Artist: The Isley BrothersTitle: Taken to the Next PhaseRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jesse Fairfax
The Isley Brothers have marked their territory upon the collective conscience of funk and soul lovers for decades. With a strong reputation, only slightly tarnished by R. Kelly’s attempt to carry them into this generation, their work remains inspiration for love. Not only love of one another, but love of making music to touch the hearts of people. With Taken To The Next Phase (Epic) ten of their classics songs are reconstructed by modern day producers from Hip-Hop and other genres.
The project mainly consists of virtual collaborations, as recently done on The Roots’ “Star” which utilizes Sly & The Family Stones Everybody is a Star. The challenge lies in crafting songs that pay proper tribute while simultaneously offer something new and enjoyable. “Tell Of Tales (Tell Me When You Need It Again) by Will I Am of The Black Eyed Peas employs a funky bassline and has a lounge vibe, with Will’s raps paying tribute to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebum”. “Take Me To The Next Phase (Parts 1 & 2) by UK act Ignorants featuring Dead Rabbits is upbeat and great party material. Stuart Matthewman sets a slower vibe with the electronica based “Tonight Is The Night” (If I Had You), its successful at keeping in tune with the past sounds of the group. Perhaps the oddest remake is Steven “Lenky” Marsden’s dancehall reworking of “Between The Sheets”, featuring Tanya Stephens. On paper it comes off as ridiculous, but the results are masterful. Gabriel Rene’s “Footsteps In The Dark” (sampled on Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day”) is a nice mix of contemporary & classic soul that does the Isleys proud.
As expected from this type of a creative effort, there are also weak spots. ?uestlove’s “That Lady (Parts 1 & 2) sounds like a stale blend rather than anything fresh. “Summer Breeze” by Onda featuring Esthero is a remake that doesn’t live up to the original by any means. Raphael Saadiq & Kevin Wooton’s attempt to turn the uplifting “Harvest For The World” into a party jam falls flat. These moments only put a slight damper on the whole vision.
All in all, worthwhile homage is paid to the group’s legacy. Old fans can appreciate the new variations and by the same token these songs are relevant to today’s scene. The mighty Mos Def closes the album with “Beauty In The Dark (Groove With You), serving up romance and bringing the Isley’s message home full circle.