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Ronald Isley’s new album shows ‘where music is supposed to be’

By Kevin C. Johnson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS Ronald Isley of the Isley Brothers knows his last album, 2010’s “Mr. I,” wasn’t Ronald Isley at his best, unlike his new project, “This Song is For You.”

“Mr. I” was a respectable enough project, but proved dismissible.

It was Isley’s first project after he was released from prison in 2010 for a tax evasion conviction in 2006, and he admits he recorded it under pressure.

Isley, 72, is more than making up for “Mr. I” with his new album, “This Song Is For You,” released by eOne Music / Notifi Records.

Notifi Records head Ira DeWitt, executive-produced the project. Isley co-owns the studio with DeWitt.

Isley says his wants to educate younger audiences with “This Song Is For You.”

“I’m trying to show the young people where music is supposed to be, and at the same time show them what I know,” he says.

He also wants listeners to know an album can be listened to from beginning to end; it does not just have to be a collection of a couple of singles.

What’s remarkable about “This Song Is For You” is it feels fresh and modern and could have been released by an artist half his age.

L. Michael Gipson, music editor of SoulTracks.com, says “Ron has long managed the art of reinvention. The Isley Brothers alone went through three different iterations: the doo wop act in the ’60s, the soul rockers in the ’70s, and the veteran smooth soul crooners in the ’80s.”

DeWitt says Isley drew younger singers Trey Songz and Kem to record on his album because “a lot of artists new and old are inspired by Isley. They’re inspired by that classic Isleys sound and what he contributed.”

The lead single from the new album is the silky “Dinner and a Movie,” a hit on urban adult contemporary radio charts.

The album also includes “Lay You Down” featuring Songz and “My Favorite Thing” featuring Kem.

“This Song Is For You” is the latest in a career that spans more than 50 years.

The group the Isley Brothers, which has included at different times brothers Ronald Isley, Ernie, O’Kelly, Rudolph, Vernon and Marvin, and cousin Chris Jasper, had its first big hit with the enduring “Shout” in 1959.

Other classics followed, including “Twist & Shout,” “It’s Your Thing,” “Fight the Power.”

A steamier era for the Isley Brothers yielded the 1983 album “Between the Sheets” with the title track and “Choosey Lover.”

In 1992, the Isley Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Isley is to tour this year with his brother Ernie Isley, Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly and Kem.

“In doing any record, it’s about how much fun it brings to you and the feeling you get while you are listening back to it. I listened to this album over and over again trying to find something wrong. But if I found anything wrong, it wouldn’t be there.”

Still, Isley says his new album can never compete with his past in one crucial way.

“I’m thinking about all the records we made back then. No record will bring back the feeling I had with all my brothers.”

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