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Body Kiss

The Isley Brothers

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Album Review

Body Kiss is one of those Isley Brothers recordings. Feeling more like a return to the T Neck years than anything else, Body Kiss is an album of the prime seductive variety harking back in terms of tempo, song structure, production, and pace to releases like The Heat Is On and Harvest for the World. Produced and almost completely written by R. Kelly, Body Kiss features Ron and Ernie Isley taking the soft soul approach to decidedly urban love songs. Kelly understands the dynamics inherent in the Brothers' approach and has constructed a set of songs that plays to those strengths. While Ron's voice has lost none of its deep emotional expressionism, Ernie's guitar playing is more restrained here, though no less imaginative. There's less Hendrix and more Isley. On the title track, his dovetailing lead lines tie off the ends of Ron's sung lines and open up on to the next one. On "Superstar," his lilting tone is affected just enough to add to the rich textural palette of the vocal and basslines. "What Would You Do?" features his Stratocaster painting the vocal just enough. If seduction is the M.O. for these tunes, they flower not only in steamy eroticism, but also in honest and deeply moving romanticism. Isley makes even the most suggestive love song seem like a paean to commitment and endurance. Kelly's particular ability to write for the strength of conviction in the grain of his voice also turns back the clock on urban soul tropes but simultaneously brings the Isleys' signature sound into the 21st century. The shimmering, laid-back funk in "Prize Possession," with its tapered flute fills, is the kind of song Aaron Hall would have given his right arm to record. And in Ron Isley's silky tenor, every word is believable, no matter how macho. Body Kiss is a better Isleys record than listeners had any right to expect and it is a signature collaboration between the band and Kelly; given that this is a first outing for the team, one hopes that the creative field that exists between will be further explored.

Biography

Formed: 1954 in Cincinnati, OH

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

First formed in the early '50s, the Isley Brothers enjoyed one of the longest, most influential, and most diverse careers in the pantheon of popular music — over the course of nearly a half century of performing, the group's distinguished history spanned not only two generations of Isley siblings but also massive cultural shifts which heralded their music's transformation from gritty R&B to Motown soul to blistering funk. The first generation of Isley siblings was born and raised in Cincinnati,...
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