Monday, March 3, 2014

Samuel Jonathan Johnson: “My Music” (1978/2014 re-issue) CD Review

In 1978, Samuel Jonathan Johnson released My Music, which was his only record. It is now available on CD, with new liner notes by his daughter, Yolanda Johnson. This is good 1970s R&B, with positive vibes and a sincerity to the music that is wonderful. With one exception, the songs here are originals. Sure, there is something cheesy about portions of this album (like in “Just Us”), but there is a lot of joy here, and you get caught up in it. I enjoyed this record more and more as it went on. There is not only a joy in these songs, but also a real innocence to this record.

“My Music”

“My Music,” the title track, begins with spacey sounds before the tune comes on, with a good funky bass line and a sort of slow disco vibe. Backing vocalists sing, “Music, music,” leading to Samuel Jonathan Johnson’s vocals. For a while it’s like he’s simply enjoying the groove, holding off on the lead vocals. And the song itself is sort of an expression of love for music in general, and in particular his own pleasure in being able to create it. (So why just the one record, right?)

“What The World Needs Now Is Love”

The only cover on the album is a slow, thoughtful rendition of “What The World Needs Now Is Love” (a song written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, and made popular by Jackie DeShannon). Samuel Jonathan Johnson's vocals have a certain amount of passion. The title line isn’t just a line for him – you can hear he believes it. That’s one thing I really appreciate about this record – the earnest quality in his vocals. That works to elevate this album above similar-sounding records of the time (and of now too, actually).

“Sweet Love”

Things get more fun with “Sweet Love.” It begins, “Sweet love, that’s what the world needs,” almost like a continuation of the thought from the previous song. It really does feel like a continuation of the message of "What The World Needs Now Is Love," picking up the tempo, and with a disco beat – like he had a little more to say on the subject, but was happier saying it. "Everybody needs love," he sings.

“It Ain’t Easy”

I hear a bit of a Stevie Wonder influence in the approach to "It Ain't Easy," which also has something of a disco beat. There is some very cool work on horns, and also a groovy bass line, along with encouraging lines like “Don’t give up/Just take your time.”


"You" is a love song that has a fun disco beat, but it’s the seriously groovy work on keys that makes me really like this tune. I sort of wish they could be more to the fore throughout the whole tune, as sometimes they’re lost beneath the horns and strings. There’s also a short, cool percussion section just before the lead vocals come in. And then even a lead moment on bass, which is great. I also like the backing vocals: “You/You’re the one thing I desire/You/Yeah, you set my soul on fire.” This is probably my favorite track.

“Thank You Mother Dear”

How can you dislike a disco love song to one’s mother? "Thank You Mother Dear" feels so sincere, so heartfelt that it transcends its genre. It's a song in which he shows his appreciation for his mother. Yes, it’s sweet. In this one he sings, “You were always there when I needed you/With a cheerful word to see me through/Thank you,” with the backing vocalists echoing him.

“Reason For The Reason”

There is more of a funky vibe on "Reason For The Reason," the album’s concluding track. This is another where you can hear a Stevie Wonder influence in the vocals. The song becomes a cool sort of conversation between a man and a woman, where he asks why she treats him so cold, and she responds by asking if he really wants to know. Then the chorus has a disco feel: “The reason for the reason is the reason why we don’t understand.”

CD Track List
  1. My Music
  2. What The World Needs Now Is Love
  3. Sweet Love
  4. Because I Love You
  5. It’s Ain’t Easy
  6. You
  7. Just Us
  8. Yesterdays And Tomorrow
  9. Thank You Mother Dear
  10. Reason For The Reason
My Music was released on January 7, 2014 through Real Gone Music.

No comments:

Post a Comment