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Sloppy Kiss

 

The Isley Brothers featuring Ronald Isley aka Mr. Biggs: Body Kiss

Dreamworks, 2003

Rating: 2.4

 

 

Posted: May 29, 2003

By Kevin Forest Moreau

That this is not your father's Isley Brothers record is not news. As it creeps up on its 50th year in existence, the group has weathered more than its share of changes, and now consists solely of singer Ronald Isley and his guitar-playing younger brother Ernie (who had left the group for awhile before returning in the early '90s). But the Isley Brothers of Body Kiss are different in ways that go beyond personnel shifts.

Following in the footsteps of 2001's Eternal, which featured collaborations with Jill Scott, R. Kelly and Raphael Saadiq, Body Kiss further updates the band (or, perhaps more accurately, brand) as a modern-day R&B outfit. As such, it does the group responsible for indelible hits like "Shout!" and "It's Your Thing" an incalculable disservice: whereas the outfit was once a timeless institution, now it's strictly of its time. All but one of the disc's 12 songs are written and produced by R. Kelly, and even the one that isn't sports a glossy urban-radio sheen.

"Superstar," "Keep It Flowin'" and "Take a Ride" are all boilerplate ballads lacking in all but the most forgiving definition of soul, while the caught-you-cheating track "Busted" features some amusing interplay between Ronald and guest JS. Alas, it's not enough to make the song any more memorable than the second-hand sex tunes that surround it. Same goes for something called "Showdown Vol. 1," in which Ronald (excuse me, um, Mr. Biggs, and what the fuck is that all about?) seethes over a lover's indiscretion. (And why "Vol. 1?" Especially when "What Would You Do," a mildly clever tune, spawns an album-closing "Pt. 2?") Things actually pick up toward the end, with "I Want That" and the album's one true highlight, "I Like," a strutting semi-jam buried way down the track listing and featuring an engaging rap from Snoop Dogg. But it's a case of too little, too late.

Granted, the principals here -- that is, the ones sporting the surname "Isley" -- are still in fine form. Ronald still sings with the buttery croon of an angel. And Ernie turns in a tastefully fiery solo or two, although his influence is felt so sporadically, drowned out by factory-issue R&B twinkle, that you wonder why this isn't a Ronald Isley solo album. Body Kiss is a polished and listenable product, yes, but in the end, product is all it is. It's a fairly generic slice of booty-call soundtrack music that just happens to bear the name -- most certainly not the stamp -- of one of the most revered funk and soul outfits in the history of popular music.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
 1.1-1.9: Pretty bad
 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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