The Sisters Love
Give Me Your Love
t’s interesting how our constructions for rock and punk music don’t necessarily apply to other genres. The Sisters Love, the latest subject of reclamation from the venerable Soul Jazz label, were an early ‘70s funk and soul troupe, born from the ashes of Ray Charles’ backup group The Raelets. Mostly unappreciated in their own time—by fans and labels alike—The Sisters Love survived through the crate-digger classic “Give Me Your Love,” a funk/soul platter beloved by Larry Levan and other early-disco pioneers. Sound familiar? If The Sisters Love were four scruffy, undersold lads from Hip Urban Area with a few singles that helped birth a much larger movement, we’d have lots of names for them. We’d call them “proto-punk.” We could call them “The New York Dolls,” or possibly even “The Kingsmen.”
Call The Sisters Love proto-disco if you must, but the more important point is that, like The New York Dolls or The Kingsmen, the Sisters weren’t radically different than their contemporaries, but rather the beneficiaries of circumstance. Their limited output has grown in importance not because it has proven, well, terribly important, but because tastemakers have latched onto them as one of the flash points for a legitimately significant movement.
Soul Jazz, via the liner notes to Give Me Your Love, would have you believe otherwise, calling the Sisters “ahead of their time” (they weren’t) and noting that they infused their soul and funk with the “essence and vitality of gospel” (necessarily: gospel was a defining influence for most 1960s/1970s soul and funk artists). Give Me Your Love even exposes its title track; “Give Me Your Love,” an Isaac Hayes cover, is a snaky funk cut with a ripping drum break. But, unless you were a disco historian, you probably wouldn’t be able to pick it out of a police lineup. Sure, the Sisters chant the title, and the song assumes the sort of distant emotion and subtle trance that disco often thrives on, but it’s a wee short on sonic revolution.
“Give Me Your Love” might not even be the best track on the comp. Benefiting from the oft-sampled Willie Hutch’s writing, scads of playful, up-tempo soul, and inspired delivery, Give Me Your Love sounds like a particularly vibrant and flirtatious cut of soul/funk. “Mr. Fix It” hilariously threatens, “You better fix it / Mr. Fix It man / Cause if you don’t fix it baby / Maybe the milkman can.” The Sisters are bratty and demanding throughout, something that shows up in their curiously imperative song titles: “Ring Once,” “Try It, You’ll Like It,” “Give Me Your Love,” You’ve Got to Make Your Choice.” The Sisters present a decidedly gritty alternative—both sonically and emotionally—to most of the girl-groups that preceded them; they don’t cry over men, they offer threats and ultimatums. A cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” arrives drippy and maudlin, but the rest of Give Me Your Love strides through time-tested soul territories with bravado and grace.
During “Try It, You’ll Like It,” the Sisters proclaim “It’s a new day / Nineteen-seventy-two,” but they don’t sound new, just enlivened. Anyone who approaches Give Me Your Love looking for nascent strains of disco will be sifting through haystacks; the Sisters are an historical oddity, not a revelation. Give Me Your Love makes an excellent case for footnote status as a righteously ignored soul/funk combo, though, and if you’re interested in Levan’s crate-digging, all the better. Proto-disco? Bring it.