The Brothers Johnson

Kickin'

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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.

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