Oct 10, 2001 at 12:00 am

After more than 40 years and 36 albums, the Isley Brothers have earned respect and continue to make R&B appealing across generations. Songs such as “Shout” and “Fight The Power” entertained white and black audiences then and now.

These days Ronald Isley has increased the lights shining on him with the invention of his alter ego, Mr. Biggs. Suit-wearing, cane-grabbing and expensive romancing make him an image reachable by everyone from foot-tapping grandparents to the new generation of BET watchers. Down to just two brothers, these veteran musicians deliver decent soul crafted by years of experience with the assistance of producers Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Raphael Saddiq. The opening song, “Move Your Body,” sounds as if they decided to sample themselves and others without a sampler. Ernie plays guitar licks quite similar to the intro of “Who’s That Lady” and the female backup singers coo the chorus from Rick James’ 1982 party jam “Dance Wit’ Me.” “Contagious” is the essence of Mr. Biggs’ construction as the mature boss man.

Ron Isley’s velvet pipes shimmer lovingly akin to a reflection in water, even when he’s reprimanding a cheating woman. But “You Deserve Better” has him optimistically giving love inside of a romance designed by the Robb Report. Steve “Stone” Huff’s production has everything conventionally arranged so the ear never focuses too much on any one part of the piece.

Their earlier habit of covering pop songs happens again with a cool but feeling version of Peter Cetera’s “If You Leave Me Now.” Jill Scott steps in and offers her soft vocal remembrance of Minnie Riperton for the wood blocks and green grass of “Said Enough.” If two people were to fall in love outside at a late-night barbecue, this is what would be playing. Their eyes said it all to each other before night fell, hence the title. And “Ernie’s Jam” would soothe this couple to the morning with its bars of steady climaxes. The brothers maintain their identity, but recall Al Green (any song from Still In Love With You) on “Think.” Isley pleads to a lover while standing outside the church; a gospel sequence and secular lyrics have spirit, but the bodies are out of that building. A hardworking track record of solid sounds and everything needed to call all fans of rhythmic blues is here; that is why they call this CD Eternal.