I’ve reviewed the "Original Classic Albums" mini box set from 2008 containing the first 5 albums by The Isleys on T-Neck between 1970 and 1973 (gems like "Brother, Brother, Brother" and "Givin' It Back”). So I got a little hot under my white Soul Boy's collar when I opened this pre-order this morning. And it’s absolutely been worth waiting for.
The Isley Brothers have made so many great albums (almost one in the year in the 60ts and 70ts) that their stuff just gets ‘overlooked’ and lost in the melee. And like The Staple Singers - their message of positivity fills their Soul and Funk with a warmth I keep returning too. Take 1976's "Harvest For The World" - a wickedly good but criminally forgotten platter. And that’s where this superb BBR CD reissue comes in. Big Break Records of the UK are determined to get you ro re-engage and who am I to disagree. Here are the details…
Released Monday 24 Oct 2011 - "Harvest For The World: Expanded Edition" by THE ISLEY BROTHERS on Big Break Records CDBBR 0083 (Barcode 5013929038325) offers the 1976 LP with 3 Bonus Tracks and breaks down as follows (47:43 minutes):
1. Harvest For The World (Prelude)
2. Harvest For The World
3. People Of Today
4. Who Loves You Better
5. (At Your Best) You Are Love [Side 2]
6. Let Me Down Easy
7. So You Wanna Say Down
8. You Still Feel The Need
Tracks 1 to 8 are the album "Harvest For The World" - released May 1976 in the USA on T-Neck Records PZ 33809 and June 1976 in the UK on Epic Records S EPC 81268. It reached No. 1 and No. 9 on the US R'n'B and Pop charts.
9. Harvest For The World (Instrumental) – the B-side to the US 45 for "Harvest For The World" on T-Neck ZS8 2261 released in July 1976 (the UK B-side on Epic S EPC 4368 had the album cut "Let Me Down Easy")
10. Who Loves You Better – Part 1 – a 3:30 minute edit of the album track (LP version runs to 5:31 minutes) issued as a 45 in the USA on T-Neck ZS8 2260 in April 1976 (Part 2 is the B-side)
11. Harvest For The World (Single Version) – a 3:30 minute edit of the album track (LP cut runs to 3:53 minutes) issued as a 45 A-side in the UK and USA (see 9 above)
The 12-page inlay has detailed and knowledgeable liner notes by SHELLEY NICOLE featuring interviews with band members. There are repros of American and UK 7” singles and promo shots of the band - but the best news is a new and superlative remaster by WAYNE DICKSON. I’ve had some of the tracks on the "It's Your Thing" 3CD box set for years to have the music, but I’ve always found the early Legacy issues a little dead – like they’ve been compressed or had the life sucked out of them somehow. Here is not the case – there is air and a slight hiss around the gorgeous opener – the "Prelude" version of "Harvest For The World" – it sounds amazing. And then of course – the real deal – the title track. To this day it puts hairs up on my arms. What a song and what a message (lyrics above).
Other gems include the powerful Sly Stone funk of "People Of Today" where social words meet the dancefloor ("…frustration is all you feel…"). Side 1 ends with the 1st single off the album in the States – "Who Loves You Better" which has an almost identikit guitar sound to "That Lady" from 1973 – great stuff and a bit of a forgotten goody. Side 2 mellows it down with loverman smoochers like "(At Your Best) You Are Love" and "Let Me Down Easy" – seductive to the point where you might find you reaching for the switch that turns on your bedroom mirrorball. Then it's on to the Doobie Brothers acoustic blast of "So You Wanna Stay Down" – very, very good indeed. It ends on a funky-as-mouldy-parsnips hip-gyrator called "You Still Feel The Need" which heralds how the next few LPs were going to go – Part 1 and 2 workouts – similar to "Pride" from 1977’s "Go For Your Guns". The single sides are a very cool inclusion too especially the rarely heard melody lines added to the "Instrumental" of the title track - "Harvest For The World".
So there you have it - great album, superb new remaster, presented well like all these BBR reissues are - and at a zippy price too.
"…Gather every man…gather every woman…give thanks for your children…" - Ronald sings on that stunning title track (harvest for yourself never mind the world).
Like the Average White Band or even Hall & Oates – The Isley Brothers always seem to me to be on the verge of rediscovery by legions of Soul and Funk fans who have forgotten how good they 'all' were. Well this brill BBR CD reissue is a really great place to start reminding yourself…
on 30 November 2011
Suffice it to say that if you appreciate The Isley Brothers, you will have - no doubt - heard this album in one form or another since its original release in 1976.
If, however, you are unfamiliar with their unique sound, then this set is as good a place to begin as any. Big Break Records' re-master of the original album is well presented, with a cute booklet (including a gorgeous centrefold!) enclosed with the CD.
But on to the music...
`Harvest For the World' is easily the best-known song here and rightfully deserves such attention; but there are several other soul/funk numbers included that lift this album to `must-have' status for the music connoisseur. `People Of Today' and `Who Loves You Better' sound very much of their time, but are definitely worth the listening nonetheless.
`(At Your Best) You Are Love' and `Let Me Down Easy' have both achieved cult status as soul classics and have been covered extensively by other artists. These songs - formed with exquisite lyrics, added to Chris Jasper's hidden genius on keyboards, then finally set off with emotionally-charged background vocals - mark a high point for The Isley Brothers as a creative force in mid-70s popular music.
The re-master also reveals O'Kelly Isley's breathing as he sings in `Let Me Down Easy' for example, and the sound-scape is enlarged to the size of a barn.
`So You Wanna Stay Down' has Ron Isley urging the listener (or perhaps his beloved) to `get up off their knees' for some reason - its fast pace isn't quite to my taste, but it balances the set nicely. `You Still Feel The Need' has an insistent guitar that won't let you go - a great piece of energetic, steely funk steered by the freneticism of Marvin and Ernie Isley.
The bonus tracks - instrumental and single versions of `Harvest For The World' and `Who Loves You Better (Part 1)' round off an extremely pleasant experience.
The re-mastering of this album is its first in 35 years. Buy it!