Music » CD Reviews

The Isley Brothers Featuring Ronald Isley a.k.a. Mr. Biggs

Eternal (DreamWorks)

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Five things you should know about the new Isley Brothers album, the Cincinnati group's first in five years:

1. Smooth crooner Ronald Isley wants to be known as Mr. Biggs these days.

2. Little brother Ernie Isley still wants to be Jimi Hendrix. Ernie, who joined the group at the end of the '60s, continues to be haunted by the ghost of the onetime Isley guitarist. Remember that incredible solo/tribute Ernie pulled off almost 30 years ago on "That Lady"? He's still at it, tossing off soaring and sometimes unnecessary instrumental riffs virtually unheard of in today's urban music.

3. Mr. Biggs still has enough pull to get some big R&B names to join him. Eternal boasts cameos from Jill Scott, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Raphael Saadiq, R. Kelly, and Angela Winbush (a.k.a. Mrs. Biggs, Ronald's wife). No one really interferes with the Isley sound, and only Kelly -- who produced, wrote, arranged, and performs on "Contagious" -- places his trademark bump 'n' grind atop the Isleys' more subtle variation.

4. The album is much too long. At 75 minutes, Eternal goes on for what seems like an eternity.

5. Ronald Isley can still sing the hell out of even the lamest songs. In the past, he's reworked "Hello It's Me," "Summer Breeze," and "Love the One You're With"; on Eternal, it's Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now." And as he did with the others, Isley bends the song into a sweetly seductive plea that surpasses the original. It's all in the voice, and he's still got it.

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