Monday, 9 February 2009

The Isley Brothers - Winner Takes All - 1979 - Epic

This double album saw the Isley Brothers see out the 1970s on very fine form, perhaps less raucous that they had been, and a lot more soulful and thanks to a certain mega-talent called Chris Jasper. This album gave them a smash hit in the form of "It's A Disco Night (Rock Don't Stop)", and I have to say that back in the 80s when played alongside the dance cuts of the day tracks such as this sounded horrendously dated. Odd, is it not, with the passage of time that today in 2009 this track sounds as fresh as a daisy! I suppose the fact that most new stuff sounds old has something to do with it! Whatever the case, this track can get a new lease of life and the flares can be dusted down and allowed to flap again, unfettered, over the dancefloor! I always thought it unfair that The Isleys were always remembered for their uptempo cuts where I feel their real strengths were in the bedroom department. Don't get me wrong, I love their uptempo stompers, but their ballads are completely out of this world.

A set, primarily, of two halves, "Winner Takes All" scored highly on both levels. The title song, "It's A Disco Night" and "(Can't You See) What You Do To Me" are classic 70s Isley Brothers at their best, and still get the old blood pumping when the volume is pumped up. It's the ballads that grab my attention though...the dreamy and spaced out beats of "Let's Fall In Love" pair Ronald Isley's angelic voice with Marvin Isley's laid back guitar work and the result is that I sit back in the chair and simply melt. There is real tenderness here and in the right company could prove the right ingredient to get some real magic made. This is but one of many truly memorable ballads. Unlike my local bus service, you don't have to wait long for the next one to come along. Following this is a devastatingly simple yet deeply erotic ballad "How Lucky I Am (Parts 1 and 2)" with a rich, deep and horny bassline, distant and wistful electric guitar and Ronald doing what he does best. Simply magic. See? Who needs the ridiculous Mr. Biggs moniker when there is some real talent in the first place? The real show-stopper as far as I am concerned is the heartfelt and beautifully segued "You're The Key To My Heart" and "You're Beside Me". On both tunes the tempo is up a notch and the guitar is summery to the extreme. This is another song that makes me close my eyes involuntarily. Simply essential and as beautiful today as it ever was. The tempo ups again with two funkier tunes, "Let Me Live In Your Life (Parts 1 and 2)" and "Go For What You Know", both of which are spot on. This, too, is dirt-cheap on CD and on iTunes, so there's no excuse for harbouring dusty old vinyl that takes up space!

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe