The songs on Mr. I featuring hype men who dramatically declare the return of Ronald Isley must be referring to the singer’s expired prison term. When the album was released, the previous Isley Brothers disc was only three years old. Isley really wasn’t away -- not in musical terms, at least. And it’s not like the 2006 album Baby Makin’ Music was a wayward flop; it went to number one on Billboard’s R&B chart and did so without Isley having to leave his lane all that often. This time out, for whatever reason, there’s an effort to make more of the songs sound like they are coming from someone one-third Isley’s age. The rapid stutter kick drums, syrupy vocal interjections, and backing shouts in “Put Your Money on Me,” for example, are much more suited for guest star T.I. than Isley. When Mr. I plays to Isley’s strengths, as on atmospheric ballads that avoid the come-ons of twentysomething singers (“Dance for Me,” “What I Miss the Most”), it’s just fine, very much in the vein of latter-day Isley Brothers albums. Then again, several lines from “Supposed to Do” -- like “Put them pictures on your Facebook and let them haters know” -- make it all the more evident that we’re not in Atlantis anymore.
Mr. I Review
by Andy Kellman