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3 + 3
The Isley Brothers

T-Neck KZ 32453
Released: August 1973
Chart Peak: #8
Weeks Charted: 37
Certified Gold: 11/9/73

Ron IsleyOne of the longest-running acts in soul business, the Isley Brothers are also one of the most underestimated. Maybe it's because, while they've always had a fine touch with hard, tight dance numbers and sweet, churning ballads, they've never quite struck the spark of brilliance that would elevate the group from an afterthought to a contender in the Big Group sweepstakes. But the Isleys plus three -- two more brothers, on guitar and bass, and pianist Chris Jasper -- sound better than ever. The material doesn't represent much of a departure: They continue to rework and, in most cases, revitalize rock material ("Listen to the Music," "Summer Breeze," even "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight") and their own songs follow a simple but effective trademark structure little changed since "It's Your Thing." Yet the sound, especially in the extended version (5:35) of "That Lady," is sharper, richer and more invigorating than before. However, the excitement of "That Lady" isn't quite matched by the rest of the album. A breakthrough for the Isleys, but still no flashes that make them anything but a great B group.

- Vince Aletti, Rolling Stone, 12/20/73.

Bonus Reviews!

I know the singing siblings have soft tastes in "rock," but where this side of a Warners promo could you expect to find "Summer Breeze," "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," and "Listen to the Music" on the same album? Still, with "That Lady" their most original original in years, Ernie soaring around thrillingly on his magic guitar, and the others popping their various things in ever more winning combinations, this is their sexiest music in years. Just because they manhandled "Fire and Rain" doesn't mean they can't improve on James's schlock. In fact, between their sense of rhythm and their knee-jerk sincerity they make all three covers work -- except for the mental jasmine part, of course. B+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

A masterpiece, one of the defining albums for '70s black music. The original Isley frontline of Ronald, Rudolph, and O'Kelly merged with the next generation featuring younger brothers Marvin and Ernie, plus cousin Chris Jasper. The lead single "That Lady" established their new sound and identity on Epic, and was just one of four monster songs that came from the album. * * * *

- Ron Wynn, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Black rock music took a step forward with 3 + 3, which featured Ernie Isley's screaming electric guitar on "That Lady" and acoustic, soulful treatments of folk-rock tunes such as "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" and "Summer Breeze." * * * * 1/2

- Lawrence Gabriel, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

The Isley Brothers' vocalists had been making hits since the end of the 50s and numbers like "Twist And Shout." "This Old Heart of Mine" and "Shout" were already part of the planet's crossover culture. They'd had Jimi Hendrix in their backing band in the mid-60s and the addition of the younger Isleys -- Ernie, Marvin and their brother-in-law Chris Jasper -- in the late 60s helped the brothers keep in touch with the musical appetites of the younger generation. Although Sly Stone and James Brown had taken funk into the living rooms of rock fans, it wasn't until the Isleys made it onto mainstream radio that soul was made as welcome in such strange surrounds. The move paid off musically (although, judging by the album's sleeve, not sartorially) when "That Lady" leapt into the singles charts in the late summer of 1973. The mighty opener on 3 + 3, "That Lady" bore some wonderfully free singing -- complete with yelps and trills -- on a tide of tight beats and spiralling, see-sawing synthesizer sounds (the latter played with dare-devil skill by Jasper Isley). The easygoing "Listen To The Music" (a hit for the Doobie Brothers in 1974), the shimmeringly romantic "If You Were There," the tender "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," the joyous, life-affirming "Summer Breeze" and the reflective, melancholic "Highways Of My Life" were other jewels in this, the Isley Brothers' hugely influential high point.

- Collins Gem Classic Albums, 1999.

Until the album 3 + 3 came out in 1973, people knew The Isley Brothers as a group like The Drifters or The Moonglows: smiling black guys in cool mohair suits. Listeners loved the Isleys' hits -- The Beatles covered their "Twist And Shout," and the group had a hit with the gospel-inspired R&B stomper "Shout" -- but their work for Motown proved frustratingly inconsistent.

3 + 3 announced their dramatic rebirth, starting with the cover, which showed photos by Don Hunstein of the five brothers, Ronald, O'Kelly, Rudolph, Ernie, and Marvin Isley, plus buddy Chris Jasper, self-confident and decked out in eye-popping threads. (The Isleys originally performed as a trio -- the album's title is a reference to the introduction of a younger generation.)

The album proved that the brothers from Teaneck, New Jersey, could play and sing with as much passion and pop appeal as any Seventies act from David Bowie to Al Green. Seventeen-year-old Ernie's long, legato lines on fuzztone Stratocaster (Hendrix was a direct influence -- he had played in the Isleys' backing band in the Sixties) fueled the brothers' move into rock-friendly territory. "That Lady," the opening track, became the big single, but "What It Comes Down To" and the epic "Summer Breeze" linger fondly in the memory. The vocals are light, melodious, and soulful -- and, on "Summer Breeze," Ronald's tenor is deliriously ecstatic.

A warm, romantic album, 3 + 3 is filled with danceable grooves (Marvin ranks with the best of funk's bassists), and the overall sound has a light, almost acoustic R&B-folk-rock feel that makes one years for the innocent days before disco.

- Michael Lydon, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

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