Listen Up: Wednesday,May 29, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
The Isley Brothers

Body Kiss (Dreamworks Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

Like Santana, the Isley Brothers have sustained their career by releasing the same record every year or so for the last couple of decades. Starting in the late ’50s with the gospel-R&B of “Shout” and “Twist and Shout,” they reinvented themselves in the late ’60s with the popping funk of “It’s Your Thing” and again in the early ’70s with material ranging from a rock-inflected remake of their hit “That Lady” to the ghetto politics of “Fight the Power.” Since then, Rudolph and O’Kelly Isley have passed; only Ronald remains of the original trio.

Nowadays, Ronald specializes in soul as the sound of seduction, the same thing Smokey Robinson was offering on his A Quiet Storm album. Ronald’s main collaborator is modern-day lurrve man R. Kelly, who wrote all but one of the tracks on Body Kiss. (I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a blue-haired Ridglea matron in the record store where I used to moonlight: “Excuse me, I’m looking for that young Negro man who sings all those songs about sucking and fucking.” “Uh, that’d be R. Kelly, ma’am.”)

The key track — “What Would You Do?” — features the singer as playa, asking “What would you do if I put this money in your hand?” It could have been the anthem of the Austin couple I saw reclining in a horse-drawn buggy. She looked bored, he was on his cellphone — the essence of millennial romance. Ronald’s definition of a “Superstar” posits an interesting double standard: the girl who’s “independent and hard-working ... can cook and has some good loving,” and the man “all the ladies are kissing and hugging ... that the whole ghetto is loving.” The most “real” moment here is the song “Busted.” From the opening “Bring your ass on in here,” it’s a no-fooling quiet-storm domestic disturbance.


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