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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MONSTER of a cd from Eric!
I love this cd!! This is the most musical of all his recordings, at least for me. There are echoes of Stevie Wonder, Keith Jarrett, Ralph Towner, some Rundgren and Metheny also, but it is all very original. Gorgeous tunes, so well played. And Eric sounds as if he has been seriously studying bop phrasing for the last few years and now there just isn't any style this...
Published on June 16, 2005 by Benjamin J. Neiman

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Tones/So-So Tunes
Let me preface this review by stating that Eric Johnson is one of my favorite guitar players. I have been following his career since his 1986 Guitar Player magazine cover story ("Who is Eric Johnson and why is he on our cover?"). "Ah Via Musicom" was such a tremendous influence on me personally, and is certainly a seminal album for a generation of would-be guitar...
Published on June 30, 2005 by John W McLellan


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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MONSTER of a cd from Eric!, June 16, 2005
By 
Benjamin J. Neiman (Phila., Pa. United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bloom (Audio CD)
I love this cd!! This is the most musical of all his recordings, at least for me. There are echoes of Stevie Wonder, Keith Jarrett, Ralph Towner, some Rundgren and Metheny also, but it is all very original. Gorgeous tunes, so well played. And Eric sounds as if he has been seriously studying bop phrasing for the last few years and now there just isn't any style this guy can't play way convincingly(come to think of it, I did hear him do a perfect version of Wes Montgomery's arrangement of "Down Here On the Ground" years ago). The Jerry Reed tune is honkin' country pickin' and he has played this in his live set for years. The guitar heroics are kept to a minimum on this record, and everything he plays sounds perfect for the song, there is no seeming attempt to impress with chops. Yet every fill is perfect, some much better than I've heard Carlton or Ford do for a very long time! On top of it all, Eric Johnson is one of the nicest cats I've ever met and I hope this record is a success for him cause he deserves it! Buy this immediately.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, wow., October 1, 2005
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This review is from: Bloom (Audio CD)
I normally wouldn't add a review after 42 others have already been published, but I want to help Mr. Johnson's batting average with my five stars. This album is incredible.

Mr. Johnson is a pop artist at heart, and a guitarist's guitarist. So he doesn't receive the notoriety of any number of hotshot shredders. Like Todd Rundgren, he creates masterpieces in relative obscurity while the cogniscenti favor rougher, hipper fare.

This album is indeed a bloom, of genius, of a musician who lives inside his music, and whose capacity for romantic beauty has made him an American original. Plus, this guy has chops to die for.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great CD from a brilliant guitarist, October 24, 2006
By 
Brian Welsch (Spartanburg, SC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bloom (Audio CD)
This is an impressive effort. This CD has been played fairly constantly in my car for the past 3 weeks. What impresses me is that I consistently find new bits that stand out depending on my mood. There are some great grooves, brilliant fills, and rocking riffs in classic Eric Johnson style in the first movement, 'Prelude'. The opener 'Bloom' and 'Good To Me' are probably the highlights there. Mr. Johnson then turns it down a bit during 'Courante', the second movement.

'Sad Legacy' and 'From My Heart' are both great introspective songs. 'Sad Legacy' builds a sense of urgency and 'From My Heart' has a mellower, R&B feel and nice jazzy runs. These two are probably my favorites off the album.

The last movement, 'Allemande' starts off with a nice old-school style jazzy number, 'Hesistant'. 'Magnetized' gets things rocking again, before a very good atmospheric classical guitar piece, 'Ciel' ends the ride.

Eric plays an wide variety of styles on this release and manages to keep it all together as one cohesive piece, with one small exception. Tribute to Jerry Reed, while a nice bit of picking doesn't fit on this CD for me, especially after the sitar on 'Cruise The Nile'.

