward CD Remaster and is part of Sony’s 'Legacy's Rhythm & Soul Series'. It plays out as follows (30:41 minutes):

1. I Turned You On
2. Vacuum Cleaner
3. I Got To Get Myself Together
4. Was It Good To You?
5. The Blacker The Berrie (aka 'Black Berries')
6. My Little Girl [Side 2]
7. Get Down Off Of The Train
8. Holding On
9. Feels Like The World
Tracks 1 to 9 are their album "The Brothers: Isley" (their 2nd LP on T-Neck) - released November 1969 in the USA on T-Neck Records TNS 3002 and June 1970 in the UK on Stateside SLS 10300. Produced by Ronald, O'Kelly and Rudolph Isley - it peaked at No. 20 on the USA R&B LP charts (didn’t chart in the UK).

Produced for reissue by Leo Sacks – the 8-page inlay pictures label repro’s of American T-Neck 45s – track by track credits – new liner notes from noted Soul writer DAVID RITZ called 'The Pleasure Of Picking Berries' and the usual reissue credits. The CD itself reflects the T-Neck label of old and the album's rear sleeve is repro'd beneath the see-through CD tray. But the big news is a fantastic CD Remaster by TOM RUFF at Sony Studios from original tapes – every track kicking like a mule and full of energy - if not a little hissy in places (bit only on some tracks).

Prepping the public's appetite - T-Neck pushed three 7" singles in 1969 - all of them months prior to the LP's eventual release in November. First up came the Side 1 opener "I Turned You On" b/w "I Know Who You Been Socking It To" in May 1969 on T-Neck TN 902. The flipside was the opening track on the preceding album "It's Our Thang" which peaked at No. 2 on the USA R&B LP charts in May of that year - 1969.  "I Turned You On" was an obvious choice as a lead-off single - a fabulous funky groove where Ronnie moans that he's 'turned her on' but 'he can't turn her off' - especially when she socks it to him (you gotta feel for the man). The remaster is incredibly muscular - a tiny bit of hiss for sure but nothing that detracts from those amazing brass jabs that accompany the groove right through to its slow fade end.

For the LP's second 7" single issued August 1969 on T-Neck TN 906 - the label took the near six-minute James Brown workout that is "The Blacker The Berrie" and re-christened it "Black Berries - Part 1" and "Part 2". The two-parter peaked at No. 43 on the US R&B charts during an uncharacteristically-short four-week reign. Single number three was "Was It Good For You?" - another neck-jerking groover that's busy with guitars and brass. With "I Got To Get Myself Together" as its flipside - it peaked at a modest No. 33 on the USA R&B charts (T-Neck TN 908). With the same track combo - this was the only UK released 45 from the album - February 1970 on Stateside SS 2162 - but it did no business and was quickly deleted.

Other worthy inclusions include the "My Little Girl" is 'dynamite' Side 2 opener and the mid-tempo "Get Down Off Of The Train" - Ernie's guitar playing prominent throughout. "Holding On" could have been another 'fast' 45 - a very Blood, Sweat & Tears brass arrangement propelling it along its Funky little path (fantastic Ronnie Lead Vocal while the boys chant 'you got me holding on'). The short late 60ts album ends on my fave - "Feels Like The World". It's a slow ballad with great guitars and vocal arrangements - Chris Jasper plinking away on the piano anchoring the Soulful proceedings. I love this song - a slinky IB groove that manages to be both Funky and Soulful at the same time. "Feels Like The World" sounds like a lost classic you want to rave about as soon as possible. I'd admit that in the opening minute the transfer is hissier than I would like - but the Lead Vocal from Ronnie (he let’s rip at the end) and the musicianship quickly make mincemeat of that minor quibble...

"The Brothers: Isley" is not a balls-to-the-wall masterpiece like say - "Givin' It Back" - the covers album from 1971. But it is The Isley Brothers on T-Neck during that hallowed period - and that's all the info I need.

Don the pink ponchos lads and get down with 'The Brothers: Isley'...

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