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Johnson, Eric: Up Close-Another Look (Special Edition)

Guitar legend Eric Johnson released the acclaimed Up Close back in 2010 (apparently only in North America), and he's asking us to take 'another look' at this album here in 2013, as it's been revised and remixed from its original release. To coincide with his upcoming UK tour, Johnson has revised 6 of the songs with some new arrangements and remixed seven others. For the casual fan I'm not sure how relevant this new special edition will be (let's face it, the original was damn fine in its own right), but for completists and loyal fans, some of the new touches the guitarist has added here will be worth hearing. For those outside of the US who didn't pick up an import copy, this will no doubt be your first exposure to the CD.

The info we were given along with the CD doesn't list the changes that were made to some of these songs, but if you look at the track listing of each version you can see that songs like "Traverse" and "Change-revisted" were left off this new edition. Most of these songs are sparkling, brimming with Johnson's spectacular guitar tone and fluid dexterity, yet just as impressive are the guest appearances who help elevate some of these songs. Malford Milligan puts in a great vocal performance on the catchy "Brilliant Room", as does Steve Miller on the Electric Flag blues classic "Texas", which also features guitar from Jimmy Vaughan. Blues upstart Johnny Lang rips it up on "Austin", and the great Sonny Landreth duels with Johnson on the sultry "Your Book". Otherwise, it's the stellar instrumentals that feature Johnson's virtuoso guitar skills that really are the highlight here, like "Fatdaddy", "Gem", "Soul Surprise", "On the Way", "Vortexan", but he also dazzles on the numbers where his vocals are front and center, like "A Change Has Come to Me" and "Arithmetic".

As I mentioned earlier, this edition is basically something Johnson put together to help him promote his UK tour, so for all fans on that side of the pond who perhaps didn't check out Up Close back in 2010, now's a good time to do so and while you are at it, get yourself a ticket to one of his gigs as well.

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

Added: March 29th 2013
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 6282
Language: english

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Johnson, Eric: Up Close-Another Look (Special Edition)
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-03-29 14:01:54
My Score:

Back in 2010 virtuoso bluesrockcountry guitarist Eric Johnson released the US album Up Close to - like all of his work - great acclaim. The mix of standard blues styles, commercial rock and countrified Americana being complimented for hitting the spot time after time. However, ever the perfectionist, when Johnson teamed up Provogue Records in the UK, he took the opportunity to reassess his most recent work and infuse the passionate feel that so characterises his live efforts, into his studio craft. Hence Up Close Another Look, where thirteen of the fifteen tracks which originally comprised Up Close are given a new, different lease of life. Now I haven't heard the original version of this album, so comparisons are impossible for me to make, instead I have to take ...Another Look on its own merits. Not that that is a problem, with the collection of gritty blues, bright, clear instrumentals, easy going commercial rock and Americana being a seductive selection, whether you already know these songs, or are coming at them fresh.

What strikes you most about UC-AL, is the stunningly clear sound, where Johnson's irresistible tone and touch land somewhere between fellow guitar masters Neal Schon and Joe Satriani. Johnson however is way above mere copycat status, with his style having more obvious instrumental flash than Schon and more commercial nous than Satch. A quick burst of "Austin" reveals the sort of music that crosses boundaries, with the bluesy approach somehow bursting with easily digestible hook lines and a chorus that sits readily in the memory. It is a clever skill to possess, but one revealed often on this album. However we are also far from one trick pony territory here, with the brooding instrumental "Soul Surprise" adding a new dimension altogether the guitar melody rather oddly reminding of the vocal line of the verse in the Bryan Adams hit "Run To You", while "Fatdaddy" blisters along on stinging stabs of guitar and "A Change Has Yet To Come" heads off into more commercial territory in the fashion of Don Henley. Add to that the more overtly blues driven moments like the gutsy groove of "Vortexan" and traditional shuffle of "Texas", which was originally by Electric Flag and the end results really are a classy yet varied mix where the main aspect that hangs the whole album together is Johnson's seamless, consistent, yet varied guitar work. Factor in quality guest performances from Steve Miller, Jimmie Vaughn, Johnny Lang and Sonny Landreth, where they all work for the song and not themselves, and there is never a doubt about the captivating quality achieved throughout.

Whether ...Another Look is the improvement on Up Close that Johnson intended, I'm unaware, however what is for sure and certain is that if the original versions come close to matching what has been served up here, then they must be mighty fine.

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