I'd recommend this CD to anyone who enjoyed Ah Via Musicom or Venus Isle. Or, if you aren't familiar with Eric johnson already, then do yourself a favor and pick up a CD. This one is as good as any of his studio albums to start off with.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Tones/So-So Tunes, June 30, 2005
This review is from: Bloom (Audio CD)
Let me preface this review by stating that Eric Johnson is one of my favorite guitar players. I have been following his career since his 1986 Guitar Player magazine cover story ("Who is Eric Johnson and why is he on our cover?"). "Ah Via Musicom" was such a tremendous influence on me personally, and is certainly a seminal album for a generation of would-be guitar virtuosos everywhere. His playing has always connected with me in a way that other "shred" guitar players haven't - his tone, phrasing, those huge intervallic leaps across the fretboard, cascading single note runs, shimmering chords, and his "vibe" have been profoundly influential to me as a musician.

So why don't I love this album?

Because it's hit or miss with this one - some songs are wonderful, others aren't. The guitar playing is fantastic (as any fan of EJ would expect), and there are definitely a lot of cool "new" tones that EJ is working with, but a lot of the songs are just kinda "there". Interesting, but not memorable.

If you listen to this album with reference to his previous studio outings, it is obvious that he is maturing as an artist. That's a good thing. The high points of this album demonstrate this - the slow (and surprisingly authentic) jazz/fusion turns that he takes on "Hesitant" and "Magnetized" are nice harmonic departures from the more pedantic instrumentals such as "Summer Jam", "Columbia", and "12 to 12 Vibe". These later three songs (though amazingly executed) fill me with a sense of deja vu - I've heard this type of thing many times before.

Other highlights of this album are "Good To Me" - killer groove, with beautifully nasty guitar sounds punctuated with well-articulated talk-box effects; "Sea Secret" and "Ciel" are fine compositions - excellently produced "mood music", with tasteful guitar and synths.

The vocal tunes on this one don't do it for me - though EJ doesn't have a terrible voice, it's quite thin, especially when contrasted with the huge, agressive guitar tones that he coaxes out of his overdriven Marshall amps.

Eric Johnson is (truly) an awesome guitar player, and a fantastic musician. I just wish this album was better.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Makes me appreciate Venus Isle even more., June 26, 2005
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This review is from: Bloom (Audio CD)
I agree with the other reviewers that, on his worst day, Eric Johnson turns out better music than the other guitar gods. (And one can only guess at what guys like Clapton make of EJ's rendition of stuff like Crossroads).

But Bloom is all over the map. Its not a totally ripping guitar album like Ah Via Musicom and as a super complex concept album it falls way short of his gorgeous Venus Isle.

The playing is superb and flawless, the vocals ok, the lyrics insipid (as always) but I didn't find one tune that knocked me out. He destroys My Back Pages, sounding even worse than Bob Dylan. He plays it like he's late for an appointment. (Check out Carl Verheyen's version of My Back Pages if you think the Byrds didn't handle it well enough).

Your Sweet Eyes sounds like Fleetwood Mac, harmless and good for the "soft and warm" stations.

So yeah, from anyone else it would be pretty darned good. But I know what he can do! Before they shut Napster down I got several bootlegs of Eric playing Cliffs Of Dover to screaming audiences. People who could not believe what they were hearing; so much beauty, fire and skill. Compared to that, Bloom just doesn't stack up. Sorry.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the wait =), June 20, 2005
This review is from: Bloom (Audio CD)
Bloom is divided into 3 sections using classical terms. Yeah, pretty anomalous for a Texas Guitar Slinger but keep in mind this is the first official Eric Johnson solo release since Venus Isle in 1996. And well -- it's EJ.

Anomaly might as well be his middle name.

First -- the definitions of the terms:

Allemande

A dance in moderate duple meter first appearing in the early 16th century and was frequently followed by a more lively dance in triple meter or, in the 17th century, by the courante. In the 17th century it became a stylized dance type that was regularly used as the first movement of a dance suite. These allemandes are in a very moderate 4/4 time.

