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Strawberry Letter 23 - Greatest Hits

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Album Review

Ask a group of the Brothers Johnson aficionados when the Los Angeles duo jumped the shark, and most of them will say 1981. That year marked the release of their fifth album, Winners, which was the first Brothers Johnson LP that Quincy Jones didn't produce. Although decent, it fell short of the excellence of their four albums with Jones — and from 1981 on, the Brothers Johnson were widely regarded as past their prime. Nonetheless, their classic late-'70s output continues to excite soul and funk enthusiasts after all these years, and die-hard fans will welcome the arrival of Strawberry Letter 23 Live. This release documents a reunion show that took place on Memorial Day 2003 in Oakland, CA, where George & Louis Johnson revisited many of their old hits from the Quincy Jones days. Hearing the Brothers Johnson in 2003 isn't like hearing them in 1978 or 1979; nonetheless, their performances are enjoyable on late-'70s favorites like "I'll Be Good to You," "Stomp!," "Get the Funk Out Ma Face," "Ain't We Funkin' Now," and the psychedelic gem "Strawberry Letter 23." The siblings pleasantly surprise with a few unexpected covers, including Cameo's "Word Up" and Sly & the Family Stone's "Family Affair" (which is an appropriate choice considering that Stone was among their early influences back in the day). Strawberry Letter 23 Live isn't essential, and casual listeners would be much better off starting out with a best-of collection focusing on the Brothers Johnson's great 1976-1980 recordings with Quincy Jones. Even so, Strawberry Letter 23 Live is worth acquiring if you're a hardcore fan who still can't get enough of the funky siblings.

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Formed: 1975 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

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. Quincy Jones hired them to play on his LP Mellow...
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Strawberry Letter 23 - Greatest Hits, The Brothers Johnson
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