*For the past seven decades, the legendary and iconic “Isley Brothers”…have recorded a plethora of R&B/rock/pop/funk songs and music that have reverberated through the recorded music industry like no other musical entity, in any genre, at any point in the 120-plus-year history of recorded music.
Last month, on Friday, August, 21, 2015, a significant portion of the group’s discography came to life again, when Legacy Recordings (Sony/BMG) released, “The Isley Brothers: The RCA Victor and T-Neck Album Masters (1959 -1983) 23-CD Box Set.” Oh yeah, be prepared to shell out anywhere from $99.62 to $127.69 to buy it new at Amazon.
“Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley and I started playing with the group in the late ‘60s,” said Chris Jasper, who along with Ernie and Marvin (Isley Jasper Isley) would later record three albums together, including “Caravan of Love.” “We started out as ‘The Jazzmen Trio.’ Ernie was on drums, Marvin was on bass, and I played keyboards. Ronald, O’Kelly, and Rudolph saw that we were progressing and wanted us to join them.”
Jasper, who wrote and sang lead on Isley Jasper Isley’s mega hit single, “Caravan of Love” continued.
“I studied classical piano at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and brought harmony, cord structure, keyboard voicing, synthesizer work, and string arrangements to ‘The Isley Brothers,’ Jasper said. “All that I learned from classical music, I was able to incorporate into my work on keyboards, songwriting and arranging, which gave “The Isley Brothers” a much different sound than other groups.”
With the young blood of Ernie, Chris and Marvin, matching the veteran status of the three older Isley brothers, the group of six removed barriers. Make that,” knocked down barriers” and pushed the envelope of where laid-back quiet storm songs, met funk, rock, pop and R&B at the top of the charts. With “3+3,” “The Isley Brothers” earned three gold and seven platinum albums, including No. 1 charted songs, “The Heat is On” and “Between the Sheets.”
Over the long career of “The Isley Brothers,” they have enjoyed 19 top singles, seven of which reached No. 1 on Billboard charts. Sixteen of the group’s albums registered in the Top 40. Thirteen albums have achieved RIAA gold, platinum or multi-platinum statuses. In 1992, ‘The Isley Brothers’ were welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Several years later, they received a star on the Hollywood Rock Walk. In 2014, the group was inducted into the Apollo Theater’s Walk of Fame.
Today, Ronald and Ernie continue to record and perform nationally and internationally as “The Isley Brothers.” Rudolph left the group in the late 1980s for the ministry and to record gospel music. O’Kelly died in 1986. Marvin passed in 2010. Jasper continues to write, record, produce, and perform under the banner of his own record company, Gold City Music.
Ronald, now 74, released a solo album in 2014, entitled “This Song is for you,” featuring KEM. The song, “My Favorite Things” reached No. 5 on the Adult Contemporary Chart. Since the 1990s, the hip hop world has paid close attention to the songs and music of “The Isley Brothers.” Rapper Ice Cube’s “It was a Good Day” was sampled from “The Isley Brothers’ ” “Footsteps in the Dark.” Biggie Smalls’ (The Notorious B.I.G.) “Big Poppa” was sampled from the group’s “Between the Sheets.”
R&B singer, R. Kelly, gave a super unique persona to Ronald Isley as Mr. Biggs, while scoring the top hit, “Down Low (Nobody has to Know)” in 1995, featuring “The Isley Brothers.” Kelly also penned the 2003 chart-topping “Body Kiss” album, featuring Ronald Isley as Mr. Biggs for ‘The Isley Brothers.” Additionally, Kelly wrote the hit single, “Contagious,” featuring Ronald Isley as Mr. Biggs for “The Isley Brothers’ ” 2001 “Eternal” album.
Ernie Isley discussed the group’s longevity of seven decades. “First and foremost, divine grace and a lot of prayers have been answered,” Ernie said. “We really go after the music. We are not locked into any musical category or style. We’ve enjoyed a musical embrace across many generations and it’s divine grace and love for the music to make that possible.”
Jasper, who occasionally performs with the group added.
“There’s a lot of great groups out there. We just wanted to make a major statement about who and what we were,” said Jasper, who holds a juris doctorate of law degree from Concord University School of Law. “We wanted to say something important through lyrics and music that would live forever. Our approach to the songs and music was very serious and focused. Today, for many, many groups, I think there’s a lot of focus on just image.”
Ernie Isley on the just released “The Isley Brothers: The RCA Victor and T-Neck Album Masters (1959 – 1983) 23-CD Box Set.”
“For anyone who wants to discover or know more about the roots and history and music and evolution of ‘The Isley Brothers,’ this compilation is essential,” said Isley. “The 84 rare and some unreleased bonus tracks will connect the dots as to who ‘The Isley Brothers were, and still are.”
“The 23-CD Box is incredible,” Jasper added. “There’s something special for everyone who loves ‘The Isley Brothers.’ There’s recordings that’s never been heard before, or have not been heard for a long time. I’m proud to have been a part of ‘The Isley Brothers’ and very proud to have made valuable contributions that helped create our incredible and ongoing legacy.”