THE ISLEY BROTHERS-HARVEST FOR THE WORLD.
THE ISLEY BROTHERS-HARVEST FOR THE WORLD.
What people forget about when they talk about The Isley Brothers career is both the longevity of their career and how successful a career they had. In a career that saw them release their first album Shout in 1959 and their last album Baby Makin’ Music in 2006, they released a total of thirty studio albums over a period of six decades. Of these thirty albums, ten reached number one in the US R&B Charts, while they had two number one albums in the US Billboard 200. Four of these albums were certified gold, seven were certified platinum and two double platinum. The Isley Brothers’ most successful period was between 1973 and 1980, when their albums were almost a permanent fixture in the US R&B Charts, their albums being certified gold, platinum or double platinum. One of theses albums was 1976s Harvest For the World, which later, I’ll tell you about.
This run of hugely successful albums started with 3 + 3 released in August 1973. It featured two of The Isley Brothers’ biggest hits That Lady (Part 1) and Summer Breeze (Part 1). On the album’s release, 3 + 3 reached number two in the US R&B Charts and number eight in the US Billboard 200, resulting in their first platinum disc. Little did The Isley Brothers’ know that they were entering their most successful period.
Live It Up was released in August 1974, and featured the beautiful ballad Hello Its Me. This was the album that gave The Isley Brothers their first US R&B number one album, also reaching number fourteen in the US Billboard 200 and being certified gold. Although this album and its predecessor had given the group the biggest successes of their career, their next album would surpass everything that preceded it.
When The Heat Is On was released in June 1975, it became their most successful album ever, reaching number one in both the US Billboard and US R&B Charts. This resulted in the album being certified double platinum, having sold over two million copies in the US alone. On the album was their funk protest song Fight the Power (Part 1 and 2), which became the group’s most successful single, reaching number one in the US R&B Charts and number four in the US Billboard 100. By now, The Isley Brothers must have been wondering could things get any better? The answer was of course they could.
The album this article is about, Harvest For the World was released in May 1976, with the title track Harvest For the World a slice of soul with a social conscience. On the albums release, it reached number nine in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. Since then, Harvest For the World has become one of The Isley Brothers’ best known and best loved albums. Like Harvest For the World and The Heat Is On, their next album would also feature another protest song, that become a number one funk anthem, The Pride.
Go For Your Guns was released in March 1977, and reached number six in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. This was second of The Isley Brothers’ albums to be certified double platinum. On the album was the protest song that became a funk anthem, The Pride. When it was released as a single, it reached number one in the US R&B Charts and number sixty-three in the US Billboard 200. WIth no sign of The Isley Brothers’ losing their magic touch, this run was set to continue.
When The Isley Brothers released their next album Showdown, in April 1978, fans were in for a surprise. On the album was a track that combined funk with disco, Take Me To the Next Phase. This was released as a single, reaching number one in the US R&B Charts. On Showdown’s release, it reached number four in the US Billboard 200 Charts and number one in the US R&B Charts, giving The Isley Brothers another platinum disc. It seemed that they could do no wrong, and this run of commercially successful albums would last forever. Could it though?
Winner Takes All was a double album released in 1979, which reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 200 Charts and number three in the US R&B Charts. Although it was certified gold, it became The Isley Brothers’ first album since 1974 not to reach number one in the US R&B Charts. Was this the end of the rich vein of form The Isley Brothers?
April 1980 saw the release of Go All the Way, which saw The Isley Brothers return to number one in the US R&B Charts, while reaching number eight in the US Billboard 200. IThe album was certified platinum and like the previous albums, was well received by critics. It seemed that even into a new decade The Isley Brothers music was still popular. However, this popularity would only last until 1981, after which the commercial success they’d enjoyed became more sporadic.
