Music News

The Isley Brothers

Which lucky lady gets to be wined and dined by Mr. Biggs? Mack Daddy is large. Mack Daddy aims to take you shopping, girl. Buy you everything. Take you away in a convertible under cherry rain. After a glass of Beaujoulais and a Tic Tac, he'll draw your bath. There will be body lotion, bear skins, and a fireplace. Then sweet Mack Daddy will lay you down, girl. And freak you cross-eyed -- for real.

When Mr. Biggs, the cartoonish alter-ego of Ronald Isley, elder Motown superstar for nearly half a century, busts out the same lovemaking preparation kit album after album, it's easy to go along for the ride -- no matter how corny-sounding a senior citizen's playa schtick may sound. But what the heck.

This is Ronald "Fight the Power" Isley after all, the man whose elegant and silky tenor has melted muumuus from Cincinnati to Compton since 1954, y'all. Ronald Isley, lead vocalist of immortal classics like "Shout!" and "Twist and Shout" (an enormous cover hit for some little white band from Liverpool, by the way). Yep, that Ronald Isley, who, along with brothers Ernie, Marvin, and Rudolph (who all outlived the late Vernon and O'Kelly), should feel mighty proud of a long, influential, and diverse career; they mastered every musical style from gospel and R&B to Motown soul and funk-rock fusion, after all -- and before disco even reared its ugly head. The Isleys can also be thanked for recruiting an unknown backup guitarist named Jimi Hendrix in 1963.

But c'mon, playas! Why even bother calling this latest batch of tired retreads an Isley Brothers album at all? Not only has the family been whittled down to a duo but alleged kiddie-porn connoisseur R. Kelly (reinventing himself as the Pied Piper -- yikes!) actually wrote, arranged, and produced 11 of the 12 songs here. And his lyrics are ridiculous! Guitarist Ernie plays on one measly track ("Take a Ride"), while the rest of these trite, urban story-songs pit the cuckolded Biggs in a mock opera against the likes of da Piper ("What Would You Do?"), Li'l Kim ("Body Kiss"), and Snoop Dogg ("I Like"). Snoopy even manages to rhyme "Do it, do it" with "a tall glass of pimp fluid" -- shizzow!

On Body Kiss, rather than exhibit the work of truly gifted individuals, the remaining Isleys -- who are frustratingly adept at altering their sound to fit any conceivable market -- have wasted their talent singing B-movie, bling-bling ballads. Worse yet, they do it at the expense of their tried-and-true, kid-tested, baby-making-approved brand name. But who knows? Maybe a tune like "Lucky Charm" can score Bigg Mack a cereal endorsement with its laughable line, "Girl, you're magically delicious."

It's always been more about green clovers than pink hearts anyway.

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John La Briola