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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EJ is back!
It's been five long years since the release of Eric Johnson's last disc "Bloom" and now, finally is his latest release "Up Close".
For Mr. Johnson this is a quick turnaround for new music seeing that the span between "Bloom" and his previous release "Venus Isle" was eight lonnnggg years.
This is what we Eric Johnson fans have grown accustomed to because the end...
Published on December 7, 2010 by D. L. Worthing

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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A welcome return but a mixed bag
Being a long time fan, its great to see a new EJ album after the wait since 2005's "Bloom".

Unfortunately, Up Close is a bit hit and miss in its delivery - lots of variety but the album feels disjointed, more like a collection of singles, with too many guest vocal collaborations.

That's not to say that the guests don't deliver:- there are some fine...
Published on December 20, 2010 by aMusings


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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A welcome return but a mixed bag, December 20, 2010
This review is from: Up Close (Audio CD)
Being a long time fan, its great to see a new EJ album after the wait since 2005's "Bloom".

Unfortunately, Up Close is a bit hit and miss in its delivery - lots of variety but the album feels disjointed, more like a collection of singles, with too many guest vocal collaborations.

That's not to say that the guests don't deliver:- there are some fine performances, particularly Johnny Lang on Austin and Malford Milligan on Brilliant Room. Austin is probably the album highlight (it's also the first single from the CD) with a melody that immediately recalls Stevie Wonder's "I was made to love her" - top stuff!

Austin is also the best balanced collaboration, allowing EJ to step forward with some fantastic soloing but too often the other vocal tracks seem to showcase mainly the vocalists, and EJ's signature melodic guitar runs rarely take centre stage (see for example Brilliant Room or A Change Has Come to Me.)

Texas is a close relation of Red House, and features Steve Miller on vocals. Being EJ, it's technically flawless in performance, but ultimately remains a fairly standard blues number that fails to excite or explore new territory and, at 6+mins long, it actually stops the album's early build up of momentum.

On the plus side, Arithmetic and Your Book are both wonderful ballads, with Eric taking lead vocals. It's not new ground for Eric but these are both great songs and touching performances.

It's a shame that A Change Has Come to Me doesn't fulfil its early promise, opening with some great chiming tones, some lovely Hendrixy phrasing and a strong chorus but the song never lands the knockout punch, losing direction somewhat in its latter stages, with a reprise section that feels tacked on and awkward.

Of the instrumental tracks, Gem is the standout and ranks among EJ's best work - a real signature piece that could easily sit on the classic, Ah Via Musicom. Fatdaddy is punchy and fun, although Soul Surprise is a mid-tempo piece that slips by without really demanding or capturing the listener's attention. Vortexan plays with the riff from "No One Knows" by QOTSA before taking us on a Texan boogie in the spirit of early ZZ Top, and is another of the album's high points. On The Way is a country piece, returning to a familiar stylistic theme for Eric and recalling earlier efforts, Steve's Boogie / Tribute to Jerry Reed.

As a final aspect to the variety on offer here, there are 3 "interludes" throughout the album which sit between tracks but don't actually serve as stylistic or melodic links. Layers of tuneful guitar overdubs & feedback build up, more soundscapes (or noodling if you want to be hyper-critical!) than actual songs. At less than 2 mins each, these pieces aren't substantial enough to develop any musical ideas, so they feel a bit redundant to sit through.

Overall, Up Close is certainly a classy effort, full of great playing, writing and vocal performances. The production is also great - loud but clear and dynamic. EJ looks to be aiming for some crossover appeal with the guest vocalists, however the downside of that is the songs don't gel together stylistic which makes the album - as a whole - a less satisfying listening experience.

