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R&B - Released January 1, 1977 | A&M

Potentially viewed as something of a warm-up for Quincy Jones before producing Michael Jackson's wildly successful Off the Wall and Thriller albums, the Brothers Johnson's first two releases spawned hits like "I'll Be Good to You" and brought George and Louis Johnson to a mass audience of their own. (Louis, in fact, would go on to play bass on those first two sessions by the King of Pop.) As with the Jackson discs, Jones creates a seamless mix of pop and funk on the Brothers sophomore release Right on Time, helping to create the group's second chart-topper "Strawberry Letter 23" as well the equally effervescent, minor R&B hit "Runnin' for Your Lovin'." With Earth, Wind & Fire's airy dancefloor hits in mind, the Brothers also deliver polished funk tracks like "Right on Time" and "Never Leave You Lonely," as well as more pop-friendly material like "Free Yourself, Be Yourself" and "Love Is." And with one of the best jazz arrangers in the business behind the board, the Brothers couldn't forgo some instrumentals here as well, specifically the breezy, funk-in-a-quiet-storm number "'Q'" and the less intriguing, synthesizer jam "Brother Man." An enjoyable and even infectious collection that, in its sophistication, certainly avoids being just some sort of dry run for Jones. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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R&B - Released September 26, 2000 | A&M

The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Brothers Johnson features 13 of the duo's '70s and '80s hits, including "Get the Funk out Ma Face," "Strawberry Letter 23," "Ain't We Funkin' Now," and "I'll Be Good to You." "Is It Love That We're Missin'" from Quincy Jones' Mellow Madness, "Light Up the Night," and "Runnin' for Your Lovin'" are some of the other singles and tracks included on this decent, if not extensive, retrospective. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1976 | A&M

The Brothers Johnson first earned national recognition as recording artists by singing the sensuously funky mid-tempo number "Is It Love That We're Missin'," featured on Quincy Jones' album Mellow Madness. The dynamic duo maintains that same groove on this, its debut release for A&M Records. The first single was the moderate number "I'll Be Good to You," which is soothing like a ballad but inducing like a liquid funk cut. The guitar tandem landed on top of the R&B charts with this gold-selling single. They returned to the Top Five with the bona fide funk jam "Get the Funk out of My Face," which peaked at number four. Their remake of the Beatles' classic "Come Together" comes with a soulful twist. Aside from this remake, the Brothers co-wrote every other song on this album, including the untarnished instrumental "Tomorrow," which later became a number one single for Quincy Jones' Back on the Block. This album is consistent throughout. © Craig Lytle /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 2003 | A&M

Released in 2003, A&M's Strawberry Letter 23: The Best of the Brothers Johnson more or less renders 1996's Greatest Hits obsolete. Containing virtually the same material, plus a selection that includes five more songs -- not to mention 24-bit remastered sound -- it thusly tops all the other anthologies that have come out of the U.K. and the U.S. throughout the '80s and '90s. This has all the essentials any casual fan could possibly want, including "I'll Be Good to You," "Stomp," "The Real Thing," "Welcome to the Club," "You Keep Me Coming Back," "Get the Funk Out Ma Face," and "Light Up the Night." © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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R&B - Released April 16, 1980 | A&M

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. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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R&B - Released June 10, 1996 | A&M

Coming to prominence toward the tail end of the funk era (the late '70s), the Brothers Johnson boasted a polished, state-of-the-art studio sound that took into account the rise of disco in black pop, not to mention the synthesizer. Early on, they also had an important ally in producer Quincy Jones, who masterminded their first four albums; not surprisingly, those turned out to be their most successful, though they continued to record through the first half of the '80s, often producing themselves. Greatest Hits throws in a few of those '80s cuts for good measure, but concentrates mostly on their prime years with Jones, which produced the classic singles "I'll Be Good to You," the psychedelic "Strawberry Letter 23," and "Stomp!"; all three hit number one on the R&B charts, and "Get the Funk out Ma Face" also made the Top Ten. Greatest Hits also includes a number of fine lesser singles over its 15 tracks, including "Ain't We Funkin' Now," "Runnin' for Your Lovin'," "Free and Single," and "Light up the Night," as well as the Grammy-winning instrumental "Q." It also gathers a couple of their bigger '80s hits, "The Real Thing" and "You Keep Me Comin' Back," though it leaves off 1982's "Welcome to the Club," which just missed the R&B Top Ten. Even so, Greatest Hits still stands as a near-definitive Brothers Johnson compilation; it's certainly all that casual fans will need, and it serves the needs of most funk fanatics pretty nicely as well. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Funk - Released January 1, 1981 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

