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Ah Via Musicom - Eric Johnson

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Genre: Rock / Artist: Eric Johnson / Audio CD released 1990-08-06 at Capitol

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      10.01.2001 23:05
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      In December, I was lucky enough to win a £10 Amazon voucher. I decided that I would like a Cd... but which one? Early last year, I had tried to order an unusual album from the now-departed website 'Boxman' but they were unable to fulfil the order and I wasn't able to find it anywhere else. So, on the hunt with my gift voucher burning a hole in my 'virtual pocket', I entered the names of a few of my favourite artists into the Amazon.co.uk search engine and struck gold. It's a sign of this artist's growing popularity that I found the album at a very reasonable price and available for delivery within 14 days. So who am I talking about? Well, it's Eric Johnson, a brilliant and innovative guitarist who hails from Austin, Texas and the album I wanted so much to add to my collection is his 1990 release 'Ah Via Musicom'. I already count his 1996 release, 'Venus Isle' as one of my favourite albums and 'Tones', his 1986 debut album is definitely next on my shopping list. (I quite often find myself working through an artist's back catalogue from most recent to earliest, I'm not sure why!) The musicians accompanying him on 'Ah via Musicom' are Tommy Taylor on drums, Steve Barber on synthesizers and keyboards, Roscoe Beck, Kyle Brock and Reggie Witty on bass, James Fenner and Paul Bissell on percussion, with guest spots from guitarist Steve Hennig and Wee Willie on harmonica (yes, really!) So, first of all, we're not talking about the sort of world-headlining artist who produces a new album every year in a flourish of publicity. Secondly, he's not just any rock guitarist but has to be counted amongst the very best in the world. Having started playing guitar at 11, he was playing with the Electromagnets at 21, an American cult band whose incredible live shows earned them a dedicated following. As well as his handful of solo albums, he has also worked as a session musician with artist
      s such as Christopher Cross (who reciprocates by providing backing vocals for two of the songs on 'Venus Isle'), Carole King and Cat Stevens amongst others. An inspired and technically brilliant guitarist, he is acknowledged as a master of the instrument by his peers as well as his fans. The status of Eric Johnson is summed up in a quote from 'Guitar Player' magazine which states unequivocally that "Ah Via Musicom is an artistic triumph - as powerful a statement for Eric Johnson as Electric Ladyland was for Jimi Hendrix." So now perhaps you can understand why I really wanted to add this album to my collection. Not content with being a gifted guitarist, Eric Johnson is also a songwriter, plays keyboards and has a pleasant tenor voice. So 'Ah via Musicom' has eleven tracks, the first being a short intro, four being songs with great guitar accompaniments and the others all instrumentals. These include 'Cliffs of Dover' which won a Grammy award for best rock instrumental in 1992, the foot-tapping 'Steve's Boogie' and the unaccompanied acoustic guitar solo 'Song for George'. The intro, 'Ah via Musicom' is about two minutes long and has a very quiet introduction with chiming eastern-style bells and strings over a shuddering bass line. The guitar sound, at first quite high and strident, fades down a little into a fast repetitive riff, growls throatily, then drops into the second track with hardly a pause. 'Cliffs of Dover' is heralded by a complex crystal clear echoing riff before picking up a faster rhythm and being joined by bass and drums. This is a foot tapper and, to me, seems to have almost a flavour of a Scottish jig in places. Next up comes 'Desert Rose' which is Eric's first vocal outing on this album and has a fairly minimal backing. This is perhaps the most spontaneous-sounding track on what is, after all, a studio album created by a renowned pe
      rfectionist. Several characteristic EJ guitar passages alternate with vocals then it finishes on a final powerful spine-tingling run. 'High Landrons' is the second of the vocal tracks and has a country feel to it. The echo and slight distortion on the final long guitar solo evokes for me the far distant mountain horizons of the lyrics before fading out. The listener is taken by surprise at the sudden change of mood as Eric's guitar speeds off into the catchy beat of 'Steve's Boogie' underlaid by a jaunty bass line and fast rattling drum rhythm. Guest Steve Hennig contributes the featured middle guitar solo. I defy you not to tap your feet to this one! It's one of my favourite tracks on the album (and I'm not particularly keen on country -style music) but it is quite short at less than two minutes. Next up comes 'Trademark' which I think is probably the least distinctive track on the album but it does have a nice melodic feel nevertheless. The pace changes again with 'Nothing can keep me from you' where a moody bass intro leads into a rather wistful love song. The vocals end about two thirds of the way through the track and Eric then plays a series of soaring sharp riffs that mellow down into a rock section and fade out. Now sit back and enjoy Eric's tuneful acoustic guitar solo 'Song for George' with its bluesy overtones. Again, this is another short track, coming in at under two minutes. Only just time to surface before the band hits you with 'Righteous', a great rock track that returns to drums, bass and guitar. This one is another foot-tapper and features Wee Willie spicing things up with some impressive harmonica playing. It ends quite suddenly and makes way for 'Forty Mile Town' another laid-back song with a gentle rustling and chiming intro. Eric takes lead vocals on this rather rueful ballad with some ethereal backing provided by Jody Lazo. His guitar picks
      up a zesty clear melody line that soars over the backing and concludes on a soft four-note rise. The final track is the soulful 'East Wes' which mixes more moody guitar tones with passages of icy clearness. This is a laid-back track for dreaming to and its final notes bring the album to a gentle twanging close. I rarely listen to an album through the first time and enjoy all the tracks. Usually I find one or two that I don't like so much, but I reached the end of 'Ah Via Musicom' without disliking a single track. It's certainly not such avant-garde rock guitar that the ordinary listener would be put off by listening to it. There are none of the detours into teeth-jarring discordant interludes that most people think of as rock guitar music. Through it all, the characteristic technical brilliance of Eric's guitar work shines through. It is the sign of a true master - to make it all sound so easy. If you'd like to hear a fabulous guitar maestro, check this album out.... I know you won't be disappointed. check out Eric Johnson's official website on www.ericjohnson.com


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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Ah Via Musicom
      2 Cliffs Of Dover
      3 Desert Rose
      4 High Landrons
      5 Steve's Boogie
      6 Trademark
      7 Nothing Can Keep Me From You
      8 Song For George
      9 Righteous
      10 Forty Mile Town
      11 East West

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