THE ISLEY BROTHERS; Winner Takes All (bbr)

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Considering their status, the Isley Brothers have been comparatively poorly served by the reissue labels. Let’s hope that this new bbr release of the band’s 1979 ‘Winner Takes All’ is the start of a trend. The T-Neck set was originally released at the peak of the then six-piece group’s popularity and the 14 tracker (the original release was a double vinyl disc affair) has all the ingredients that made the 3+3 Isley  sound unique. Hear that sound at it very best on the anthemic ‘It’s A Disco Night’ which despite its title wasn’t “disco” – just eminently danceable and redolent of good times. There’s the precise, popping bass courtesy of Marvin, Ernie’s biting guitar, Chris Jasper’s subtle keys, the understated harmonies of Rudolph and O’Kelly and, above all else, the uniquely wonderful voice of Ronald Isley. The set’s other up-tempo numbers are all built from the same blueprint and it’s great to have easy access again to things like ‘I Wanna Be With You’ – an R&B chart topper by the way.

The set’s best bits though are the ballads and there are four wonderful ones here… ‘Let’s Fall In Love’, ‘How Lucky I Am’,  ‘Love Comes And Goes’,  and the beautiful ‘You’re The Key To My Heart’. They’re lesser know items in the Isley canon but are all right up there with the boy’s best and the old-time critic who said way, way back that Ron Isley possessed the voice of an angel wasn’t far wrong! … superb and heart-melting moments all three.

This reissue offers the full 14 tracks along with the 12″ remix of ‘It’s A Disco Night’ and for a budget release the sleeve notes from US journalist Shelley Nicole are on point.

(BB) 3/5