May 02, 2022
By Austin Saalman
Continuing the foray into rock begun on 1971’s Givin’ It Back, The Isley Brothers’ 10th studio album Brother, Brother, Brother serves as yet another advancement in the Cincinnati-founded R&B/soul outfit’s signature sound, which carried it to superstardom on the following year’s 3+3. Though understated and restrained in comparison to their more bombastic masterworks, Brother, Brother, Brother is an important Isley Brothers release, its crisp Midwestern soul backbone providing ample support for the group’s more ambitious rock and funk aspirations.
A mixture of covers and original compositions, the album continues the Isley’s penchant for Carole King tunes, the group reinterpreting the legendarily prolific pop visionary’s “Brother, Brother” and “Sweet Seasons” as tight soul exercises, with King’s chart-topping hit “It’s Too Late” being reworked into a trippy 10+ minute psychedelic blues jam. It remains a pleasure to hear Ronald Isley’s voice throughout these tracks, quickly affirming the knowledge that he stands among soul’s greatest vocalists. Likewise, the phenomenal guitar and bass work of Ernie and the late Marvin Isley, respectively, shine especially bright on buzzing funk triumph “Keep on Walkin’” and sweaty soul rocker “Pop That Thang,” the latter of which reached #3 on the national R&B charts and was named among Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 singles. Bandmate Chris Jasper’s soulful keyboard and spiritual piano contributions help to perfect some of the album’s stronger cuts, most notably Jackie DeShannon cover “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and Isley Brothers original “Work to Do.” Other tracks such as original funk rock number “Lay Away” and closing Jasper-penned slow jam “Love Put Me on the Corner” are also solid inclusions, rendering Brother, Brother, Brother a consistent effort and easily the group’s finest pre-3+3 release.
While less realized than much of The Isley Brothers’ future output, Brother, Brother, Brother serves as a gateway to their ’70s golden age. The following year, the band would release its monumental hit “That Lady,” before going on to record such classic albums as The Heat Is On and Go for Your Guns, the latter of which boasts “Voyage to Atlantis,” itself a miracle in soul music. In retrospect, Brother, Brother, Brother feels like a blueprint of explosive greatness to come, the Isley’s joining together to function as an unstoppable whole. After five decades, the album sounds unusually fresh, The Isley Brothers having remained pioneers of their genre. Even now, it would prove difficult for any listener to deny the charms of “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” “Pop That Thang,” or “Work to Do.”