Courante

A lively French Baroque dance in triple meter; the courante is the second number of the old Suites de Danses.

Prelude

1. An instrumental composition intended to introduce a larger composition or a set of compositions.

2. A short compositions for piano.

3. A composition which establishes the key for a composition that immediately follows.

The Prelude section includes "Bloom", "Summer Jam", "Good to Me", "Columbia", and "12 by 12 Vibe". These are all strictly speaking instrumental compositions that do indeed introduce a larger set of compositions. "My Back Pages" is slipped in there as the third track on the album and if it does not precisely adhere to the strictest sense of form by being a song, it DOES fit into the tone of the group by being a vibrant and refreshing rock and roll version of the tune best known as a Bob Dylan ballad covered in the lush and stately harmonies of The Byrds in the mid 60s. Quite simply, the Prelude section encompasses the main CRUNCH of the recording -- it rocks, rolls and dances all over the place!

The Courante section could have just as well been called "While y'all're catching your breath here's a few tunes for the soul, maybe they'll cleanse the ol' palate.." or some other aw shucks folks understatement.

This section consists of 6 pieces: 3 songs and 3 instrumentals, each one a gem of diversity, nuance, and mastery -- if the first section showcased EJ's skills as a rock composer, the Courante showcases the man's skills as a Composer and Songwriter with a range from Far Eastern motifs and eclectic instrumentation ("Sea Secret", and "Cruise the Nile") Country Picking on an utterly god-like level ("Tribute to Jerry Reed" -- which features the bouyant and magical Adrian Legg in a guest appearance) and three exemplary original songs that show facets of EJ in a clear light where they were barely a tantalizing glimpse before.

"Sad Legacy " is a deft examination of society's taste for mayhem as a Value -- and the effects of this de-sensitivity as a role model for the next generation; "From My Heart" is for me the most unexpected piece: strategically placed in the fold as the 9th track of 16 is this R & B soulful ballad.

Which brings us to the song that closes out the Courante section, "Your Sweet Eyes". Ever hear a little tune called "40 Mile Town"?... This is rather like that, except for the fact it's about.. oh.. qualitively speaking:

a whole lot MORE.

It's been exaustively (and swoonily) written about elsewhere.

BTW -- I love "40 Mile Town", I've always thought it just doesn't get better than that.

Trust me. It does.

The Allemande section, rather than proceding the Courante gifts yet another surprise by closing out the album with four of the most sophisticated compositions yet to appear on an Eric Johnson record: the key to the musical term's application as the third sett being temperance: that is; eloquent, elegant, moderation.

There are two jazz instrumentals ("Hesitant" and "Magetized") the former featuring an acoustic bass and some of the fattest and smoothest guitar work I've ever heard out of EJ: the latter, a progressive homage to The Electromagnets, which in my mind seems to bring around the refrain from "My Back Pages" with a grin and glint in the eye.

The tune sandwiched between these two works is the last song of the record: a jazz ballad showing a leap in maturity and understanding of vocalise called "Sunnaround You".

The very last track is a straight classical guitar turn called "Ciel", which is the French word for heaven.

And it is a tone poem of whatever your hope of that place might be.

One other thing -- You Have to listen to this recording through headphones.

I am little Miss Curl-Up-And-Unspool-In-The-Headphones.

Audio Immersion: my drug of choice.

As terrific as Bloom is cranked through the house system: there are incredible, intimate vocal effects and drop ins, layers of textures, sound stratas and channel swirl stuff you are only going to pick up with direct injection via headphones.

It is acutely nuanced.

sheesh. Musical Pointillism. =)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kinda ho hum for me..., June 30, 2005
By 
James G. Newman (Antelope, CA. United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bloom (Audio CD)
I was really wanting more out of this great guitar player, this is one of those filler CD's..maybe his next one will be the one.

