The Isley Brothers. The Heat Is On, Teaneck PZ33536
In The Heat Is On, the Brothers Isley sustain the same hybrid r&b-soul-rock momentum shown in their prior release, Live It Up, and before that, 3+3. In Heat side one is raw and fleshy. The cut getting most of the air time is the caustic "Fight the Power" an irreverent blast at the "powers that be." One may find him or herself at odds with the Isleys" political assessment, e.g., "there's a lot of bullshit going down." But those to the right of Attila the Hun may be seduced by the tune's streetwise candor, somewhat akin to Stevie Wonder's gruff "Livin' for the City."
Side two is moody. more thoughtful perhaps a bit too dreary given the driving pace to which the listener has now become accustomed. Recommended is "Sensuality." It is well named. Here, lead singer Ronald Isley is stage center - and loving it. He pours on that vocal melancholy that has come to be uniquely associated with the Isleys.
The evolution of the Isleys has been somewhat of a curiosity. After scoring with "This Old Heart of Mine" former boss Motown sort of' shelved them. "This Old Heart of Mine" gradually sank to the bottom of the stack of the old 45s and graced out-of-date juke boxes assuring the Isleys a kind of deadwood immortality. So Motown, in an apparent streamlining measure sold the Isleys to their present label. (This, it may be recalled, is the same unerring business instinct that let Gladys Knight, the Spinners and the Four Tops get away and laugh on the way to the bank.)
Expanding the core of the group, the Isleys have tapped a nerve. They have deservedly reached a lofty plateau. Musically, their nucleus is unquestionably that of r&b. with extensive rock and blues trappings. The music resists classification. The album is good. Play and enjoy.