Baby Makin' Music
is a natural title for a new album by The Isley Brothers
featuring Ron Isley
aka “Mr. Biggs.” For, in the annals of contemporary music, few groups or artists can lay claim to creating as many slow jams and bedroom classics, classics that set the perfect right mood for romance leading to seduction, seduction leading to passion and, yes, in more than one instance, passion as a prelude to a rise in the birth rate! “Yes, we’ve been making baby-makin’ music for quite a while,” Ron grins with confidence, aware that his smooth-yet-soulful vocal style has brought pleasure to millions of music lovers for five decades now.
The Isleys’ catalog, filled with funky grooves like “It’s Your Thing,” “Fight The Power” and “Take Me To The Next Phase” is also rich with eternal love songs like “In Between The Sheets,” “For The Love Of You,” “Summer Breeze,” “Smooth Sailin’ Tonight,” “Voyage To Atlantis” and in more recent times, “Floatin’ On Your Love,” the 2001 pop/R&B smash “Contagious.” And for good measure, there’s Ron’s now-firmly established musical character “Mr. Biggs” offering “Down Low (Nobody Has To Know),” the 1996 hit collaboration with R. Kelly
, showing another side of love, the lyrical subject matter for more than a few Isley standards…
Now comes Baby Makin' Music
, the team’s first CD for Def Soul, following in the tradition of great Isley Brothers’ records, filled with new love odes, hit cuts and future classics. From the album’s first single, the inviting, instantly memorable “Just Came Here To Chill” - a tune Ron says “sounds like vintage Isley Brothers” - written and produced by Troy Taylor (known for his work with Mary J. Blige
, Whitney Houston
and Yolanda Adams
among others) and Gordon Chambers (Grammy-award winning writer for Anita Baker
and producer for Aretha Franklin
and others) to the insistent “Blast Off,” a new duet between “Mr. Biggs” and R. Kelly, completed just weeks before the album’s release, Baby Makin' Music
continues the Isleys’ legacy without missing a beat.
The first Isleys Brothers’ album since 2003’s gold Body Kiss set and Ron’s own 2003 solo album, Isley Meets Bacharach (a critically-acclaimed masterful collaboration with the legendary producer, songwriter, arranger and conductor), Baby Makin' Music
begins the group’s incredible sixth decade in the music industry. “It’s our sound with an updated twist, “ Ron comments. “We’re always looking at new ways of interpreting love songs. On this album, I was introduced to some producers and writers who wrote material especially for me. I’d never worked with (producer) Jermaine Dupri before and I was anxious to do that. He did three songs: the first one he played me I liked right away and that was “Gotta Be With You” which tells the story of a guy who’s been in the game for a while. Then he also did “Beautiful” and “Forever Mackin,’” which is perfect for “Mr. Biggs”!” The ‘tough’ image associated with ‘Biggs,’ Ron’s musical alter-ego is “just a part of me,” he smiles. “I got the name from the younger artists telling me, ‘hey, you’re the man!’ It’s not so much that I’m playing a gangster…more a musical ‘godfather’!”
Producers Tim & Bob (masterminds behind R&B sensation Bobby Valentino
) wrote and produced the infectious “You’re My Star” which features a sample of “The Makings Of You,” the perennial 1974 recording by Gladys Knight & The Pips
penned by the late great Curtis Mayfield
as well as “Pretty Woman,” which features Ron’s wife Kandy on background vocals and brother Ernie adding his famed guitar licks to the track. Ernie can also be heard on “Heaven Hooked Us Up” (produced by Troy Taylor and “Zeke” Lewis) one of the standout ballads on Baby Makin' Music
, which Ron says is “dedicated to Kandy because she is like a true blessing in my life.” Ron explains that he’d worked with producer Taylor on a duet with Patti Labelle (“Gotta Go Solo”) a few years back: “When he heard about Kandy and I getting married, he wrote “Heaven Hooked Us Up” and then “You Help Me Write This Song,” which is like the follow-up to it. It reminds me of our wedding, that first dance with Kandy at the wedding… I like to tell her she made me give up being a playa!”
Rounding out Baby Makin' Music
are two special cuts from Manuel Seal, Jr., (co-producer of Mariah Carey
’s smash “We Belong Together” and Usher
’s smash hit, “My Boo” with Alicia Keys
): the slow-buidling “Show Me” is “real baby-makin’ music!” Ron grins, “tasteful but explicit!” In the same vein, as its’ title implies, “Give It To You” gets straight to the point: “I’d say it’s a 2006 version of “Between The Sheets,” a song about a guy who didn’t get the chance to make love with his woman the last time they were together,” Ron adds. “When they do, well, you can imagine the rest….”
Baby Makin' Music
continues the unparalleled history of a group whose name has appeared on the charts for each of the last five decades, a feat achieved by no other family team in music history. The name “Isley” first graced the Top 50 in 1959 with “Shout,” four years after the group was formed in Cincinatti, Ohio. The original recording lineup included Ronald and older brothers O’Kelly and Rudolph (a fourth brother, Vernon, died in the ’50s).
