Saturday, 2 March 2019

The Isley Brothers - Live It Up (1974)


Released September 1974

Recorded in Los Angeles

This was a confident funky soul album from the re-invented Isleys. While the previous year's excellent "3 + 3" had seen an infectious, airy soul sound taking in rock guitar influences, this album was far more of a laid-back soul/funk album, with dance-ish funk rhythms dominating many of the tracks. For me, it is just a bit underwhelming after the glory of its predecessor. It is not a bad album in its own right, however, it just suffers a bit in comparison. Personally, I also find the production slightly muffled, nowhere near as clear as "3 + 3". Check out those costumes on the cover though - before Earth, Wind & Fire caught on, too.


1. Live It Up, Parts 1 & 2
2. Brown Eyed Girl
3. Need A Little Taste Of Love
4. Lover's Eye
5. Midnight Sky, Parts 1 & 2
6. Hello It's Me
7. Ain't I Been Good To You, Parts 1 & 2                

"Live It Up, Parts 1 & 2" is an extended dance/soul groove, slightly Parliament/Funkadelic-sounding, full of clavinet riffs and augmented by Ernie Isley's rock-influenced guitar, such as he used to great effect on 1973's "That Lady". The "Part 2" bit just extends the instrumental groove, as on all the "Part 2s". "Brown Eyed Girl" is not the Van Morrison song, but a smooth, Stevie Wonder-esque slow soul ballad. "Need A Little Taste Of Love" is a lively, upbeat funker, with a bit of that muffled sound I was talking about. It was very much in the vein of the sort of material The Jacksons would excel in a few years later. Ernie supplies some killer guitar on this one.

"Lover's Eye" brings the pace down with a smooth piano, organ and percussion slowie. It again has big hints of Stevie Wonder about it. "Midnight Sky, Parts 1 & 2" has a great funky punch to it, but it is once more blighted by a muddy sound. Sure, there is a pleasing bass thump to the funk, which I always welcome, but a bit more clarity to the buried in the mix percussion would suit my taste. Some classic rock guitar dominates "Part Two". Don't get me wrong, it is an excellent track, I would just like a little tweaking here and there.

"Hello It's Me", in comparison, has a beautiful, crystal clear quality to its sound. It is a lush, syrupy sweet soul slow number in the Lionel Richie mode (not just in its title). It provides a late-night, relaxing interlude to the strong funk rhythms of much of the rest of the album. They return with the muscular funk breaks of "Ain't I Been Good To You, Parts 1 & 2", in between soulful, melodic verses. "Part 2" slows the whole thing down to a laid-back vocal and organ vibe. The previously funky, thumping chorus is now a soulful, heart-rending slow vocal. Some excellent guitar soloing comes in too. The guitar/vocal interplay at the end is positively Led Zeppelin-esque.

This album led the way in soul/funk in 1974, it has to be said. Along with Barry White's work, the trend for extended grooves and funk workouts was being set here.


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