THE ISLEY BROTHERS: ‘It’s Our Thing’ and ‘Go All The Way’ (Label: BGO)

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THE ISLEY BROTHERS: 'It's Our Thing' and 'Go All The Way'

To their credit, the Isley Brothers have never stood still and always embraced change. Perhaps that’s why they’ve survived several decades with their credibility intact (although it has to be said that the legendary group’s more recent R&B-styled albums have stretched that credibility a tad in the eyes of some soul fans). Their debut chart hit, ‘Twist & Shout,’ in 1962 reflected their raw gospel roots, which were toned down during a brief mid-’60s stint at Motown that yielded the classic ‘This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You).’ Following this they embraced James Brown-style funk for ‘It’s My Thing’ in 1969 and then in the early ’70s, with the addition of Ernie Isley’s screaming Jimi Hendrix-esque guitar, fused rock with soul and funk to create their 1973 masterpiece, ‘3 + 3.’ Their sound got smoother and smoochier in the 1980s and 1990s as elements of bedroom R&B took precedence over the rock and funk characteristics they’d previously highlighted. This interesting ‘twofer’ on the UK-based BGO reissue label combines 1969’s breakthrough set ‘It’s My Thing’ on their own T-Neck label with 1980’s ‘Go All The Way.’ Stylistically and sonically, they are very different albums. They’re not poles apart, because Ron’s seraphic falsetto remains the glue that holds them together, but by 1980, the Isleys were a well-established hit machine in the US and that’s reflected in the assurance and maturity of the later album. ‘It’s Our Thing’ was the group’s first R&B Top 10 LP – the infectiously funky 45 ‘It’s My Thing’ topped the R&B singles chart for a month in April 1969 – and is packed with robust rhythm and blues and funk that reflects the influence of James Brown and Sly Stone. Besides the title cut, other highlights include the upbeat ‘I Know Who You Been Socking It To,’ and the pleading ballads, ‘Save Me’ and ‘Feel Like The World.’ By the time ‘Go All The Way’ hit the shops in 1980, the group – then a sextet that included family cousin, keyboard player Chris Jasper – had racked up hit after hit on the US R&B charts including six chart toppers. Their sound was perceptibly smoother – gone was the horn-drenched rough and tumble funk of the late-’60s, replaced by leaner, yet deeper modern soul grooves. ‘Here We Go Again’ is the killer cut, though the ballad ‘Don’t Say Goodnight (It’s Time For Love)’ – which spent four weeks at number one in the US – runs it a close second. If you’re an aficionado of classic soul, then I urge you to seek out this excellent reissue (for more info go to