Friday, 1 March 2019

The Isley Brothers - This Old Heart Of Mine (1966)


  

Released in 1966

This is, in my opinion, the first really good Isley Brothers' album for Motown. They had, of course, been knocking around for many years before this. Three albums had come out before this, dating back to 1959. Motown albums were strange beasts in the mid-sixties, let's be honest, often being a vehicle for hits, or including one side of great songs and one of "supper club" standards to rein in the "adult" audience. This one is not quite either of those, but, alongside the massive hits it does include several of the Isleys' takes on Motown songs made famous be other Motown acts. They do them all superbly, however, matching or even outdoing the originals.

Unlike albums from The Four Tops, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas and even sometimes The Temptations from the same period, there are no cheesy "fillers" on this album i.e. songs from popular stage musicals of Beatles covers. It is "proper" Motown all the way. For that reason, this album can be considered quite a credible one. The sound on the latest release is in stereo and is pretty good overall.

There has been considerable fuss made about the fact that the album's cover featured a completely incongruous picture of a blonde white couple on a beach, something you didn't even get on a Beach Boys album. I'm so not sure it was the awful racial slur it has been made out to be, it is simply an utterly ludicrous, irrelevant cover. Of course, a picture of The Isley Brothers would have been eminently preferable, but if it had been a similar drawn effort to those which appeared on three Four Tops albums, maybe not. Check them out - they're dreadful! (The offenders are "Four Tops Second Album", "Reach Out" and "Yesterday's Dreams").

TRACK LISTING

1. Nowhere To Run
2. Stop! In The Name Of Love
3. This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)
4. Take Some Time Out For Love
5. I Guess I'll Always Love You
6. Baby Don't You Do It
7. Who Could Ever Doubt My Love
8. Put Yourself In My Place
9. I Hear A Symphony
10. Just Ain't Enough Love
11. There's No Love Left
12. Seek And You Shall Find

The Isleys' cover of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas' iconic "Nowhere To Run" seems to use the same Funk Brother's basic rhythm track, although some bits are different - some jangly, Eastern-sounding guitar bits for starters. Martha's cut was just so good, however, that although this one is perfectly acceptable, you can't help but compare it. The same sort of applies to Diana Ross & The Supremes' "Stop! In The Name Of Love" but the Isleys' version is a bit more punchy, vocally. Maybe it was not the best idea, though, to begin the album with two cover versions of songs everyone already knew from other artists. It didn't do much for creating an identity for the Isleys. The next track did the exact opposite, however. It was the peerless, irresistibly catchy, timeless "This Old Heart Of Mine".

"Take Some Time Out For Love" is an upbeat stomper, with some serious falsetto vocals. The album's other big hit was the typically mid-sixties Motown sound of "I Guess I'll Always Love You". It is full of great vocals and that trademark beat. Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't Do It" is covered superbly, with a groovy drum break. "Who Could Ever Doubt My Love" is a regular Motown track from the period. The production on this one is a bit grainy.

"Put Yourself In My Place" was also done by Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Elgins and Chris Clark. The Isleys' version is possibly the best. "I Hear A Symphony" was, of course, a huge hit for Diana Ross & The Supremes. This is also an excellent version, with an impressive, soulful vocal. "Just Ain't Enough Love" is an infectious Isleys original. "There's No Love Left" is a wonderful slice of Motown magic. A true underrated gem. "Seek And You Shall Find" has a gloriously deep, rumbling bass rhythm. Like its predecessor, it is (comparatively) undiscovered gold.

B-

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