By now, The Isley Brothers’ music wasn’t aging well. Even albums recorded just a few years ago sounded dated. Although Grand Slam sold well, reaching number twenty-eight in the US Billboard 200 and number three in the US R&B Charts, on its release in 1981, it seemed like the group had run out of creativity. After this, their albums didn’t sell as well, with only 1983s Between the Sheets and 1996s Mission To Please selling particularly well. Both were certified platinum. Then, into a new millennia, The Isley Brothers saw an upturn in their fortunes, with 2001s Eternal and 2003s Body Kiss being certified platinum and gold respectively. However, by 1981, The Isley Brothers’ run of success came to an abrupt end. One of their most successful and critically acclaimed albums was Harvest For the World, which I’ll now tell you about.
Harvest For the World was recorded at The Record Plant in Los Angeles during 1976. Released on their T-Neck imprint, and produced by The Isley Brothers themselves, the song was made up of eight songs, written by The Isley Brothers and Chris Jasper. On Harvest For the World’s release in May 1976, the album sold over half a million copies in three weeks, becoming one of the fastest selling albums ever. It reached number nine in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts, resulting in album being certified platinum. A trio of singles were released from the album, with Harvest For the World the first single, reaching number sixty-three in the US Billboard 100 and number nine in the US R&B Charts. Who Loves You Better was the second single, reaching number forty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B Charts. The final single was People of Today, which reached number three in the US Dance Charts. Having told you about Harvest For the World, I’ll now tell you what it sounds like.
Harvest For the World opens with Harvest For the World (Prelude). This track was inspired by Marvin Gaye’s classic album What’s Going On, and was Ernie Isley’s idea. It’s just a short two minute track, opening with piano, rhythm section and Ronald Isley’s emotive and dramatic lead vocal, while the rest of the group sing harmonies. With cymbals, drums, piano and guitars combining behind him, the arrangement meanders along gradually petering out, before giving way to its big brother Harvest For the World.
Like so many of The Isley Brothers’ albums, there’s usually a track with a social conscience. Harvest For the World is it, the theme being world peace. With, guitars, rhythm section and piano combining with handclaps, the song swings joyously into being. The song is uptempo with a real feel-good sound. Ronald’s vocal is impassioned yet joyous. Meanwhile, the track is driven along, the piano and rhythm section at the heart of the arrangement. Drums punctuate the sound, adding drama, while the other Isley’s contribute backing vocals. Not only is this soul with a social conscience, but is a song designed to lift your spirits, that’s hugely catchy and laden with hooks.
There’s a real change in sound and style on People of Today, the final single released from the album. Given its funky sound it’s no wonder that it reached number three in the US Dance Charts. With a funk drenched rhythm section, searing guitars and keyboards combining with an ARP synthesizer, Ronald’s vocal enters. His vocal is perfect for the arrangement, fast with a funky style, that later is transformed into a powerful and passionate roar. Meanwhile, a vocoder is used during the track, with a background vocal sung through it. While all this is happening, The Isley Brothers give a funk masterclass, playing at breakneck speed, the bass and guitars driving the track along, while drums, percussion and handclaps augment the sound. Like the previous track the result is a hugely catchy track, even with the addition of a vocoder, which sounds just a little dated. However, even its inclusion doesn’t spoil this joyous track.
Who Loves You Better closes Side One of Harvest For the World, a track that was the second single released from the album. Screaming, searing guitars open the track, their sound having a rock influence. They’re joined by the rhythm section, keyboards and percussion, before Ronald’s vocal enters. His voice is much more tender than the previous track, with the rest of the group singing tight harmonies. By now the arrangement has a “crowded” sound, the tempo quick, the guitars and their rocky sound to the fore. With the rhythm section helping them drive the track along, the track has a very different sound to anything that’s gone before. Ronald’s vocal has grown in power, maybe because of the almost overpowering arrangement. Although it’s funky, it’s not like the funk of the previous track. Instead it’s funk with a rock influence. Granted The Isley Brothers technically are excellent musicians, and this track proves this, but to me, this track has too rocky a sound. This track lacks something? What is that? The answer is soul.
