ISLEY BROTHERS. Tracks Of Life, Warner Bros.
After 30 years - and nearly as many albums - the Isleys, now pared down to guitarist Ernie, bassist/keyboardist Marvin, and singer Ronnie, are still going strong. Key to the group's sound is the distinctively tender vocals of Ronnie Isley, whose voice elevates this group of ballads and hard-funkin' anthems, a combination that has made them an institution in R&B.
With the help of producer Angela Winbush, a recording artist in her own right, "Tracks of Life" features some signature Isleys material. They work some old-style "Fight The Power"-type funk grooves on "No Axe To Grind" and "Get My Licks In," while the seductive ballad "Bedroom Eyes" shows the influence of Marvin Gaye, and the smooth mid-tempo "I'll Be There 4 U" will appeal to contemporary R&B lovers. A special plus is "Brazilian Wedding Song (Setembro)." MELLOW MAN ACE. The Brother With Two Tongues, Capitol
An Angeleno transplanted from Cuba, Mellow Man Ace was the first to popularize Spanish rap with past hit "Mentirosa," and on his second album he brings an even more distinctively Latin feel to pop rap. With its allusions to Desi Arnaz's Ricky Ricardo character ("Babalu Bad Boy," "Ricky Ricardo Of Rap") as well as his bilingual style of rapping, called repeticiones, in which he follows a line of English with the same line in Spanish, there is no doubt that Mellow Man Ace is the king of bridging Latin cult ure with that of the inner city. This works perfectly on the upbeat, lighthearted tales of a Latin playboy, as on "Linda" and "Funky Muneca." Ace also kicks it hard with street-ready rhymes that prove he's not just a novelty.
The CD carries a `Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics' label, and contains some profanity.