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  Brothers Johnson


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Click below for a Brothers Johnson sample:

Ain't We Funkin' Now


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The Brothers Johnson enjoyed a run of hits from the mid 70s to the mid 80s that were marked by tight instrumentation and George Johnson's, er, unique singing voice.  

Louis (aka "Thunder Thumbs," bass) and George (aka "Lightnin' Licks," guitar) Johnson began playing their respective instruments as children, developing a reputation in their hometown Los Angeles as a formidable unit.  After turning pro, they got work in Billy Preston's band, at which point they came to the attention of Quincy Jones.  Q featured them on his Mellow Madness LP as musicians and recorded several of their compositions, including the one that would introduce them as a recording entity: "Is It Love That We're Missing."

The slinky groove of "Missing" became a hit, and Jones decided to develop them as frontmen by helping them get a deal with A&M, his label at the time.  Look Out for # 1 charted two large hits on "I'll Be Good to You" and "Get the Funk Out Ma Face," going platinum in the process.   The hot streak continued on Right On Time, a classic example of sophisticated funk.   "Strawberry Letter 23" was the cut, a dreamy, near-psychedelic reading of the Shuggie Otis song.

They set up to reclaim their funk credentials on Blam.  The lead track "Ain't We Funkin' Now" was as direct as the album title, proving the Brothers were still prime candidates for the funkiest act around. 

Because they were so highly revered in the funk world, Light Up the Night took many people by surprise.  The groove was still funky, but now there were undeniable shades of disco in the mix, quite similar to what Jones was doing with Michael Jackson for Off the Wall.  The perennial favorite "Stomp" was a #1 hit but some hardcore fans were dissatisfied.

Maybe the Brothers were, too.  After Night, the Bros J split from Quincy Jones to produce themselves.  "The Real Thing" nearly made the top 10, but was their last hit until "You Keep Me Running" in 1984.  I think they quit recording after that.  Louis Johnson continued playing on Q's sessions, laying down the vicious basslines of "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" and "Billie Jean."

Update: As of January 2002, George and Louis Johnson have decided to reform the Brothers Johnson.  They had not played together since 1984, but are now touring and have plans for a new album.  

Brothers Johnson's Deepest Grooves

Look Out For Number One (A&M, 1976)
By the time this was recorded, they had had 5 years of experience, making this not so much a debut LP but the reward for years of paying dues.  And they were determined not to mess it up.  They come up with two numbers Quincy Jones would revisit in "I'll Be Good To You" and "Tomorrow" and serve up punishing funk on "Get the Funk Out Ma Face."  "Thunder Thumbs and Lightnin' Licks" shows off their instrumental skills, indicating they could have easily been a successful fusion combo (Louis did in fact cut some sides with Herbie Hancock and Grover Washington Jr.)  Even the Beatles cover comes off nicely.  The Johnsons weren't playing around on this one, announcing to everyone via the title that there was a new contender on the scene.

Right On Time (A&M, 1977)

Blam!! (A&M, 1978)

Light Up the Night (A&M, 1980)
The last of the albums to feature Quincy Jones production, Night   features the slamming "You Make Me Wanna Wiggle" and "Celebrations."  Michael Jackson contributes backing vocals to "This Had to Be." 

Winners (A&M, 1981)

Out of Control (A&M, 1984)

Kickin' (A&M, 1988)

Greatest Hits (Polygram, 1996)

Copyright 2001, 2002 All rights reserved.

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