Up Close is not, therefore, a contender for Eric's career-best album (currently Ah Via Musicom with Venus Isle close behind) but it's worth checking out, notably for Austin and Gem which should definitely be on any EJ fan's best-of playlist!
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EJ is back!, December 7, 2010
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This review is from: Up Close (Audio CD)
It's been five long years since the release of Eric Johnson's last disc "Bloom" and now, finally is his latest release "Up Close".
For Mr. Johnson this is a quick turnaround for new music seeing that the span between "Bloom" and his previous release "Venus Isle" was eight lonnnggg years.
This is what we Eric Johnson fans have grown accustomed to because the end result is always outstanding and this release is no different.
This disc is a little different then previous releases.
Eric who does most of his own vocals, has many guests taking over the vocal reins. Steve Miller on "Texas", bluesman Jonny Lang on "Austin" and Malford Milligan does "Brilliant Room".
Guitar greats Sonny Landreth and Jimmy Vaughn also make appearances playing guitar on "Your Book" and "Texas" respectively.
The great Johnson instrumentals are also here. Fatdaddy and Gem are two of my new favorites.
After giving it a few listens it could very well be one his best.
This will be in my home system for quite some time.
So EJ and guitar fans go out and buy this as an early Christmas present to yourself, because, like me, I couldn't wait.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Grows on You (in a good way), December 28, 2010
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This review is from: Up Close (Audio CD)
Like many of my favorite albums, this one grew on me the more I listened to it. Eric has some guest singers on a few tracks, which was cool. His lead tone has evolved over the years. There's definitely less delay on this album than in the past; giving it a more natural sound. I like it.

Instrumental Tunes: 'Fatdaddy' and 'Vortexan' to me seem like generic bluesy-rock space-fillers without much meat. I felt the same way about 'Camel's Night Out' and some of Eric's other previous tracks. Conversely, the instrumental tune 'Gem' is catchy. Think 'Pavilion'. I think the chicken pickin' tune 'On the Way' is unremarkable.

Vocal Tunes: Honestly, I've always found Eric's lyrics a bit trite and obtuse. I felt the same about 'A Change Has Come to Me', 'Brilliant Room', 'Your Book', and 'Arithmetic' at first as well. The fantastic phrasing between lines, Hendrixy tone, and catchy melody on '...Change' finally won me over. 'Brilliant Room' has some great leads. 'Arithmetic' has a good message and probably has some deep meaning for Eric, and I appreciate it from that level. The brief intro to 'Arithmetic' is wonderful and reminds me of a more complex version of the intro to 'Take My Hand' by Toto (credits from the movie Dune).

All said, I like this album better than 'Bloom' and think it's on par with 'Venus Isle'. I'd give it a 4.5 if I could, but will round up to 5 since I've been an EJ fan for many years.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The RajMan (Fan) Review, December 18, 2010
By 
Raj Manoharan "RajMan" (New York Metropolitan Area) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Up Close (Audio CD)
The first new studio album in five years from Grammy Award-winning Texas guitar hero Eric Johnson has finally arrived, and it's quite the trip - and well worth the wait. Like his other CDs a mix of instrumentals and vocal songs mostly penned by him and showcasing his unique virtuosity on the electric guitar, Up Close includes some of the best work that Johnson has ever written and recorded.

The album is dripping with crackling guitars. If a guitar died and went to heaven, this is what heaven would sound like. Johnson is on fire, effortlessly weaving incredible, sparkling solos in and out of both the instrumental and vocal tracks. The vocal songs range from energetic blues and rock numbers to gorgeous, heartfelt ballads. Inspired like never before, Johnson plays and sings with a fervor not present in his previous work. Perhaps Johnson is like a fine vintage wine, improving with age.

I was first introduced to the music of Johnson 20 years ago by an employee at a local cable television station I was interning at during my senior year of high school. That was the year Johnson, then 36 years old, released his breakthrough second album, Ah Via Musicom, which achieved the distinction of having three instrumental songs reach the American Top Ten.

As accomplished and groundbreaking as Ah Via Musicom and its edgier and sonically more expansive 1996 follow-up, Venus Isle, are, Johnson has really poured his living, breathing essence into Up Close. The result is the best guitar-based album of the last several years, and one of the best guitar-based and general music albums of all time.

With Up Close, Johnson is at the top of his game as a guitarist, composer, and singer. He has created a masterwork of soulful jazz/pop/rock fusion that exudes passion, especially through his trademark virtuosic guitar sound. Even with guest vocals by Malford Milligan, Steve Miller, and Johnny Lang, and guitar performances by Jimmie Vaughan, Steve Hennig, and Sonny Landreth, the album is clearly all Eric Johnson up close front and center.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't stop listening to it!, December 10, 2010
This review is from: Up Close (Audio CD)
I've had Up Close for 3 days now, and it has been on constant rotation in my car since then. I've probably gone through the entire album 10 times or so. No guitar player touches my soul like Eric Johnson does. It's not just his brilliant tones and fantastic technique, but the positive beauty that come from the music he writes and plays. He's one of those artists that really transcends notes and reaches a higher spiritual place with his playing.

The song "Arithmetic" is the one that stands out the most to me. From the incredible opening run, right into one of his most beautiful melodies and lyrics since "Bristol Shore", the song almost seems to be talking about his love of music as much as a woman. It is breathtakingly gorgeous.

"Gem" is another track, an instrumental in this case, that also has that wonderful feel to it. Just a beautiful composition, and one I can't wait to hear him expand on live.

There is so much to talk about, as this album is just great from start to finish. I suggest you just buy it and soak in the music. EJ is a true gift to all guitarists and musicians.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Guitar Hero Everyone Can Appreciate, December 10, 2010
By 
MattyOH (Ohio, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Up Close (Audio CD)
I love Eric Johnson's music and have stayed loyal since "Tones" first came out for the same reasons I have stayed loyal to artists like Steve Morse and Joe Satriani. They play to their strengths, have a unique, instantly-identifiable tone, write memorable, accessible melodies, and don't engage in excessive, self-indulgent "noodling" and experimentation that gets in the way of the song itself. Plus, unlike most other instrumental guitar heroes who choose to occasionally sing, Johnson has a gorgeous voice, and while I'm not 100% sure what some of his lyrics are all about, the songs are still pleasant and enjoyable. ERIC, PLEASE COME TO COLUMBUS, OH next time you tour! :-)
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great CD, December 9, 2010
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J. Lewis (Washington,DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Up Close (Audio CD)
This is a must buy if you are an EJ fan. This CD passed the driving and listening test with flying colors.....You won't be disappointed. Highly reccomended!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Up Close and Personal, August 16, 2011
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This review is from: Up Close (Audio CD)
This is the first album recorded entirely in Johnson's home studio (which reportedly took Johnson 15 years to build). The sound of the record doesn't come across as quite as sterile as his previous studio albums ,and the addition of several guest artists really adds to the looser vibe. By Eric Johnson's standards, the five year gap between 2005's "Bloom" and 2010's Up Close is not unexpected. It's the shortest time between albums since "Ah Via Musicom" followed "Tones" by four years. Although "Up Close" couldn't be called spontaneous, it does have a looseness that's often absent in Johnson's previous studio work. "Up Close" is Eric Johnson served straight-up: it is not far removed from the feel of "Ah Via Musicom", but does lack some of the major melodic motifs that resonated so much with crossover listeners.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Up Close, March 13, 2011
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This review is from: Up Close (MP3 Music)
Incredible Album... If Venus Isle is my favorite and ah via musicom is #2... then this is number 3! Love nearly every song... Personally I think texas kills the flow of the album and not a fan of steve millers vocal performance, would have rather just had EJ sing it. Still an awesome track but I think it should have been put in after the country tune or something. Brilliant Room is hands down of of EJs best. Buy this album just for that song!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Album, December 24, 2010
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This review is from: Up Close (MP3 Music)
Eric has a unique approach to playing, and he's stayed true to his muse since I first heard him over 30 years ago. The 'Lone Wolf' conflict in the 70's may have been good in a way: after that, Eric seemed to focus less on the commercial aspects, and more on the playing - his success being almost incidental. `Staying true' doesn't imply that he doesn't evolve - he does. The harmonic structure of his composing has become more sophisticated, while his soloing has matured - leveraging a rare sense of melody and phrasing (when he's not doing a 'Hendrix thing', he's almost Mozartian in the way his phrases attack harmonic structure and resolve - that's Eric's muse I think). This is a wonderful album that gets better with repeated listening (there's a lot going on there!).

But I have to say this: in some ways, Eric suffers from a Sonny Rollins syndrome in terms of capturing his creative energy in the studio. He obviously loves tinkering in the studio - but I swear, he's one of the best live improvisers out there - he can create incredible, complex, beautiful lines that extend endlessly without repeating. Not `guitar licks' dribbling out - substantial musical phrases. Worth listening to - with or without all that SOUND and VOLUME.

There are few players that can improvise like that (Rollins being one). Eric is best when he's stretching. I guess, to some degree, the `Alien Lovechild' album does this - and it's good. But that's not enough for me. How many live albums did Miles Davis do (including the studio 'one-takes' that were unrehearsed)? When you have that kind of talent - go for it!
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Up Close
Up Close by Eric Johnson (Audio CD - 2010)
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