This 2 on 1 set is genius writ large.
Daryl Easlea 2008-06-30
These two albums act as bookends 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 (a guitarist second only to Jimi Hendrix in my book), Marvin and Rudy's brother-in-law, Chris Jasper. They then enjoyed their third life (after their early doo-wop and later Motown career) becoming an all-conquering rock-soul ensemble that produced a remarkable run of hits.
3+3 from 1973 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 sound a work of remarkable singularity. For them to take their old R&B hit, Who’s That Lady and turn it into hard rocking psychedelic soul was a clear statement of their intent. With a wonderful mix of originals and well-chosen covers, the album was an enormous hit. Their version of Seals And Croft's lovely but frankly a trifle wimpy Summer Breeze is shot through with the essence of real man.
Go For Your Guns, four albums later, sees their act fully refined; all originals, it is a work of some majesty – Footsteps In The Dark, later so memorably sampled by Ice Cube, is something else, as is Voyage To Atlantis, which showcases Ernie's guitar heroics. It is possibly the nearest soul got to prog story-telling.
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 two albums which showcase them at the peak of their powers, this 2 on 1 set is – and I say this distancing myself from this world of routine hyperbole – genius writ large.