The Isleys decided turn about was more than fair play and decided to do the same to music made famous by white artists such as Stephen Stills, Eric Burdon and Neil Young.
The artists they chose to cover were not musicians that were apt to cover a song by the The Isley Brothers. In fact they were contemporary artists with unique voices and sounds they developed themselves. I like that these were the artists covered on Givin it Back. So many ways to interpret Giving it Back as an album title.
Slyly, titling this album Givin It Back, the Isleys prove they can re-enliven the music of others, thoughtfully. Distinguishing “a cover” and “a reinterpretation”.
Ohio/Machine Gun is my favorite gem.
CSNY might as well have written Ohio for the The Isley Brothers to perform.
And, I like CSNY’s version but when it is stood aside The Isley’s version, a certain, subtle social commentary forms. The songs speak to one another. The Isley’s version casts a subtle irony on the earnestly enthusiastic tradition of white protest music. Now, a naïveté tints the original.
The original release of Ohio, topical to the very hostile American political climate of the time, intended to make a statement, to shine light on injustice in order to produce change. It purports righteousness that slides toward self-righteousness when considered with The Isley Brothers rendition.
Among the songs they covered were “Spill the Wine”, “Love the One You’re With”, the social commentary medley of “Ohio” and “Machine Gun” (from Jimi Hendrix), “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor and Bob Dylan‘s “Lay Lady Lay“.
Their covers of “Love the One You’re With”, “Lay Lady Lay” and “Spill the Wine” became charted hits. Bill Withers plays guitar on the Isleys’ version of his “Cold Bologna”.
In 2015, Givin It Back was remastered and expanded for inclusion in the 2015 CD box set The RCA Victor & T-Neck Album Masters 1959-1983.