The Isley Brothers featuring Ronald Isley a.k.a. Mr. Biggs
Forty years ago, the Isleys had their first hit with “Shout” (1959), and amazingly they are back on the charts again with the first single, “Contagious,” off their new Dreamworks debut. The 5:46 song was produced and features a guest spot from current R&B sensation R. Kelly, but like all of these songs, the real joy comes in the soulful falsetto of lead singer Ronald Isley, who can slip from a sexy whisper to a powerful high note with the sleekest of ease (the man could make people grind to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” if he wanted to.)
The meat of the album comes on several likeable tracks produced by Steve “Stone” Huff, and there are cameos from the sensational Jill Scott (who co-wrote and performs on “Said Enough"), as well as Raphael Sadiq (Lucy Pearl/ Toni! Toni! Tone!). Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis lend their services to the title track and several others. The brothers also turn in a masterful interpretation of Chicago’s 1976 hit, “If You Leave Me Now,” that boils the original into a plea at once spiritual and sexual.
Ernie Isley’s distortion-laden guitar wanking can sound odd alongside his brother’s smooth crooning (a musical collaboration analogous to K-Mart brand caviar); however, the guitar parts sound excellent when reined in to the tight rhythm section. With each track, the Isleys prove that they are still undisputed masters of between-the-sheets soul and R&B.