The Brothers Johnson's fifth album was the first not to be produced by Quincy Jones, the brothers taking the production reins themselves. Perhaps uncoincidentally, it marked the start of a severe commercial downturn for the act, with the album just edging into the pop Top 50, although it did make number ten on the R&B charts. "The Real Thing" was also an R&B hit. But despite some mild experimentation with the insertion of hard rock guitar licks into "I Want You" and "Hot Mama," as well as an unusual album closer in "Daydreamer Dream" (featuring Louis Johnson's then-wife Valerie Johnson on vocals and originally recorded by contemporary Christian group 2nd Chapter of Acts), it was not destined to be remembered even by many Brothers Johnson fans. You wouldn't think it was a minor effort in their catalog from the 2011 CD reissue, however, which has extensive illustrated liner notes with plenty of quotes from George Johnson. It also adds five bonus tracks, including the four new songs they recorded for the 1982 album Blast! (which otherwise featured five previously available hits) and the 1982 B-side "Echoes of an Era." © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Soul - Released March 22, 2011 | Cleopatra Records

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Soul - Released January 1, 2011 | Cleopatra Records

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R&B - Released January 1, 1978 | A&M

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. A former jazz musician who shifted his focus to R&B/pop in the 1970s, Jones can be a real perfectionist. It was Jones who, in 1982, produced the best selling album of all time (Michael Jackson's Thriller), and he rarely let the Brothers Johnson settle for second best. As a result, Blam!! is excellent from start to finish. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1984 | A&M

Although they were nearly a decade on from their '70s heyday, the Brothers Johnson, with Leon Sylvers at the production helm, still managed to set a few grooves on fire among the heavy, heady crop of synthesized R&B that flooded the adult contemporary market. There's an interesting interplay between the strong bass and vocals, supported by a smattering of guitar and a markedly slow tempo, which ensured that the single "You Keep Me Coming Back" would power into the R&B Top 20. Much of Out of Control follows through with much the same attitude, with nary a true funk-fueled jam to be found. Some of the duo's original intent survives on "I Came Here to Party" and the title track, but such stompers are few and far between, merely filling space in between the ballads and soft soul numbers that dominate the set, leaving the smart "Dazed" to fall somewhere in between. Out of Control probably won't thrill the socks off the brothers' funk fans, but there are still moments that merit a closer listen. And despite the soft sonics that proliferate, the Brothers Johnson certainly proved they were worthy of their staying power, while so many of their peers fell soundly by the wayside. © Amy Hanson /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1988 | A&M

Re-emerging from what had turned into a four-year hiatus, the Brothers Johnson hoped to repeat earlier successes with 1988's Kickin'. Unfortunately for the duo, however, their smooth brand of slick R&B had, by that time, been severely scaled back in favor of new flavors and grooves, with their original style fully co-opted by a whole new crop of young hipsters. The portents were poor from the outset, as they previewed the album with the groove-laden, jangly hooked assault of the Irene Cara co-penned "Kick It to the Curb." The single bombed despite its catchy melody, and set a sour scene for the rest of the record -- which is a shame because there was certainly follow-up material aplenty on board. "Ball of Fire" uses remarkably raunchy guitar licks to sublimate sweet backing vocals and synthesized horn flourishes in what emerges a remarkably funky groove, while the pseudo ballad "Real Love" falls well into appealing puppy love territory. Elsewhere, the band covers Curtis Mayfield's "We Must Be in Love" with aplomb and try their hand at something completely different on the sparse and futuristic closer "Party Avenue." Overall, however, while there isn't really anything to criticize on Kickin', nor is there much to recommend it either. The Brothers Johnson are still in a good groove, but it is scattershot across so many styles that it just winds up being distracting. © Amy Hanson /TiVo
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R&B - Released March 21, 1976 | A&M

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Funk - Released January 1, 2013 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Going back to 1987's Classics, Vol. 11, there has been a handful of decent single-disc Brothers Johnson anthologies. Through 2012, the group still lacked a double-disc compilation to do proper justice to its catalog. A couple minor issues aside, Stomp: The Best of the Brothers Johnson -- released through Universal U.K.'s Spectrum division in 2013 -- is an ideal overview. The discs are filled to near capacity, and all but one of the Brothers Johnson's charting R&B singles (the minor hit "Dancin' Free") are included. So, all the hit essentials -- including the number ones "I'll Be Good to You," "Strawberry Letter 23," and "Stomp!" -- are here, as are some excellent album cuts, such as the low-key sweet soul gem "Closer to the One That You Love." There's still some greatness that remains bound to the albums; "Caught Up" and "In the Way," from Winners, surpass some of the other album cuts here, but neither one is included. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Soul - Released September 1, 2010 | Cleopatra Records

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R&B - Released August 6, 2013 | A&M

Going back to 1987's Classics, Vol. 11, there has been a handful of decent single-disc Brothers Johnson anthologies. Through 2012, the group still lacked a double-disc compilation to do proper justice to its catalog. A couple minor issues aside, Stomp: The Best of the Brothers Johnson -- released through Universal U.K.'s Spectrum division in 2013 -- is an ideal overview. The discs are filled to near capacity, and all but one of the Brothers Johnson's charting R&B singles (the minor hit "Dancin' Free") are included. So, all the hit essentials -- including the number ones "I'll Be Good to You," "Strawberry Letter 23," and "Stomp!" -- are here, as are some excellent album cuts, such as the low-key sweet soul gem "Closer to the One That You Love." There's still some greatness that remains bound to the albums; "Caught Up" and "In the Way," from Winners, surpass some of the other album cuts here, but neither one is included. © Andy Kellman /TiVo