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Reviews: The Isley Brothers: 3+3

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Reviews: 2

Review by Oakland March 28, 2009 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
The dearth of quality and quantity of SACDs outside of the classical and jazz genre, most oft mentioned Rock, has been sharply voiced in SA-CD circles and for very palpable reasons. The lack of a wide tent of music selection has deeply wounded SACD market success. I'm sure we can all make our individual cases for genre that is sorely lacking in SACD. But, in my opinion, no stronger case can be made than for R&B that unquestionably has been pitifully neglected. While that holds true for current day R&B performers I am speaking more specifically to “classic” R&B performers from the 60's and 70's. Dozens of influential and long lived or successful R&B performers such as Jackie Wilson, Parliament, Aretha Franklin,Wilson Pickett, Ray Charles, James Brown, Al Green, Johnny Taylor, Dinah Washington, Bobby Bland, Impressions, Platters, Coasters, Ike and Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, Emotions, etc., along with performers with premium labels such as Argo, Chess, and the Stax group (Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Bar Kays, Staple Singers, Booker T, etc.). Even soul/crossover Motown performers are largely absent as well as Sony's own Columbia family such as Sly and the Family Stone and The Manhattans.

But there are a precious few R&B gems available on SACD. My favorite is the Isley Brothers - “3 + 3”. Many are familiar with the single“Who's That Lady”, but the musicianship and performances for all cuts are top tier from pillar to post. It would be meaningless for me to rank my favorites since I truly love them all. The quality of the arrangements, too, are first rate throughout. And the overall sound quality is excellent.

At the time of its release (1973) I considered “3+3” R&B/soul and nothin' but. And the social climate of the day validated that assessment. Although, looking at it today it is clearer, that while decidedly R&B/soul, “3+3” was part of the growing “crossover” music movement (although far less crossover what Motown was producing at the time) and much of the genre (although not "3+3") was probably morphing into “funk/pop” as airplay became more open to black music.

I have “3+3” on several Lps (don't know how I got multiples), and several of the tracks on compilation CDs. I know the music well. I know (or at least knew) the lyrics for every cut as if I had written them myself. There is no question that this SACD sounds superior to any other versions that I own or have heard. Friends who are down home R&B hounds agree with me whole heartily. I should note that the “3+3” Lp along with the Brothers Johnson 45 RPM red vinyl disco LP (“Get the Funk Out Ma Face” on one side and “Strawberry Letter 23” on the other), along with selections from my now largely classical and jazz collection, are to this day, Lps that I take with me to every local vinyl audiophile audition. In other words I have heard these on any number of mega cost vinyl rigs. This SACD just sounds better and I'm just talking about the two-channel.

Of course, such comparisons are not apples to apples and are tilted in favor of the SACD, if only due to the nature of my R&B vinyl collection. After all, unlike demo vinyl of many audiophiles which are often in pristine condition, my audition demos, while not abused (not counting excessive play time or subjection to lower end audiophile turntables) have served proletarian duty. So, by all rights the SACD should sound better. And this time, it does (although not always).

But even if they (the SACD and the Lp) sound close in comparison the multi-channel, derived from the “original” quad master tapes, takes the sound quality to a completely different level. And with it, the enjoyment quotient raises to a new level, too. That is no easy feat for music you enjoyed to the zenith since your youth.

The vocals, in two-channel, while very compelling, even for the most picky audiophiles, are taken to new heights of resolution/detail in multi-channel. (But still not quite to the level experienced with the SACD Audioquest Mighty Sam McClain, which may be the very best recordings of non classical vocals I have heard). The instruments (guitars,organ, drums, tom tom, pianos) are presented with sunlit clarity. And nuances not heard on the vinyl abound in the presentation of sound stage, ambiance and music overtones in a way that can only be done in multi-channel (The two-channel, too, in these respects, is mighty fine). The center channel of this 5.1 mix serves as a solid anchor for these performances, which is probably a testament to the multi-channel mixing team, since the quad mix had no center channel.

It is very apparent that this SACD was engineered with the “A” teams, for both the two-channel and the multi-channel (separate engineering teams) giving the utmost professionalism and care of an analog to DSD transfer befitting of an early release that Sony wanted as a showcase for the then infant format. I would not be at all surprised if, for the multi-channel, Ron Isley was consulted (just a guess) to keep as close a possible to the artists' original intent just as Sony brought in Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire to personally oversee the 5.1 mix for another excellent R&B release, “Gratitude” /showreviews/814#2963. The multi-channel is well balanced, not at all like the aggressive mix of, for example, the O'Jays “Ship Ahoy”(that I enjoy also). Nonetheless all speakers play an important role in the presentation. The speakers don't “disappear” as in a well done classical multi-channel recording, but the integration and synergy are “just right”.

It has been some years since this single layer SACD was released but it appears to be still available and I give my strongest recommendation that you check out The Isley Brothers “3+3”.

Robert C. Lang

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Review by fredblue May 19, 2009 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Let me start by confessing from the outset my review may be a bit biased here as I totally LOVE The Isley Brothers! This album is simply awesome and the Multi-Channel SACD mix does justice to what is, for me, one of the finest records of all-time.

Ok.. Now I've revealed my Isley love, onto the disc in hand. I can honestly say it is like a veil has been lifted off my speakers when I listen to this SACD. So many times while listening to this M/C disc, so many subtleties of this most beautiful music are revealed to me that I never heard before.

Put simply, the sonics here are gorgeous.

Ernie's blistering guitar work has lifelike prominence in the mix right off the bat, from the title track, which is still so impressive no matter how many times I hear it. Every guitar part here though, whether acoustic or electric sounds more crystal clear than it has any right to after 30 years+ in the vaults! Ronald's vocals have never sounded crisper and more rounded - the emotion he conveyed in his singing during this period of the Isleys' career is quite astonishing and never before have I heard it more authentically reproduced than on this SACD. The basslines are solid and smooth, my subwoofer constantly cooks away on this album, underpinning the unadulterated funk that pours out of this music. Even the drums, while still a little distant in the mix, as ever they were, now feature a realistic top-end to them which was always lacking on rbcd.

Such sublimely funky music was made for SACD - throughout every second of it's 39 minutes 11 seconds playing time this disc oozes class and quality, in it's recording and in it's contents. Along the lines of the O'Jays' "Ship Ahoy" SACD, this 5.1 mix isn't the most subtle thing you'll ever hear but unlike the O'Jays' album, this music much more comfortably "accommodates" such a 'powerhouse' presentation, with bold use of the rears constantly introducing some new nuance to the music and constantly bringing a smile to the face of this listener.

As a footnote I would like to add that, as grateful as I am that one of my absolute all-time "must-have LP's" has been graced with the SACD Multi-channel treatment in such spectacular fashion, it is just such a crying shame that there isn't more of the Isleys' recorded material on this format. It turns out the Brothers issued several LP's in various quadraphonic formats back in the '70's, included among them "Harvest For The World", which is also a truly stunning album that I similarly adore - and one that in a parallel universe I'd be able to enjoy in equally sumptuous surround sound as this masterpiece.

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