Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Funk From The Isley Empire

The Isley Brothers - Black Berries (Pt. 1)

The Isley Brothers had been recording for a good twelve years for a myriad of labels (most notably for RCA, Atlantic, Wand and Tamla) by the time they blew the charts wide open with "It's Your Thing" in 1969 on their own T-Neck label. For the next two decades, the Isleys would reign as a royal family in the R&B world, serving up hit after hit with their mix of hard-hitting funk, bedroom soul and inspired covers of various pop songs. Ronald and Ernie Isley are still doing their thing in the 21st century, proving that the versatility of the Isley brand is one that cannot be underestimated.

The 1969 two-part funker "Black Berries" (named "The Blacker The Berrie" on their The Brothers Isley LP) was the third T-Neck single by the group, and it clearly was cut in the wake of the prior two singles, "It's Your Thing" and "I Turned You On." Although "Black Berries" would end up further down the Billboard charts than those other two records, it's a great tune. While the groove slips and slides along, Ron provides monologues and blues lyrics which bridge a rambling "reminisce" about the brothers hunting for wild berries as children to a thinly-disguised appreciation of darker-skinned black women with its "the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice" refrain. This is clearly one of those funky throwaways that people like the Isleys and James Brown did so effortlessly in those days, and it's good for a "get down" on this busy Wednesday.

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