The ’60s began with another anthem, 1962’s “Twist And Shout.” The Isleys went on to score with “This Old Heart Of Mine” (1966, their first Tamla/Motown hit), and the massive, now classic “It’s Your Thing.” The R&B Grammy Award-winning #1 R&B/ #2 pop hit single launched their self-owned T-Neck label in 1969, and introduced younger brothers Ernie and Marvin and in-law Chris Jasper into the lineup. The label’s first release, “Testify”, featured Ernie Isley’s protégé, a young man by the name of Jimi Hendrix
T-Neck went on to chart more than 20 pop titles in the ’70s (and nearly twice that many on the R&B side), a litany of hits that included Stephen Stills’ “Love The One You’re With”, “Spill The Wine” (originally recorded by Eric Burdon & War), “That Lady,” Seals & Crofts
’ “Summer Breeze,” the message-driven “Harvest For The World,” funky groove “Fight The Power Part 1,” classic slow jam “For the Love Of You,” “The Pride,” “Take Me To the Next Phase,” and “I Wanna Be With You,” among the group’s many hit singles. From 1973 to 1980, the group scored an amazing two gold and five platinum albums (starting with the groundbreaking 3+3
) and the platinum run continued in the ‘80s with Go All The Way
and Between The Sheets
, like five of their predecessors, No. 1 R&B chart-topping albums.
The ’80s also included hit singles “Don’t Say Goodnight (It’s Time For Love)” and “Hurry Up And Wait,” followed by “Inside You” and “Smooth Sailin’ Tonight.” In 1986, O’Kelly passed away, and Rudolph subsequently retired to the ministry. The ‘Isley Brothers Featuring Ronald Isley’ returned in 1990, and all six members were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame two years later. The ’90s were marked by a number of collaborations – with Angela Winbush (“Lay Your Troubles Down”), Bobby Womack
(“Trying Not To Break Down”), Quincy Jones
(on his Q’s Jook Joint album, 1995), and the #1 R&B/ #4 Pop smash of 1996, “Down Low (Nobody Has To Know)” with R. Kelly and Def Soul label mate and former background singer Kelly Price. With the new millennium, came Ronald’s discovery of the famed vocal duo, JS, in 2003.
1996 also brought the Isley Brothers – Ronald, Marvin and Ernie – to Island Records for the first time, on Mission To Please. Contributing as producers and co-writers were Babyface, R. Kelly and Keith Sweat
, three of the many artists whose lives and music were inspired by the Isley Brothers, whose lineup now comprises Ronald and Ernie, an accomplished songwriter, guitarist and vocalist in his own right.
In 2001, signed to Dreamworks Records, the Isleys returned to the charts with the hit album Eternal, featuring the crossover smash “Contagious,” written and produced by R. Kelly and signaling the arrival of “Mr. Biggs,” Ron’s now-famous alter-ego. Two years later, Body Kiss (another collaboration with Kelly) achieved gold status for the Isleys and also in 2003, the group won an American Music Award for Favorite Band, Duo or Group. 1996 recipients of a Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award, The Isleys received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual BET Awards gala in 2004. The same year, Ron suffered a mild stroke and after taking some time off, he began workin on tracks for Baby Makin' Music
. "It was a little hard after tge stroke because I felt I had to prove myself again," he reflects. "I took a year off and I didn't run through making an album like I used to. But once we got started with "Gotta Give It To You," we were right back in the groove. And working with (Island/Def Jam CEO) L.A. Reid has been really great because I don't have to worry. I know I'm working with someone who understands what I do..."
Feeling that the Isley Brothers are finally getting their due recognition for decades of great music, Ron says he still finds it hard to believe how so many of the group’s classics are constantly being used in movies, as samples by new artists and on television commercials. “I hear “Shout” more today than I heard it when we first did it and I didn’t know songs like “It’s Your Thing” and “That Lady” would have ‘legs’. You see, music has been my whole life. I listen to music every single day. It’s our way of expressing ourselves,” Ron Isley says of himself and his brother Ernie. And with a sumptuous new album in the form of Baby Makin' Music
, The Isley Brothers featuring Ron Isley (aka “Mr Biggs”) are continuing – as the title of their 1996 hit album implies – their lifelong ‘mission to please,’ giving their loyal fans what they’ve come to expect from this enduring group while creating classic cuts for a new generation.
Baby Makin' Music
- Track Listing:
1. You're My Star
2. Blast Off (featuring R. Kelly)
3. Just Came Here to Chill
4. Gotta Be With You
5. Pretty Woman
6. Forever Mackin'
7. Show Me
8. Give It To You
10. Heaven Hooked Us Up
11. Help Me Write This Song
Isley Brothers - "Blast Off" featuring R. Kelly:
(Streaming audio and/or video links may expire without notice.)