The Brothers Johnson – Right On Time (1977)

01-frontThe Brothers Johnson
Right On Time
1977 A&M Records SP-4644

Runnin’ For Your Lovin’     5:05
Free Yourself, Be Yourself     4:26
“Q”     3:25
Right On Time     3:50
Strawberry Letter 23     4:58
Brother Man     3:10
Never Leave You Lonely     3:02
Love Is     4:20

A1     Runnin’ For Your Lovin’  5:05 (George Johnson, Louis Johnson)

Backing Vocals – Alex Weir, George Johnson, Mortonette Jenkins Drums – Harvey Mason Horns – Tower Of Power Horn Section Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald  Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

A2     Free Yourself, Be Yourself      4:26  (George Johnson, Louis Johnson)

Backing Vocals – George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Louis Johnson, Richard “Jose” Heath* Drums – Harvey Mason Horns – Tower Of Power Horn Section Keyboards, Synthesizer – Ian Underwood  Percussion – Ralph MacDonald Rhythm Guitar – David T. Walker   Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

A3     “Q”     3:25  (Louis Johnson, George Johnson)

Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

A4     Right On Time      3:50  (Quincy Jones, George Johnson, Louis Johnson)

Backing Vocals – Alex Weir, George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Louis Johnson, Richard “Jose” Heath Drums – Harvey MasonHorns – Tower Of Power Horn Section Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Lead Vocals – George Rhythm Guitar – David T. Walker Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

B1     Strawberry Letter 23     4:58  (Shuggie Otis)

Backing Vocals – Alexandra Brown, Denise Trammell, George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Louis Johnson, Oren Waters, Stephanie Spruill Drums – Harvey Mason Guitar, Soloist – Lee Ritenour Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin, Ian Underwood Percussion – Ralph MacDonald

B2     Brother Man   3:10  (Louis Johnson, George Johnson, Dave Grusin)

Drums – Harvey Mason Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald  Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

B3     Never Leave You Lonely    3:02  (Louis JohnsonValerie Johnson, Peggy Jones)

Drums – Harvey Mason Guitar, Bass – George Johnson Lead Vocals – Louis Percussion – Ralph MacDonald Guitar, Bass – Louis Johnson

B4     Love Is   (Louis Johnson, George Johnson, Quincy Jones, Peggy Jones)

Backing Vocals – Alexandra Brown, Denise Trammell, George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Oren Waters, Stephanie Spruill Keyboards – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald  Guitar – George Johnson Guitar, bass – Louis Johnson

Horns arranged by Greg Adams

Alto Saxophone – Lenny Pickett
Tenor Saxophone – Emilio Castillo
Trumpet  – Greg Adams
Trumpet – Mick Gillette
Baritone Saxophone  – Stephen Kupka

Produced and arranged by Quincy Jones
Synthesizers programmed by – Ian Underwood, Michael Boddicker

Art Direction – Roland Young
Creative director – Ed Eckstine
Engineer – Norm Kinney
Assistant Engineer  – Chuck Trammell
Engineer, Remix – Don Hahn
Mastered By – Bernie Grundman
Book photography by  – Andy Kent, Dennis Callahan, Neil Preston, Randy Alpert,
Ron Phillips, Jim McCrary, Patricia Reynolds, James Fee
Design – Phil Shima

Produced for Quincy Jones Productions
Recorded from February 1st to March 21st, 1977 at A&M Recording Studio “B” Hollywood, California

This post is right on time to break the silence of nearly two months without a blog post. Flabbergasted Vibes (the blog) is on life support and the plug could be pulled any day, if not by me than by a Higher Power.  There’s been enough dying in 2016 without adding this place to the list, but my enthusiasm is definitely at low tide in the grand ebb and flow of things.

Sure, it seems like the world has come unstuck – personally, professionally, politically – but none of it is really a surprise.  I don’t have much to say about this particular album at this particular moment.    Spinning a well-worn dusty classic is about all I’ve got left, and I’m finding even that doesn’t cut it on most days.  But if you  are pressed for time on your way to the fallout shelter and unable to deliberate at length, you could do worse than randomly grabbing this off the shelf with a few other long-players.  I hope you had the foresight to equip your survivalist shelter with a working turntable and speakers.  And a bicycle, for generating electricity off the grid, obviously.

The instrumental reliability of The Brothers Johnson is beyond dispute, and here they have some big cheeses in their pantry to help serve up the funk – Harvey Mason on drums, the Tower of Power horns, Ralph McDonald on percussion, David Grusin and Ian Underwood on keyboards.  And, of course, the whole thing is greased with Quincy Jones’ aural butter to keep the smooth proceedings from ever getting so hot that they scorch.  Burnt, crispy funk was not Quincy’s thing.   The title-track, which strives a little too hard for silliness, is maybe a little boring and could use a little extra grit.  It’s hard to fault anything else though.  The highlight is naturally their cover of the Shuggie Otis’ song Strawberry Letter 23 .   Shuggie has always been “a musician’s musician,” and it’s not as if he was an unknown when he recorded this song for his second LP in the early 70’s.  But the fact that it wasn’t the huge hit it could have been the first time around just meant that the world got to enjoy it twice.  The Brothers Johnson version, which came out a full six years later, is remarkably faithful to the psychedelic spirit of the original.  Maybe it is less cryptic and more mysteriously happy.  Quincy’s production pushes it into heavenly and exciting places, and it sports an epic  layered guitar solo by Lee Ritenour too.  Has Tarantino ruined this song yet by making it the background for some ultraviolence?  I think he has but I can’t remember where.   There are some fine original songs here too in a similarly breezy, windows-rolled-down summer spirit.  In fact the opening and closing tracks of the LP could have been written as bookends to accommodate Strawberry Letter, which is sequenced squarely in the middle of the album (first song on Side 2).  There are a couple of tight instrumentals too.  But yeah, no doubt, Strawberry Letter 23 is the showcase piece here.

