The Isley Brothers 3+3 Review

Released 1973.  

BBC Review

3 + 3 is brilliance writ large.

Daryl Easlea 2009

3+3 is the gateway to the Isley Brothers' golden, shimmering 70s period. This was the point where, after radicalising since forming their T-Neck label, the original trio of Rudolph, Ronald and O'Kelly Isley augmented their sound with their younger brothers Ernie Isley, Marvin and Rudolph's brother-in-law, Chris Jasper. They then enjoyed their third life (after their early doo-wop and subsequent Motown career) becoming an all-conquering rock-soul ensemble that produced a remarkable run of hits.

Distributed by industry major, Epic, it was full of commercial clout and possibly their most judicious selection of cover versions and originals. 3+3 was practically prescribed to every soul boy in the UK (witness the cover of If You Were There on the first album by Wham!); its sinewy supple blend of wailing guitar, water-tight harmony and propulsive beats still make it a work of remarkable singularity.

For them to take their old R&B hit, Who's That Lady and turn it into a hard-rocking psychedelic soul was a clear statement of their intent, complete with scorching Ernie Isley guitar. Here was a band that could appeal in equal measure to rock fans and soul aficionados. The record mixed originals and covers, light and shade. Particularly resonant was their reading of Seals and Croft's Summer Breeze, making a piece of down-home hippie philosophy into a manifesto of joy for the light nights.

If you have no Isleys and wonder where to start, then the compilation Forever Gold is still your best entry point, but if you wish to hear the album which showcases them at the peak of their powers, 3 + 3 is brilliance writ large.

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