Sixty-two-year-old Ronald Isley is nearing the end of an unexpectedly busy year: a handsome reissue of the Isley Brothers' 1973 LP 3+3; Body Kiss, a slyly persuasive new Isleys disc featuring Ronald and guitarist Ernie (and songwriting from R. Kelly); and a brand-new collaborative CD from Isley and composer/arranger/producer Burt Bacharach titled Here I Am. That last item's perhaps the most unexpected of all, since the gruffly, smooth-talking Isley is an unusual candidate for the hammy pop-standard trend that's been gaining steam all year (see recent efforts by Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello, even Cyndi Lauper) and of which Here I Am will certainly be marketed as a part; despite his silken, nearly Al Green-grade delivery, there's a tension to Isley's singing that rubs against the buttoned-down allure of something like "The Way You Look Tonight"--it's why the man had to invent his anti-heroic alter ego Mr. Biggs. Of course, that muted duplicity is perfect for singing music by Bacharach, whose canon is a practical songbook of lushly orchestrated hidden depths. On Here I Am, "A House Is Not a Home" is the big-ticket moment, Isley the veteran loverman milking it for all its multiple-divorcé regret, but a subtly swinging "The Look of Love" is the revelation: I've got my doubts that the owner of those talkative eyes is even aware of Mr. Biggs' feelings.
Recommended For You
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!