The Isley Brothers, “Here We Go Again” (2015, rec. 1980): Something Else! sneak peek

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The classic-era Isley Brothers welded together soul, funk and rock better than any act of the 70s and perhaps all-time. That came to an end in 1983 with the departure of the younger Isleys Marvin and Ernie, along with brother-in-law Chris Jasper. We’ll never see the likes of that “3 + 3” band again and so it should follow that we wouldn’t get any new material released from this group, either. But that’s not entirely true.

Later this summer there’s gonna be a ginormous, 23-CD box set of all twenty-one of the Isley Brother Albums that encompass the period bookended by the hits “Shout” and “Between The Sheets.” The Isley Brothers: The RCA Victor and T-Neck Album Masters (1959-1983), presented by Legacy Recordings, also straddle over both the labels that released the original albums, RCA Victor and the Isley Brothers’ in-house brand, T-Neck Records. That traces a lot of music history, and acts as a musical journal of a band that started good and kept getting better.

Yes, these old recordings will all be remastered and yes, they’ll throw in alternate mixes and rare tracks, and put most of this music in digital form for the first time. But it will also include “Great Lost Isley Brothers Album”, an entire LP left in the vault unreleased for thirty-five years.

Wild In Woodstock: The Isley Brothers Live At Bearsville Sound Studio 1980 was intended to be a double-vinyl disc recorded live in a studio with the intent of releasing it with concert crowd noise dubbed over it to give it the illusion of an album taped out on the road while on tour. Going by the one track from this collection made public today, there’s nothing about the performance itself that’s an illusion, however.

“Here We Go Again,” the stream ensconced at the top, does nothing to diminish the Isley’s reputation as a live act. Fronted by the three man vocal group of Ronald, Rudolph and O’Kelly and backed by the crack musicians/composers of Marvin, Ernie and Chris (Jasper), the 3 + 3 band was by 1980 a tight, well-oiled rockin’ funk machine. The song stretches out past a very radio-unfriendly six minutes, which means it includes the requisite “parts 1 and 2” of the song.

This isn’t a never-heard-before tune — it appeared on their 1980 release Go All The Way (see video below) — but the production on the Bearsville performance is tighter and the mix is cleaner, which I’m pretty sure went through a remix for the box set. Regardless, it points to the timeless quality of the music they made back then, an uptempo, funky dance number with a badassed bass by Marvin, a growling guitar from Ernie and tasteful piano and synth washes from Chris Jasper. The harmonies of O’Kelly and Rudolph backing up the classic lead soul croon of Ronald complete a well-executed rendition that seemed to be reproduced live so effortlessly.

Not very many people will shell out for a two dozen-disc box set, as good as I’m sure this one is. But a long awaited release of Wild In Woodstock: The Isley Brothers Live At Bearsville Sound Studio 1980 by itself would be a real gift to legion of Isley Brothers fans. Man, I hope that happens.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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  • Adam Cameron

    I’d be cool with if the only release everything between 3+3 to Between The Sheets. The 60’s stuff is a just a little too inaccessible for a millennial like me. Love the 70s stuff. Loved it the first time I heard too, sampled on Gangsta Rap tracks.

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