...Next Phase is yet another landmark in the career of one of soul music's greatest...
Lewis Dene 2004-10-15
When the Isley Brothers topped the US album charts for the first time in 1975, they were already celebrated veterans with 21 years in the business. In 2003 they again returned to the charts summit with Body Kiss - a terrific set largely written by R. Kelly - and a taster for what was to come.
Purists beware! In Taken To The Next Phase the legendary group reach out to a new generation of urbanites by joining force with contemporary greats from the world of hip-hop and r&b, and revisiting some of their past glories.Ignorants rough up the title-track, while ONDA (executive producer behind the project) serves up the beats. Canadian singer Esthero provides the soulful interplay on "Summer Breeze", while Steven 'Lenky' Marsdens offers a dancehall update of "Between The Sheets".
Ronald Isley, who in recent times has masqueraded as his player alter ego Mr Biggs, possesses the sort of voice that could sing the telephone directory and still ooze soul and warmth. His expressive, playful and emotion-loaded voice is appropriately soft but never soppy. If it takes duets with the likes of De La Soul (on the ultra funky update of "It's Your Thing") and Raphael Saadiq to expose this living legend to a new generation, then so be it.
In fact the alternate versions of "Harvest For the World" (now with a chunky funky backdrop) and "Groove With You" (featuring Mos Def getting ultra soulful) work exceedingly well. Deep houser Gabriel Rene's re-working of "Footsteps In The Dark" is nothing short of magnificent, the twinkling guitar fills from Ernie Isley perfectly offsetting the sophisticated, ferociously commanding lead vocal performance.
Some might call it sacrilege, but, as the band know better than anyone, you don't make hit records over 5 decades by standing still. The Brothers have always moved with the times, and ...Next Phase is yet another landmark in the career of one of soul music's greatest groups.