Opening Side Two of Harvest For the World is a much better, more soulful track. (At Your Best) Let You Are Love sees Ronald Isley deliver the lead vocal. His voice is perfectly suited to the track, delivering the lyrics about love beautifully and with a tenderness. Against a backdrop of reverberating guitars that are almost weeping, keyboards and a subtle rhythm section, Ronald delivers this ballad thoughtfully and tenderly, while the other Isley’s sing tight and equally beautiful harmonies. This is a much better track than the previous one, one that displays a tender and beautiful side of The Isley Brothers’ music, and yes one that has the all important ingredient …soul.
How do you follow-up one of the best tracks on Harvest For the World? Quite easily, with one that’s just as good. Let Me Down Easy sees Ronald singing the lead, delivering the lyrics subtly and with emotion. Behind him, the arrangement sees the rhythm section, chiming guitars, keyboards and percussion combine. The arrangement isn’t quite as understated as the previous track, but is still perfect for this track about love. Ronald sings about maybe losing the woman whose done so much for him. During his heartfelt delivery of the lyrics, he almost pleads with her to let him down easy, if she ever decides to leave. A combination of a slow, almost understated arrangement and a gorgeous vocal make this the second beautiful ballad in a row. Like its predecessor, it’s one of the album’s highlights.
After a duo of ballads, the tempo quickens on So You Wanna Stay Down, which is a mixture of soul and funk, two things The Isley Brothers do so well. With keyboards, rhythm section, guitars and handclaps, the track opens before Ronald’s vocal enters. It too is fast, a combination of power and passion, mixed with emotion and frustration as he delivers the lyrics. It’s a song about love, but also about people being scared to try and better themselves. As a result, They’re kept down, almost as if they know their place. That’s the cause of Ronald’s frustration, resulting in him almost spitting out the lyrics in frustration and anger. While he delivers the lyrics, the arrangement speeds along, with the rhythm section, guitars and keyboards key to the sound and success of the track. However, it’s Ronald’s vocal that makes this such a great track, because of the passion, emotion and frustration that fills his voice.
So You Still Feel the Need is a slice of funk that closes Harvest For the World. it sees Rudolph Isley take over the lead vocal. With guitars, keyboards and the rhythm section combining, they create a really funky, stop start arrangement. Having hit on a the funkiest of grooves, the Isley’s set about exploiting and repeating it fully. Meanwhile, Rudolph’s charismatic vocal is slow and powerful, accompanied by the keyboards before the rest of the group contribute punchy backing vocals. Later, searing, funk laden guitars and bass combine with the keyboards helping contribute toward a really atmospheric funk drenched arrangement. Of the funky tracks on Harvest For the World, this has to be the best, and is a good way to end the album.
Listening to Harvest For the World it’s an album that’s aged well. It hasn’t suffered the same fate of some of The Isley Brothers’ other albums. Starting with the Marvin Gaye influenced Harvest For the World (Prelude), giving way to the socially conscious Harvest For the World, followed by the fabulously funky People of Today, the spell was slightly broken by Who Loves You Better. Although it’s still funky, it has a quite rocky sound, that lacks the soul of many of the other tracks. The Isley Brothers’ make up for this lapse with a duo of great ballads (At Your Best) Let You Are Love and Let Me Down Easy. Both are heartfelt, tender and beautiful tracks, that are two of the album’s highlights. Things change again on So You Wanna Stay Down and So You Still Feel the Need two funky tracks, with the latter one of the best funk tracks on Harvest For the World. Overall, Harvest For the World is an album that sees The Isley Brothers at their creative peak. Of the albums they released during the spell between 1973 and 1981, Harvest For the World is one of my favorites and one of their best. During a career that lasted six decades and thirty albums, The Isley Brothers released many quality albums, and Harvest For the World is just one of them. Thankfully, for all fans of The Isley Brothers’ music, Harvest For the World has been rereleased and remastered by BBR Records in October 2011 allows fans of The Isley Brothers to revisit one of their finest albums. Standout Tracks: Harvest For the World, (At Your Best) Let You Are Love, Let Me Down Easy and So You Still Feel the Need.
THE ISLEY BROTHERS-HARVEST FOR THE WORLD.