THE ISLEY BROTHERS: The Motown Anthology (Label: Universal, Motown)

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THE ISLEY BROTHERS: The Motown Anthology

It’s my contention that the Isley Brothers are one of soul’s most underrated groups. Ask any soul buff to name their favourite vocal groups and I’d wager that few would come up with the Isleys. Yet their contribution to soul has been immense and sustained and even their problematic stay at Motown yielded numerous classics as this new, 52 track anthology patently proves. What we have here isn’t a comprehensive or chronological survey of the brothers stay at Motown, rather, the collection is a snapshot – albeit hugely detailed – of what they achieved chez Gordy and, more significantly, in the UK. Indeed, the Isley’s Motown music was infinitely more popular in Britain than in the States and for that the EMI/Tamla Motown 60s team deserve full credit for their inspired series of reissues on the brothers. Thanks to them songs like ‘This Old Heart Of Mine’, ‘I Guess I’ll Always Love You’, ‘Behind A Painted Smile’, ‘Tell Me It’s Just A Rumour Baby’ and (more latterly) ‘My Love Is Your Love (Forever)’ became huge favourites. All those anthems are included here of course along with the inspired Motown covers the boys were asked to record to fill out their albums and their treatments of things like ‘How Sweet It Is’, ‘Nowhere To Run’ and ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’ stand more than favourable comparison with what are considered the original versions. Interesting too is a take on ‘What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’. It boasts new lyrics and a new title – ‘Smile’ – and is every bit as good as the Jimmy Ruffin take. Some of the songs are offered in stereo and mono versions while there is one brand new recording … well not brand new, of course… ‘Sure Is A Whole Lotta Woman’ is a track that’s lain unreleased in that legendary Motown vault until now. Like a lot of the Isley’s Motown stuff it’s fast and almost furious and boasts a typical impassioned vocal from Ronald. Its inclusion will ensure real interest from the collectors.
(BB) 4/5