Isley Brothers, “Summer Breeze” from 3 + 3 (1973): One Track Mind

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With summer in full swing, it’s time for summer tunes. I guess everyone has a different interpretation on what constitutes “summer music” but for me, it’s got to be laid back and upbeat. Having some “summer” reference in the lyrics doesn’t hurt, either. And so, it didn’t take long to draw a bead on Seals and Crofts’ 1972 hit “Summer Breeze” — which is celebrating an anniversary of sorts.

Culled from the album of the same name, “Summer Breeze” was a perfect blend of pop craftsmanship, jazzy arrangements and seamlessly blended harmonies. But anyone who was around during that time or listens to classic Instead, I’m thinking more about another version of this song.

True, it’s been covered so thoroughly over the years from Aladdin 5 to Percy Faith to Ramsey Lewis to Type O Negative — and by who-knows-how-many hotel lobby bars. But one of the first covers, and perhaps the best, came barely after Seals and Crofts’ single started sliding back down the charts. And by no less an act than the Isley Brothers.

During their early-1970s era, the Isley Brothers covered a lot of popular songs of the day from a variety of artists from rock, folk and R&B. Even their blockbuster “That Lady” is a remake of their own original from 1965. A bit of irony coming from the same musical act who originally made “Twist And Shout” a hit back in 1962, and then watched it become a staple among the Beatles’ early hits and live setlist.

So true to their form of that time, the Brothers’ landmark 3 + 3 — issued on Aug. 7, 1973 via Epic Records — contains many contemporary covers like the Doobie Brothers’ “Listen To The Music” or Jonathan Edwards’ “Sunshine (Go Away Today),” but it’s also the album where the younger brothers Ernie Isley (guitar, drums), Marvin Isley (bass) and brother-in-law Chris Jasper (keyboards) joined with vocalists Ronald, Rudolph and O’Kelly Isley full-time, making the Isley Brothers a complete band for the first time.

The result was an album that was as consistently well played as it was well sung. It was also a sort of coming-out party for the 21-year-old Ernie Isley, whose fretted flights of fancy helped to make “That Lady” such a huge hit in 1973 (No. 6 Pop, No. 2 R&B), and 3 + 3 their first platinum seller. “Summer Breeze” also charted (Top 10 R&B) and it’s not hard to imagine why. The Isley Brothers started with a great tune that was still fresh in people’s minds and put their own unique stamp on it.

The harmonies by the Isleys don’t quite come up to the level of Seals and Crofts’, but who needs stinkin’ harmony when Ronald Isley’s lead croon is as smooth as a freshly zambonied ice rink? And then there’s lil’ bro Ernie and his Strat. As a colleague once put it, just as he can display Jimi Hendrix-style pyrotechnics, he’s just as capable of letting it simmer with a great deal of control.

After the last chorus, though, Ernie Isley opens it up with some Carlos Santana-ish sweet blues lines as he did for “That Lady,” but appropriately keeping the tempo a tad restrained. Meanwhile, Chris Jasper sticks with the piano and Ernie adds an acoustic rhythm guitar to retain a folk element, while Marvin Isley’s bass and Ernie’s drums speak in a funkier language. This demonstrates well why the Isley Brothers were so good at reaching across color barriers in music.

Even today, 3 + 3 makes for great listening no matter the season.

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,, 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
S. Victor Aaron
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