The Isley Brothers – 1969 – It’s Our Thing & The Brothers: Isley
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The Brothers put their newfound autonomy to hard socking, gospelfide, funk-filled use on their first T-Neck album ‘It’s Our Thing’. Built around the riveting, peerless “It’s Your Thing”, this LP consists of more super sweaty funk workouts, some downhome soul wailing and a few achingly beautiful slow ditties.
A powerful, rough, funky album that spells out Soul.
A1 It’s Our Thing 2:47
A2 I Know Who You Been Socking It To 2:42
A3 Save Me 3:30
A4 I Turned You On 2:34
A5 I Got To Get Myself Together 3:31
A6 Holding On 2:32
B1 Girls Will Be Girls, Boys Will Be Boys 2:38
B2 Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out 2:55
B3 Black Berries 5:47
B4 Was It Good To You 2:40
B5 Bless Your Heart 2:52
B6 If He Can, You Can 3:08
Highlights From “It’s Your Thing” Box Set
The group’s signature hit “It’s Your Thing” has remained popular for over forty years. What has been largely forgotten are the other worthwhile tunes that make the entire album worth hearing. The album’s title carries a touch of irony, as “their thing” was clearly an amalgam of the styles of other pioneering artists of the day. But that doesn’t make the music any less enjoyable.
The ten tracks were all original collaborations by Ronald, Rudolph, and O’Kelly Isley. Following several years as part of the Motown machine, the Isleys had emerged with a new sound. Their approach was heavily influenced by the funk of James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone. With the exception of a few ballads, the music on It’s Our Thing is all about thick grooves with elastic bass lines and percussive horn accents. Ronald Isley’s voice is perhaps the most underrated of his generation, and he’s in fine form throughout.
The Godfather of Soul himself was listening closely. After “It’s Your Thing” became a massive hit, James Brown fired back with “It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who To Sock It To),” which he wrote and produced for Marva Whitney. The similarities were strong enough that Brown was forced to share writing credits for “It’s My Thing” with the Isleys. The James Brown influence was strong throughout, with “Give the Women What They Want” coming off like a cross between “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “Cold Sweat.” But the playing and singing are strong enough to allow the music to stands on its own.
The album’s lead-off track, “I Know Who You Been Socking It To” is another highlight, a boisterous jam that rivals the better known “It’s Your Thing.” Of the ballads, “Feel Like the World” burns brightest, with searing lead vocal. The other ballads are a bit generic, typical for the genre at that time.
A stone cold funk album that forever changed the face of soul music – a bold shift in styles by the Isley Brothers at the end of the 60s, really setting the scene for their megafame of the next decade! The album’s a follow up to the landmark It’s Your Thing set – and it starts in the same space as that one, but goes arguably even deeper and harder in its groove – hitting a raw, sharp-edged approach to funk that’s totally sinister – easily as great as anything coming out of the funky 45 underground, and a really strong message to the mainstream that these older hitmakers were ripe and ready for a deeper funk mode. The record doesn’t have any of the hits of its predecessor – making it an even bigger treasure trove of under-discovered gems – great little tunes that are heavy on the drums, filled with rumbling bass, and cut with plenty of sharp-edged guitar.
A1 I Turned You On 2:34
A2 Vacuum Cleaner 2:50
A3 I Got To Get Myself Together 3:31
A4 Was It Good To You? 2:40
A5 The Blacker The Berrie 5:50
B1 My Little Girl 3:38
B2 Get Down Off Of The Train 3:11
B3 Holding On 2:32
B4 Feels Like The World 3:21
The Isleys Live 1973, one of the finest funk/soul live albums ever recorded.
Review by Andre S. Grindle
Don’t kid yourself.Your just not going to be able to listen to this album in any setting and not feel joy.It’s obvious the Isley’s are in a positive state of mind at this point.There smash hit intro into the wonderful world of funk It’s Your Thing. On this their second album in that style,from later the same year really gets you to understand how,while it’s clear the Isley’s influenced Jimi Hendrix while he backed them up earlier that considering his newfound stardom that it worked both was. 1969 represented year one of the psychedelic soul movement and along with the Temps,The Chambers Brothers,Isaac Hayes,Santana and yes Hendrix it was clear the Isley’s were heeding the call.And the best part is they were INNOVATIVE too. The slower,more rhythm directed funk styles of James Brown were also heavy in the mix along with the rock and Stax influence.From the deep,punchy sweat of “I Turned You On“,”Vacuum Cleaner” and “Was It Good To You” it was clear the Isley’s were part of a movement laying the ground work for the “united funk” explosion several years later.Another important factor for that is a sense of positivity that comes from achievment and drive rather than want and need.You can do no better at that sort of thing than “Black Berries” where Ron narrates a metaphoric tale about his brothers berry picking preferences.It really brings to mind the age old blues and R&B tradition of story telling and fables within the black community that spoke directly of experiences within the culture.And from which there was an implicit lesson to be learned. In this case,it happens to be about breaking into music.On “I Got To Get Myself Together” and “Feels Like The World” you have the two slower cuts on the album.Both have a place in the 60’s soul style but that pychedelic element in both of them almost creates a futurist kind of mentality. Sure it’s very much a 60’s type of attitude but with these brothers you know it’s always honest and from a very learned possition. “My Little Girl“,”Get Down Off The Train” and “Holding On” are the more poppy numbers,in the context that they have those strong melodic pop hooks. Still there’s not point in spoiling this album for new listeners too much-probably already have here. This is very musically and personally meaningful and is almost so funky you can barely take it!So it’s more than worth going on this trip with The Brothers:Isley.