By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
When Mr. Biggs, the cartoonish alter ego of Ronald Isley, elder Motown superstar for nearly half a century, busts out the same lovemaking preparation kit album after endless album, it's easy to go along for the ride -- no matter how corny-sounding his playa shtick may sound coming from a senior citizen. But what the heck. This is Ronald "Fight the Power" Isley, after all, the man whose elegant and silky tenor has melted muumuus from Cincinnati to Compton since 1954, y'all. Ronald Isley, the lead vocalist on immortal classics such as "Shout!" and, moreover, "Twist and Shout" (an enormous cover hit for some little white band from Liverpool, England, by the way). Yep, that Ronald Isley, who, along with brothers Ernie, Marvin and Rudolph (who all outlived the late Vernon and O'Kelly), should feel mighty proud of a long, influential and diverse career; together they mastered every musical style from gospel and R&B to Motown soul and funk-rock fusion -- and all before disco even reared its ugly, feathered head. The Isleys can also be thanked for recruiting an unknown backup guitarist named Jimi Hendrix in 1963. So props to the stylish, well-dressed legends.
But, c'mon, Mr. Biggs! Why even bother calling this latest batch of tired retreads an Isley Brothers album at all? Not only has the family been whittled down to a scarce duo, but alleged kiddy-porn connoisseur R. Kelly (reinventing himself as the Pied Piper -- yikes!) actually wrote, arranged and produced eleven of the twelve songs here. And his lyrics are goddamned ridiculous! Guitarist Ernie plays on one measly track ("Take a Ride"), whereas the rest of these trite, urban-based story songs pit the cuckolded Biggs in a mock opera against the likes of da Piper ("What Would You Do?"), Li'l Kim ("Body Kiss") and nasty-ass Snoop Dogg ("I Like"). Snoop even manages to rhyme "Do it, do it" with "a tall glass of pimp fluid" -- shizzow!
On Body Kiss, rather than exhibiting the work of truly gifted individuals, the remaining Isleys -- who are frustratingly adept at altering their sound to fit any conceivable market -- have wasted their talent singing B-movie, bling-bling ballads. Even worse, they do it at the expense of their tried and true, kid-tested, baby-making-approved brand name. But who knows? Maybe "Lucky Charm" can score Mr. Biggs a cereal endorsement with its laughable line "Girl, you're magically delicious."
It's always been more about green clovers than pink hearts, anyway.