You can track the evolution of R&B music over a four-decade span just by listening to the Isley Brothers. The group had doo-wop and soul hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s. By the mid 1960s, the trio scored a major hit with Motown, but by the end of the decade the Isleys had left Motown and expanded their lineup and sound. The group added younger brothers Marvin and Ernie Isley along with their brother-in-law, keyboardist and songwriter Chris Jasper. The younger Isleys and Jasper worked as sidemen when the Isley Brothers recorded "It's Your Thing," their first hit as a funk band. However, the influence that Jasper, Marvin and Ernie Isley had on the group was clear.
Gone were the smooth, three part harmonies the Isleys employed on the soul and doo-wop numbers like "Twist and Shout," "Shout" and "This Old Heart of Mine." In it's place was a funkier, grittier, more aggressive sound that could be heard on songs like "It's Your Thing" that fit in nicely with what acts such as James Brown, Sly & the Family Stone, Funkadelic and other funk bands were starting in the late 1960s.
By the mid 1970s, the Marvin, Ernie and Chris officially became members of the Isley Brothers. The group's sound continued to evolve, adding jam band rock/jazz component throughout the 1970s. In the 1980s, the band gravitated toward a 1980s synthesized funk sound that can be heard on 1983s "Between the Sheets."
All of these cross currents can be heard on Everything I Do, the interesting new compilation by Chris Jasper. Everything I Do features the mid tempo love songs and fast paced dance tunes that have long been Isley Brothers staples. However, Everything I Do is at his best when the music reflects Jasper's embrace of Christianity. Many secular artists try to incorporate gospel music into their sound, but the effort is not always successful. The 1970s bass and keyboard sound works well on gospel tracks such as "He's the Judge" and "Earthquake." In fact, "Earthquake" might remind some hard core Isley fans of "Livin' In the Live."
I like the gospel tracks better than the secular tunes. However, there several solid love songs on Everything I Do, most "Nobody But My Baby" and "One Time Love." Both capture the sound of 1980s dance music at its best. Gospel fans may find it hard to accept mix of secular and sacred on Everything I Do, but the funk influenced gospel tracks work really well. Jasper certainly comes off as a true believer rather than a guy hoping to stay in the game by making some gospel music. Besides, hearing Jasper's 1988 hit "Superbad," the last song on the album, makes it worth the passage. Recommended.
By Howard Dukes