Isley Brothers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Isley Brothers


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If Ronald and Ernie Isley are less visible on the oldies circuit than their 60s and 70s contemporaries, it's because they're still right up there on the R & B chart. With a discography that includes early rock 'n' roll ("Twist and Shout"), Motown ("This Old Heart of Mine"), psychedelic soul ("That Lady"), and seminal slow jams ("Don't Say Goodnight"), the Isleys have been reinventing themselves for over 40 years. In May they released Body Kiss (Dreamworks), written and produced (with the exception of one song) by R. Kelly. Arguably there's something unseemly about the 62-year-old Ronald singing about wilding around in clubs (as Isley does in the bling anthem "I Like") or using breakfast-cereal ad copy as a come-on ("You're magically delicious," he croons on "Lucky Charm"), and the songs would have benefited from more of Ernie's wonderful guitar leads. But the production's plush, the grooves are slinky, and Ronald's singular voice can infuse even Kelly's inane lyrics with feeling. Isley's voice is also the salvation of Here I Am (Dreamworks), a collection of 13 old and new Burt Bacharach songs for which the composer himself wrote the gloppy arrangements. That powerful, silky instrument cuts consistently through the pastel layers of soft-focus brass; the ad-libs on "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" recall Sam Cooke, while his take on "Make It Easy on Yourself" is a gem of soulful restraint. Comedians Rickey Smiley, Earthquake, Bruce Brice, and Adele Givens open; Earth, Wind & Fire headline. Sunday, November 23, 7:15 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont; 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Reisig & Taylor.

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