I loved the last live CD, but this one just don't do it for me. He reminds me of Robben ford, ya just keep waiting for that just killer CD, but it don't come. Don't get me wrong there are a few very cool songs on it, but over all it just don't add up..Tones is still his best CD, and thats sad for it was his first...save your money or buy his electromagnets CD..
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a musical garden, July 9, 2006
This review is from: Bloom (Audio CD)
This was the first cd of its type I have brought into my audio library,but it was a good introduction. I've known about Eric Johnson for most of his career and always was fond of his sound, but just never got around to adding any of his stuff to my collection. Then I went to a joint Joe Satriani/Eric Johnson evening, and the next day there were 3 new cds in my collection. This, his latest, is a nice presentation of all of his stuff, from chicken-pickin' (the excellent "Tribute to Jerry Reed") to smooth, cool jazz ("Hesitant" ; "Ciel"), to working his pleasant tenor in one of his forays into lyricism (the also pleasant "Sad Legacy" and "Your Sweet Eyes"). My main fault with Johnson's music is I can hardly ever understand what he's singing, but his voice is so agreeable and his tunes so listenable that i'm willing to overlook it. This is a solid body of work, full of clean lilting notes and stinging riffs. A good inclusion in the library of any guitar aficianado.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre at Best, September 23, 2005
By 
Humphrey Clinker (Cleveland, OH USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bloom (Audio CD)
We've heard it all before--and that's not a bad thing; considering Eric Johnson's brilliance. Unfortunately, the songs here do little to enhance his catalog. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but the overall impression is "uninspired," perhaps? I'm usually tempted to play EJ's songs on my guitar (yeah, right!) but I don't really feel the urge this time. Oh well, few artists can touch the emotional/technical heights that EJ has. If one had never heard his earlier stuff, I suspect one might have a more favorable opinion of Bloom. I keep hearing recycled riffs and structures which are only dim echoes of his groundbreaking excellence. Even the best run out of stellar ideas eventually.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Bloom", June 30, 2005
By 
G. Karaffa "gdkzen" (Jackson Heights, NY) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bloom (Audio CD)
Bloom

Eric Johnson's first solo album, entitled "Tones, was released in 1986. It's single word title is a glimpse into the mind of its creator. While the word "Tones" captures the essence of Johnson's obsession as a musician, it gives no indication as to the degree to which he is dedicated to that word. More than any other virtuoso electric guitarist, Eric Johnson is devoted to the quality of his sound. Although his technical skill is without question, it is a tool to reach his goal, rather than the goal itself. In pursuit of this personal "Holy Grail", Johnson takes notoriously long between studio releases. "Bloom" is Johnson's first studio release of the twenty first century, coming nearly a decade after the release of his last studio album, named "Venus Isle", and it is a different kind of recording than he has ever created.

"Bloom" is less an LP than a collection of three EP's. The first part of the CD, entitled "Prelude", is a collection of 6 rock tunes. Amongst five instrumentals is nestled the Bob Dylan cover "My Back Pages". The instrumentals cover territory that has largely been explored on his earlier albums. Though good vibes abound, there is little of note here. There are no pieces that standout on the scale of "Cliffs Of Dover" or "Trademark", Johnson's two most popular songs, both from his breakthrough album "Ah Via Musicom".

While "Prelude is somewhat unremarkable, the same cannot be said of part II: "Courante". This section is dominated by vocal tracks, which Eric Johnson has come to master nearly as well as his guitar. Amongst guitar virtuosos, Johnson has always had an uncommon vocal ability. While most guitarists eschew vocal ability, Johnson cultivates it, and it has become a fitting partner to his six string talents. His ability to integrate his compositional skill, instrumental virtuosity, and expressive vocal ability come to full fruition in this section.

At the beginning of "Courante", Johnson transitions from rock instrumentals to vocals via the haunting soundscape "Sea Secret". The word "Secret" is most apt. While Johnson's talent for creating soundscapes has been seen briefly on some of his recordings and live performances, this is his first overt effort into this area. It's heartening to see that Johnson's influences continue to grow beyond the ones that originally spurred him onto a musical career.

