Sorry, no resemblance

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This is what I found on the inner sleeve when I pulled tonight’s record from its jacket. I’m digging that little bit of art almost as much as the record it came with.

Almost. I’ll still give the slight edge to another early Isley Brothers album found in the dollar bins in my friend Jim’s back yard yesterday.

“Brother, Brother, Brother,” released in 1972, was a pivotal album for the Isley Brothers.

It was the last time they’d offer pleasure via the Buddah Group, at least on a studio album. After “Brother, Brother, Brother” came out, they dropped a live album to fulfill their contract, then took their T-Neck label over to Epic Records.

It also was the last album for the Isley Brothers as a trio. Guitarist Ernie Isley, bass player Marvin Isley and keyboard player Chris Jasper — all barely past 20 — were emerging as full-fledged members of the group. They were in their teens when they started backing the original vocal trio of Ronald, O’Kelly and Rudolph Isley in 1969. It wasn’t long before the six-member group became a soul and funk force.

Yet on “Brother, Brother, Brother,” the Isleys stayed with a strategy that served them well at mid-career. They mixed soul and funk originals — the hits “Work To Do” and “Pop That Thang” are on this one — with pop covers given the distinctive Isley sound.

On their previous album, 1971’s “Givin’ It Back,” they’d covered James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills, Eric Burdon and War and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. On this one, they covered Carole King and Jackie DeShannon.

Here, then, a little slice of what that sounded like.

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“Sweet Seasons/Keep On Walkin’,” the Isley Brothers, from “Brother, Brother, Brother,” 1972. Out of print but available digitally.

In which we start with roughly 3 minutes of King’s top-10 single from earlier that year. Karl Potter’s congas propel an arrangement featuring the Isleys’ smooth vocals and some nice organ work by Truman Thomas. Then, with little warning, Ernie Isley cranks up his guitar and leads a segue into 2 minutes of something much funkier.

Pleasure from the Buddah Group, indeed.

Once Evan sees that, he’ll say: “Dad, that looks just like you!”

And I’ll say: “Sorry, pal, no resemblance.”

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Filed under May 2009, Sounds

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