Is this the last post of 2016?

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  1. First, I want to say thanks to you for your site. I recently discovered it (like 2-3 months ago) and signed up for your e-mails so I can read your new posts as you put them up. I enjoy reading your reviews and the opportunity to listen to the album if I don’t already have it (which in the case of Right on Time, I already did). Second, I can sympathize with you getting burned out after doing this for 8 years. I would say, do a new post when you want to and don’t feel obligated to adhere to any particular schedule. No need to apologize for the time between posts. This should be something fun for you to do, not a chore.

    Best wishes to you for the new year.

    • Hi Gil and thanks for your comment. Sorry it took me so long to respond but I guess I waited until I had something to say. Which I guess, as your advice reflects, has kind of become the new MO of this blog. It’s for the rare visitor like you that I keep the blog open, in a lot of ways – somebody who just recently found it, and who is actually interested / amused / entertained by the content of the posts. For a while now I’ve suspected that the vast majority of people accessing this blog are “beat diggers” who often or usually do not read my rambling commentaries; formerly, I think I got a lot of people obsessed with things just because of their relative rarity, but now that you can find almost anything on the internet, very little here qualifies as “rare enough” for those people either. It is a small subset of human beings, far to small for me to harbor all the mixed feelings bordering on rancor that I have been carrying around lately, but I do in fact have mixed feelings about certain aspects of “rare groove” culture that bugs the hell out of me. It’s the side of that culture that is the modern-day equivalent of Northern Soul DJ’s putting blank or fake labels over their 45s when doing sets at clubs, so that people wouldn’t know the names of the artists they are playing. The idea being that you have to KEEP IT RARE or it’s no longer worth as much. There’s just so much I dislike about that mentality. For one, I think the fetishization of “the object” has helped make record collecting into a rich man’s game, one that I don’t seem myself keeping up with. And secondly, I feel pretty strongly that most people don’t set out to write, perform, and record popular music with the intention of remaining obscure and unknown. While every art world does have its Jandeks and other recluses, it is the uncommon performer who doesn’t want an audience. I’m not really interested in showing off a collection for the sake of it, or supplying anybody’s “secret weapon” for their awesome DJ set, which is all for the best because it’s becoming clear to me I don’t really much of value to offer to “those people” anyway in 2017. The way I see it, the only reason to keep a place like this going in a universe oversaturated with content is the extent to which I might have something to say about a particular recording that moved me (or failed to move me, or invoked a memory, or accompanied an interesting experience, or *whatever*) and makes me want to share it with as many people out there who might be interested. And to the extent that I’m an unstable person with an uncertain future- not to mention the transitory nature of existence and all that – there’s just no telling if I will make 5 blog posts this year or 52 or 502. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

      • Dr. Vibes, Thanks so much for the thoughtful reply. I might have an experience somewhat similar to yours. I post some comments on whenever I finish reading a book. Those comments are visible to everyone, and every now and then someone “likes” one of my reviews, which is nice. But really, I do it mostly for my own benefit to help me remember what I thought of the book and some key takeaways. What I do is not nearly as extensive as what you do, but it’s somewhat similar. As far as what other people will do with the music you care about so much… it’s beyond your control. If I were you, I wouldn’t concern myself with that. I think you want to reach the 1% of people who will stop and look deeper and who do want to learn more about these artists and their music. I think that’s where the joy comes from. If some people are hung up on collecting objects… that’s their issue and their problem. And yes money, or rather people’s competitive nature, degrades a lot of pursuits. Again: it can’t be helped. That the way people are. Might as well not fight it. Take pleasure in what you like. Best wishes!

  2. Flabber, do you have a Francis Hime’s first disc to make a upload? That one with the tracks ‘Atrás da Porta”, “Minha” and “Olivia”… I have that masterpiece In my computer on MP3 format (poor rip), but the sound quality from your posts [FLAC’s posts, overall] are way better than anyone we often found on the internet. We used to find around here some amazing posts, who hardly would be found in another websites – thanks for that! -, and this Francis disc may be the final frontier… Rs,

    • Hi Lupego, thanks for comment. You are not the first person to ask about that album here and I keep meaning to make a post on it. The thing is I do have what I believe might be the only CD version of that album (from the 100 Anos de Música series on EMI) and it sounds pretty harsh and terrible to my ears. There is a very strong chance that you will not find FLAC to be any improvement over MP3 in this case, because in my opinion they did a lousy job with that reissue. I also have a vinyl copy, and I keep wanting to do see if I can get a good needledrop of it, but then I forget about it and move on to other things.. Maybe I will make it a “New Year’s Resolution” for 2017. Maybe I will do a quick post of the CD version for all the people asking about it, because vinyl will take longer.

  3. Thank you for another great post!My limited time on the internet prevents me to check out if there’s new posts from Flabbergasted Vibes but I am so glad that I decided to check your wonderful blog.Your hard work is greatly appreciated by me:)

    • Bobby, you can sign up for an e-mail notification of new posts. That way you don’t have to check to see if there is a new post. You’ll be notified when there is one.

  4. Great album, great blog. Thank you. Already have it on vinyl but I wanted it for my digital collection.

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