Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: The Isley Brothers, It’s Your Thing The Story of the Isley Brothers

Spanning  four decades and two generations of brothers the Isley Brothers had a remarkable career.  Over the course of their professional life they did doo wop, soul, funk, disco and pop.  They recorded for Motown and It's Your Thingformed their own record company.  Their version of “Twist and Shout” was turned into a massive hit when the Beatles did a very close copy.  They employed and recorded with a guitar player who called himself Jimmy James before he reverted to his given name and became world famous as Jimi Hendrix.  For quality, consistency and longevity, the Isleys are hard to beat.

It’s Your Thing is a three disc collection that does a fine job of covering their extended and varied career.  Each disc covers a chronlogically delimited segment of their output although the songs on each disc are not chronologically arranged.  This works very well as Disc 1 opens with a live buildup to their song “Shout” taken from a Yankee Stadium concert, the studio version of “Shout (Parts 1 and 2)” and a version of “Shout” recorded live from the TV show Shindig.  That sounds like a lot of “Shout” but it works very well.

Disc 1 covers 1957 to 1970.  Along with their well known hits “Shout” and “It’s Your Thing” it includes two tracks with Hendrix playing guitar.  “Testify (Parts 1 and 2)” is a rave up soul shouter with the brothers mimicking well known soul singers of the era like James Brown, Jackie Wilson and Stevie Wonder in which Hendrix plays run-of-the mill backing guitar.  “Move Over and Let Me Dance” is a revelation.  Not only is Henrix’s early guitar style unmistakeable but his vocal style is explicitly foreshadowed by whichever of the Isley’s is singing lead.

Disc 2 covers 1971 to 1975 and if all you know about the Isleys are their big crossover 1960’s hits, this CD will come as a big surprise.  Recording for their own T-Neck record label the Isleys produced a string of monster tracks during this brief 5 year period.  Ernie Isley joined the group in 1969 and his rock influenced guitar allowed them to rework their 1960’s hit “Who’s That Lady” into the funk-rock jam “That Lady (Parts 1 and 2)”.  The rock influence was also notable on their covers of Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze”, James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With” all of which are included here.  In addition to their genre crossing soul-rock hybrids the Isleys were knocking out funk anthems (“Fight the Power Parts 1 and 2″), straight up funk jams (“Lay Away”) and soul ballads (“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”).  Of the three discs, this is the one that keeps finding it’s way back into our CD player.

Disc 3 covers 1976 to 1996.  During this period the Isleys did some disco, broke up and came back together again, and did more than their share of cheesy love ballads.  There are good tracks here but this 20 year period is clearly that of a band in decline from the exciting ’60s and the extraordinary early ’70s.

The collection comes with a booklet with the typical hyped-up lauditory essays and a well-done discography of the tracks included in the set.  Their are also interesting sections with musicians like Maurice White, Bobby Womack and Aaron Neville along with the various Isleys talking about their career.  Overall, the booklet is better than average.

It’s Your Thing does an excellent job of covering the Isley Brothers long and highly influential career.  If you’re looking for an Isley career retrospective, this is the one.

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12/01/2008 - Posted by | music

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