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CD Review: The Isley Brothers "Body Kiss"

The fact that The Isley Brothers had a #1 hit in the late 50s, and are still making hits till date (Body Kiss debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts) is truly amazing. If there was any doubt that the legendary group still has it, their latest album Body Kiss officially puts a seal on that argument. Some people thought the 1996 moderate hit album Mission to Please was a fluke but they came back hard with the spectacular 2001 set Eternal. Its now 2003 and Body Kiss essentially guarantees that The Isley Brothers will be etched into the mainstream and the minds of young folk who did not get a chance to hear their early music.

But herein might lay the albums misstep. This is essentially a Mr. Biggs album. The genesis of the Mr. Biggs character is now almost legendary as R-Kelly and Ronald Isley has taken the concept to another level. From Downlow to Contagious and now Showdown the R&B scene is not safe with a 62 year old Ronald Isley a.k.a. Mr. Biggs bullying his way up the chart with the help of troubled genius R-Kelly.

Body Kiss is entirely written and produced by R-Kelly except for one track I Want That by off and on hit making duo Tim and Bob. The surprising mid-tempo track Superstar sets the album off to a good start where Ronald Isley shouts out common folk and ghetto superstars around the block. The cereal inspired Lucky Charm is pure romantic heat. The album oozes with sensuality, which is not surprising as R-Kelly infuses his trademark style into the mix.

While this is a solid album it boggles the mind how Ernie Isley, one of the baddest guitar players on the planet has been basically tossed to the side. True Isley Brothers fans know that the group is not official without the guitar solo stylings of Ernie. But obviously the music executives at Dreamworks Records think otherwise. Ernie only appears on Take a Ride which is clearly the best song on the album as it rekindles the classic Isley Brothers slow jam magic. Its also mind boggling how a 12 track LP includes some lame filler material. I Like feat Snoop Dogg and R-Kelly is totally meaningless and the remix to the blazing leading off single What Would You Do Pt. 2 is a total washout. What good is a remix if it not only pales in comparison to the original but is also a pretty uninspiring?

When it comes to an Isley Brothers material, expectations are extremely high, and rightly so. Therefore while the missteps are quite glaring, the album is still banging. R-Kelly works overtime on the LP and shows his genius on many occasions but the Isley Brothers should have stuck to the formula they had on the platinum 2001 LP Eternal. Put
R-Kelly in the mix for some tracks and enlist the help of super producers like Raphael Saadiq and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and give Ernie Isley his time to shine.

While Body Kiss is still worth the money, it should have been better.

- Words by Chinedu Ezeike

Body Kiss gets 4 lumps of pounded yam with egusi soup and goat meat out of 5.

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