As part of the Tamla Motown stable of artists during the label's busiest period - their mid-to-late sixties peak - The Isley Brothers found themselves playing second fiddle to Motown's premiere acts, acts like The Temptations, The Four Tops, and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.
This album reflects the Isley's situation at the label to some degree, including as it does the only song that was a major hit specifically written for them whilst at Motown - the title track "This Old Heart of Mine".
Many of the remaining tracks here were either B-sides, or else covers of songs that were big hits for other Motown artists - like Diana Ross & The Supremes and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. But as allmusic.com point out in their review of this album, these cover versions by the Isleys were actually 'comparable to, if not better than, the originals', the latter suggestion being one that I'd unreservedly endorse.
Because in spite of their relatively low profile at Motown, in purely interpretive terms The Isley Brothers were to my mind the most talented act on the label, and out of the myriads of Motown releases that I must've listened to over the years, this album is the one release that has remained in my collection throughout, and has turned out to be by far the most durable.
That's in part because it's made up of consistently good quality material of course, but more importantly even than that is that The Isley Brothers' renditions of these songs somehow infuse them with a depth that was missing from the originals, and so elevated them beyond the level of mere pop music.
The sheer anguish that is often present in the singing here is what adds a whole new dimension to these songs, the emotional yearnings expressed in the lyrics are made all the more intense by the the way they are delivered. And that bitter-sweet angst (that incidentally, is cleverly conveyed by that vast black border around the sleeve-art too) would've been a dividend of The Isley Brothers' lengthy career prior to signing to Motown, an apprenticeship that was rooted in black Gospel music, followed by doo-wop and early rock'n'roll, and so those musical flavourings are subtly incorporated into the performances here, to great positive effect.
by Reviewer: bluemoon