Thursday, 14 July 2016

"Original Classic Albums" by THE ISLEY BROTHERS (2008 Epic/Legacy 5CD Mini Box Set) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Go Where You Want To Go…Be What You Want To Be…"

Now here’s a whole stack of fabulous Soul for not a lot of your hard-earned. 

UK issued October 2008 - “Original Classic Albums" by THE ISLEY BROTHERS on Epic/Legacy 88697304842 (Barcode 886973048429) is one of those dinky 5CD Card-Repro Mini Box Sets from Sony and it breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (30:43 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 (a/k/a Black Berries)
6. My Little Girl
7. Get Down Off Of The Train
8. Holding On
9. Feels Like The World
Tracks 1 to 9 is the LP "The Brothers: Isley", issued November 1969 in the USA on T-Neck TNS 3002 and June 1970 in the UK on Liberty SSL 10300. All tracks are originals.

Disc 2 (39:48 minutes):
1. Get Into Something
2. Freedom 
3. Take Inventory
4. Keep On Doin'
5. Girls Will Be Girls 
6. I Need You So
7. If He Can You Can
8. I Got To Find Me One
9. Beautiful
10. Bless Your Heart
Tracks 1 to 10 is the LP "Get Into Something", issued February 1970 in the USA on T-Neck TNS 3006. All tracks are originals.

Disc 3 is the LP "Givin' It Back", issued September 1971 in the USA on T-Neck TNS 3008 - all 7 tracks are cover versions (41:56 minutes):
1. Ohio/Machine Gun [Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young/Jimi Hendrix - segued as one]
2. Fire And Rain [James Taylor]
3. Lay Lady Lay [Bob Dylan]
4. Spill The Wine [War]
5. Nothin' To Do But Today [Stephen Stills]
6. Cold Bologna [Bill Withers - also features BW on Guitar]
7. Love The One You're With [Stephen Stills]]

Disc 4 is the LP "Brother, Brother, Brother" (credited to "The Isleys"), issued June 1972 in the USA on T-Neck TNS 3009 (38:03 minutes):
1. Brother, Brother
2. Put A Little Love In Your Heart 
3. Sweet Season/Keep On Walkin'
4. Work To Do
5. Pop That Thang 
6. Lay Away 
7. It's Too Late
8. Love Put Me On The Corner
All 8 tracks are originals - except 1, 3 (Part 1 of) and 7 which are Carole King covers while track 2 is a Jackie DeShannon cover

Disc 5 is the LP "3 + 3", issued September 1973 in the USA on T-Neck KZ 32453 and November 1973 in the UK on Epic S EPC 65740 (43:13 minutes):
1. That Lady (Part 1&2)
2. Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
3. If You Were There
4. You Walk Your Way
5. Listen To The Music
6. When It Comes Down To
7. Sunshine (Go Away Today)
8. Summer Breeze
9. Highways Of My Life 
All 9 tracks are originals - except track 2 is James Taylor cover, track 5 is a Doobie Brothers cover, track 7 is a Jonathan Edwards cover, track 8 is a Seals & Crofts cover
Track 10 is a CD bonus track, a live version of "That Lady" recorded in 1980

The remastered sound quality is superb throughout and the 5 card sleeves repro the original American 'T-Neck' Records album covers front and rear. TOM RUFF did the 'Legacy Rhythm & Soul Series' Remasters - so that's what's been used here. Unfortunately the card sleeves are too small and blurry to actually read any details off of them. But you can download a full Sessionography for each album from Sony's online site (download runs to 9 pages).

In truth I bought this mini box set for the "Givin' It Back" LP - their hard-to-find covers album from 1971. It's one of those fabulous lost soul gems you rarely ever see on vinyl let alone reissue CD (it pushes £25 in places). "Givin' It Back" opens with a dynamite mix of CSYN's "Ohio" with Hendrix's "Machine Gun" and its genius - both songs imbibed with extraordinarily passionate Isley vocals (the Vietnam war and its protests looming everywhere in the lyrics). "Lay Lady Lay" is excellent too, but it does overstay its welcome at ten minutes plus. This is offset against a radically reworked version of James Taylor's "Fire And Rain" which is now brilliantly soulful.  

That the other albums also contain such an embarrassment of riches is of course a blast - a constantly repaying bonus. Check out their stunning cover of Carole King's "It's Too Late" from her wonderful 1971 "Tapestry" album - it's ten minutes long, but this time it works - beautifully soulful with searing guitar work throughout. The brass on "Freedom" too (lyrics above) leaps out at you from the speakers. Another particular favourite of mine is "Work To Do" which the Average White Band practically made their own on the fab "Pick Up The Pieces" Atlantic Records "AWB" album. 

So there you have it - properly great soul music in wonderful sound - and five albums worth of it too - a wee peach of an Isleys thing…

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