The Isley Brothers naming a record Baby Makin’ Music is akin to the Rolling Stones putting out an album called Upbeat R&B-Influenced Rock Tunes or Kraftwerk releasing a disc called Clinical Electronic Krautrock. That is to say, Baby Makin’ Music is a stunningly obvious title, but one that serves as an accurate summation of the group’s fifty (!) years on the pop-music scene. This is what the Isley Brothers do — they make music for you to make babies to. They don’t just sing about sex, they are sex. In lieu of instituting a nation-wide sex-ed curriculum, today’s youth should just be given an Isley Brothers greatest hits CD and then told to “figure it out.”
I hate to interject myself into the review at this point, but an embarrassing fact needs to be brought to light. I asked to review Baby Makin’ Music because I thought all of its songs were written by R. Kelly. Still high off of the jaw-dropping head-trip that was the Trapped in the Closet DVD, the thought of sixty-something men performing batshit-insane R. Kelly compositions seemed too good for me to pass up.
I’m a fucking moron. It was 2003’s Bodykiss that was written by R. Kelly. He is only involved in one song on Baby Makin’ Music (“Blast Off”) — and even if he had written this record, so what? My single-minded quest for music that doubles as unintentional comedy blinded me to the fact that the Isley Brothers are absolute legends, figureheads of modern R&B who put their distinctive stamp on everything they do. I don’t know why I hadn’t realized this before. From 1959’s “Shout” through their psychedelic soul classics of the ’70s all the way into their still-going-strong 21st-century output, the Isley Brothers are undisputed masters of the genre.
The group is effectively a two-piece at this point. Ron “Mr. Biggs” Isley handles the vocals while younger brother Ernest plays guitar. In addition to the inimitable R. Kelly, the brothers get song-writing and production assists from an array of contemporary R&B scenesters, including Jermaine Dupri (who in fifteen years has gone from working with one of pop’s youngest groups — Kriss Kross — to one of its oldest). I wish I could expertly analyze Baby Makin’ Music on a track-by-track basis, using terms like “silky tenor,” “arpeggiated chords,” and “boudoir faire.“ I can’t. I am simply not qualified to do so, and I’m sorry for that.
Perhaps what I can do is point out that Baby Makin’ Music does indeed contain some unintentionally funny moments. Nowhere is this more true than on the Dupri-penned “Give It To You,” which features this immortal chorus: “The last time I was with you/ I didn’t get a chance to give it to you/ I really want to give it to you/ So here we are, I’m inside of you/ Making up for the time I didn’t give it to you/ Yeah, I’m giving it to you. That’s pretty awesome.”
All I can really say is this: If, like me, you’re a sardonic, insincere white prick with no game whatsoever, there’s still a good chance that you’ll genuinely like the Isley Brothers. They’re that good, and they’re always going to have the last laugh.
Label: http://www6.defjam.com/Audio: http://www.myspace.com/theisleybrothers199