Goldenlane's CD release of Strawberry Letter 23: Live documents a special live performance by the Brothers Johnson. The Brothers performed live at radio station KBLX's Stone Soul Picnic in Oakland, CA, on Memorial Day 2003, and that's the performance documented here, While the Brothers are long past their prime here, it's nice to have this special performance documented, especially for longtime fans hungry for additional material. This particular performance is most noteworthy for its covers: a pair of Sly & the Family Stone classics ("Family Affair," "If You Want Me to Stay") and Cameo's "Word Up." Overall, this is a nice addition to the Brothers Johnson catalog, even if it's far from essential.
Guitarist/vocalist George Johnson and bassist/vocalist Louis Johnson formed the band Johnson Three Plus One with older brother Tommy and their cousin Alex Weir while attending school in Los Angeles. When they became professionals, the band backed such touring R&B acts as Bobby Womack and the Supremes. George and Louis Johnson later joined Billy Preston's band, and wrote "Music in My Life" and "The Kids and Me" for him before leaving his group in 1973.
In the late '70s and early '80s, funk could be divided into two main categories: hardcore funk (which included Rick James, Graham Central Station, Cameo, the Gap Band, the Bar-Kays, and George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic empire) and the lighter, softer sophisticated funk ("sophisti-funk" for short) of Rufus & Chaka Khan, the Average White Band, the Whispers, Heatwave, Chic, Dynasty, and Teena Marie. Before the arrival of J.T. Taylor in 1979, Kool & the Gang were the epitome of hardcore funk – and once he arrived, they epitomized sophisti-funk (which was also called "uptown funk"). Another group that epitomized sophisti-funk was the Brothers Johnson, whose third album, Blam!!, demonstrates that funk can be sleek and gritty at the same time. This 1978 classic is full of definitive examples of sophisti-funk; if you're a lover of that style, tracks like "Ain't We Funkin' Now" (a major hit), "Mista' Cool," "Ride-O-Rocket," and the title song are required listening. Equally strong are the mellow ballad "It's You, Girl" and the pop-jazz instrumental "Streetwave," both of which were well-received by quiet storm enthusiasts. The person the Brothers Johnson can thank for this album being so consistent is producer Quincy Jones, who really knew how to bring out the best in the group.
Light Up the Night marked the end of an era for the Brothers Johnson – it was the last of four albums that Quincy Jones produced for the Los Angeles siblings, and it was the last time a Brothers Johnson album was truly excellent instead of merely decent. When Jones was producing the Brothers Johnson's albums from 1976-1980, he gave them something their subsequent albums lacked – consistency. Even though George and Lewis Johnson recorded some decent material after Light Up the Night, none of their post-Jones albums had the type of consistency that Jones gives this 1980 release. The album gets off to an impressive start with the major hit "Stomp!" (a definitive example of the smooth, sleek brand of funk that was termed sophisticated funk in the late '70s and early '80s), and the tracks that follow are equally memorable. From the sleek sophisti-funk of "You Make Me Wanna Wiggle," "This Had to Be" (which was co-written by Michael Jackson and employs him as a background vocalist), and the title song to the tender R&B/pop ballads "Treasure" and "All About the Heaven," Light Up the Night is without a dull moment.
8 tracks, 32 minutes and no filler in sight. This funk/soul/ gem was released at the height of the disco era but doesn't sound dated, trite or embarrassing as so many LP's from that period do. Quincy Jones' pristine production along with top-notch studio players ensure consistent quality and some of the deepest, funkiest grooves on record.
Louis Johnson (April 13, 1955 – May 21, 2015) was an American bass guitarist. Johnson was best known for his group The Brothers Johnson and his session playing on several hit albums of the 1970s and 1980s including the "best selling album of all time" Thriller. His signature sound came from the Music Man StingRay bass guitar, which Leo Fender made for him, and from his slapping technique. He is ranked number 38 on Bass Player magazine's list of "The 100 Greatest Bass Players of All Time".
Johnson's sophomore outing is quite a departure from the solo guitar format of Fingertip Ship, his debut. Determined to showcase his skills as a writer and orchestrator, Johnson assembled an unlikely cast of guest musicians: from electric bassist Reggie Washington of the M-Base Collective to Warren Haynes of the reformed Allman Brothers Band. Paul McCandless's oboe and soprano sax and Andy Reinhardt's accordion also create arresting musical colors. Those who don't care for the old-world quality of the accordion ought to hear what Reinhardt is capable of making the instrument become. Upright bassist Glen Moore, drummer Matt Wilson, and percussionist Cyro Baptista also join Johnson, bringing influences from their diverse musical worlds to the project…