"Sea Secret" leads into "Sad Legacy", Johnson's first original vocal on the album. "Sad Legacy", a socially conscious piece that focuses on the karma that America has reaped from its sometimes brutal foreign policy, suffers from awkward lyrics at its beginning but soon finds its footing. By the time the piece ends, and the R&B track "From My Heart" begins, Johnson is back in fine lyrical form. The doubled baritone/tenor vocals of "From My Heart" are instantly reminiscent of the best work of "Earth, Wind & Fire", and Johnson's guitar playing most clearly references contemporary jazz/pop great George Benson.

Taking a break from vocals for two pieces, Johnson ventures into world music territory with "Cruise The Nile" and "Tribute To Jerry Reed". While the former continues to demonstrate Johnson's musical evolution, the latter further reinforces the importance of Johnson's original influences. Guest guitarist Adrian Legg, adds stylistic spice to the the latter piece's country twang.

The two instrumentals are perhaps most notable in that they preceed this album's greatest track. "Your Sweet Eyes" starts out in instrumental territory, with Johnson playing nylon string leads over beautiful synth padding. It seems that Johnson is preparing the listener for what comes next, as the piece soon morphs into perhaps the most moving vocal track that Johnson has ever written. This is no easy feat, since Johnson had set the bar incredibly high with "When The Sun Meets The Sky" from "Venus Isle". There are, in fact, striking similarities between the two pieces, yet "Your Sweet Eyes" remains original. Both tracks feature a prolonged instrumental overture at the beginning, and bring in guest vocalists later in the track. While Christopher Cross' singing on "Venus Isle" was largely in the background, however, Johnson elevates his guest Shawn Colvin to the role of duet partner in this piece. In a piece so obviously romantic as "Your Sweet Eyes", it is refreshing to see Johnson embrace the idea of a female vocal partner. He has done this before, on "Tones" with Jennifer Warnes, but never to this degree of synchronicity. Johnson further embellishes the piece with inspired electric work that never wanders into self-indulgence.

Having brought "Courante" to its highest point, Johnson moves onto "Allemande" and its Jazz inflected sounds. "Hesitant" is a remarkable departure from Johnson's traditional jazz offerings where he has always referenced Wes Montgomery heavily. While his previous jazz tracks always had the air of tributes, this track seems to be Eric Johnson exercising his own jazz voice. "Sunnaround You", another R&B piece is not as effective as "From My Heart" but that's completely understandable considering the company that it is keeping.

The last two tracks are a return to the instrumental format. "Magnetized", a clear reference to Johnson's seventies band "The Electromagnets", walks the stylistic tightrope jazz and rock. The track features some of Johnson's most lightning fast playing.

The final tune on "Bloom" is "Ciel", nylon string piece. The term "nylon string" is applied here, because it is not a classical, neo-classical, or flamenco piece. "Ciel" is perhaps more a soundscape played on the classical guitar than anything else. The piece is a fine closing to the album, but I find Johnson's nylon string sound to be displeasing, however this is a matter of personal taste.

In the end, Eric Johnson reaches the highest artistic points of his career on "Bloom", but as a whole the album is inconsistent. The "Courante" section alone is worth the price of this CD, but the other two sections yield little reward for the careful listener. I cannot help but believe that the negative reviews of "Venus Isle", which I believe to be Johnson's greatest album, affected him from a production point of view. Instead of charging ahead with a single vision, Johnson pursued three separate visions and fused them together on this album. That doesn't need to be a negative thing. Eric Johnson has a fan base that spans many tastes, and that is a very difficult thing to live up to. The fact that he's trying to make so many people happy is a credit to him as a human being - bringing joy to another person is perhaps the highest calling that exists.

Maybe I'm just being a greedy fan...

I want more "Courante"!
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Bloom
Bloom by Eric Johnson
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