Over the Christmas period I had a pretty thick and heady DJing stint at Salt Dogs, with four gigs in the space of nine days. One of the bands that kept popping up all over that period were the Isley Brothers, who truly are one of the greatest soul combinations in history.
Forming in 1954 as a gospel act, they then spent the next thirty years traversing a variety of genres and in the process became one of the most diverse bastions of longevity in popular music. Funk, Rock, Soul, Doo-Wop, even shades of disco, they had it all, and they can also lay a claim to a pivotal role in the Quiet Storm era which transformed radio programming. Basically they’re boss, and Ronald Isley’s voice is just butter. They’ve also been sampled on some of hip-hop’s finest moments, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Anyway I’ve been rinsing Ron and his siblings over the Christmas period, so I thought seeing as it’s Friday I’d share my five favourite jams from the group. Here we go…
One of their most famous records, this is the perfect combination of laid back soul, languid funk and hazy rock. And the outfits were always amazing on Soul Train.
More seventies rock soul crossover, Jimi grinding with Marvin vibes. And the outfits, again!
“Are we really sure, can a love that lasted for so long still endure?” As opening gambits go that’s a pretty heart wrenching mantra and if this doesn’t melt that iron heart nothing will. And Ice Cube licked the beat brilliantly for ‘It was a Good Day’.
The record that they made it big off, the 1959 finger snapping classic. Much better than every cover as well.
The absolute one! To be able to go from Shout in 1959 to being able to deliver this a full 24 years later is awesome, even taking into account the odd personnel change over the years. It’s been reworked brilliantly as a languid hip-hop jam, first by Tribe on the hootie mix of ‘Bontia Applebum’ and then even more memorably by the man like B.I.G. on ‘Big Poppa’. Both kept the bump and grind ethos of the original close to heart as well, either as a backdrop for Q-Tip to drop science on big butts or Biggie to proclaim he had more mack than Craig and in the bed, urging you to believe he had enough to feed the needy. Awesome.