Eric Johnson – Up close – another look

eric johnson - up close - another lookTexan guitarist Eric Johnson may not be as widely known in Europe as guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Steve Vai or Carlos Santana for example, but he is one of the world’s top guitar players, having been voted one of the 100 greatest guitarists of the 20th century by Musician magazine and been named Guitarist of the year in 2010 by Guitar international.  He’s won more Austin music awards than anyone else (he’s won a staggering 33 of them), is in the Texas music hall of fame, and is a Grammy winner having won one for his 1990 album “Ah via musicom”.  He’s performed or recorded with a hige number of other music legends including B.B.King, Chet Atkins, Steve Vai, Eric Clapton, Joe Satriani, Dweezil Zappa and many more  Given all this, it’s surprising he isn’t far better known.

Eric Johnson released the “Up close” album in the US in 2010.  “Up close – Another look” is a special European release of the album.  It contains thirteen tracks, twelve of which are written by Eric Johnson, and the other being a cover of the Electric Flag song “Texas”.  It differs from the original release which had fifteen tracks by losing two very short tracks (both around a minute and a half in length).  That’s the first difference, but the main change is that the songs on this new release have been revised and remixed.
Eric Johnson himself revisited six of the thirteen songs, while recording engineers Andy Johns and Richard Mullen remixed the other seven.  The reason the songs were changed is that since the US release Eric Johnson has played the songs live on tour, so he’s taken that experience to go back and change the songs to make them sound on the album more like they do when played live.  It’s an interesting idea and one that not many artists get the chance to do as often albums are released around the world at the same time, but any regular concert-goer will know that artists often tweak the songs as a tour goes on and they find little changes that can make a big difference to how well they feel the song works.  The closest most artists get is when they do a re-release of an album – e.g. to celebrate its 10th anniversary, but given the opportunity to revisit an album I suspect a lot of artists would love to go back and change things.

I’ll be up front and admit that I’m not normally a fan of instrumental albums, and I say that after listening to instrumental albums from many great musicians.  “Up close – another look” isn’t completely instrumental, it’s split fairly evenly with seven instrumentals and six songs with vocals.  On paper then it sounds like something I wouldn’t be over keen on.  In reality however things are very different – I love this album, and it’s not even a case of just loving the songs with vocals, it’s a case of the whole thing is great.  In fact some of my favourite tracks on the album are instrumentals

Brief comments on a few tracks

The album opens with “Awaken”.  It’s a short instrumental, just over a minute in length that has quite an interesting feel to it – it’s got an almost Indian sound, but it’s hard to pin down exactly why it feels like that before the track is over.

“Fatdaddy” is another instrumental track.  It’s got quite a brisk pace and a thick bluesy electric guitar sound, and as with the rest of the album, the guitar playing is just superb.

“Brilliant Room” is the first song on the album to feature vocals, and here they come courtesy of American singer Malford Milligan .

“Texas” is a great song and is my favourite song on the album.  It features Jimmie Vaughan (brother of Stevie Ray Vaughan) joining him on guitar, and some superb vocals from Steve Miller.  It’s a fantastic blues song that I could listen to all day.

“Gem” is a beautiful track.  It’s an instrumental with Eric Johnson’s superb guitar playing accompanied simply with some nice simple drumming that doesn’t distract from the guitar.  There are no vocals as such but for part of the track there are some gentle vocal harmonies used.

“On the way” throws in a musical curve-ball.  Moving away from the blues and rock, this song has a really strong Country feel to it.  It’s a great track and shows the versatility of Eric Johnson’s guitar skills.

“Vortexan” is a superb instrumental.  It’s got a Southern, Bluesy feel to it – think ZZ Top without vocals and that will give you a hint of what to expect from the track.

“Your book” features another guest.  This time it’s Blues guitarist Sonny Landreth joining Eric Johnson on guitar

This really is an impressive album.  It’s packed with some superb instrumentals mixed in with some great songs.  The mix of songs and instrumentals really works extremely well.  My two favourites from the album are “Texas” and Vortexan” – one instrumental and one song, which I wasn’t expecting to be the case, but the instrumentals here are some of the best I’ve heard.  It’s not often I give an album a top score but anything less wouldn’t reflect just how much I’m enjoying listening to this album.

“Up close – another look” will be released in the UK on 1st April 2013 to coincide with Eric Johnson’s UK tour (see below for tour dates and booking details).

Rating:  10/10

Track listing:

1. Awaken
2. Fatdaddy
3. Brilliant room
4. Texas
5. Gem
6. Austin
7. Soul surprise
8. On the way
9. Arithmetic
10. The sea and the mountain
11. Vortexan
12. A change has come to me
13. Your book

24 HOUR BOX OFFICE: 0844 478 0898  BOOK ONLINE:
All Tickets £25 (except £30, London)

London o2 Shepherds Bush Empire – Wednesday 3rd April
Tickets: £30 / Box Office: 0844 477 2000
Doors 7pm/ Stage 8pm
Shepherd’s Bush Green, London W12 8TT

Harrogate Theatre – Thursday 4th April
Tickets: £25 / Box Office: 01423 502 116
Doors 7pm / Stage 7.30pm
Oxford Street, Harrogate, HG1 1QF

Edinburgh Queen’s Hall – Friday 5th April
Tickets: £25 / Box Office: 0131 668 2019
85 – 89 Clerk Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9JG
Doors 6.30pm / Stage 7.30pm

Manchester Royal Northern College of Music – Saturday 6th April
Tickets: £25 / Box Office: 0161 907 5555
Doors: 7pm / Stage: 7:30pm
124 Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9RD

Birmingham Town Hall – Sunday 7th April
Tickets: £25 / Box Office: 0121 345 0600
Doors: 7:30pm / Stage: 8pm
Victoria Square, Birmingham, B3 3DQ

Salisbury City Hall – Monday 8th April
Tickets: £25 / Box Office: 01722 434 434
Doors: 7:30pm / Stage: 8pm
Malthouse Lane, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP2 7TU

About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.