Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Paul Johnson - El Niño [Tsunami]dotdotdot
artworkThis is Paul Johnson's first new release in a long time, and it's about half previously released/recorded, and half newer. It has a generally lush sound, and a more easy listening attack than surf or rock. Paul continues to produce music that is pretty, melodic, and moving more and more towards gentle flowing backdrops. The rhythms are infectious often, but the energy and power of the old days is mostly replaced by a gentility and pristine sound. It is a generally good CD, though not very surfy. Paul continues his need to publicize his religion through everything he does, and here it is in the liner notes. This is a single from his new Liquid Blues album.
Picks: El Nino (Tsunami), Tropical Dreams (aka), Andelé, Green Room, Liquid Blues, El Nino (voices out takes) (Tsunami), El Nino (guitars only) (Tsunami)

Track by Track Review

El Nino (Tsunami) dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Steve Zuckerman wrote this, and Paul recorded it for the Challengers' New Wave CD under the name "Tsunami." It is infectious enough, but very un surf-like. Mostly in Paul's born again Christian instro style, this song is well structured and played (as always with Paul's work). It features his trademark balance between the lead and rhythm. The vibrato is grand. It's not very surfy.

Tropical Dreams (aka) dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Slushy, fluid, airy, dreamy, romantic... this has a very low key sound, less intense but otherwise similar to the Aqua Velvets current direction. Paul wrote this, and it is very pretty. A backdrop for an island scene. The swelling male chorus or keyboard (can't tell which) seems a bit too old-fartish, and the new age keyboard frills are nice, but somehow upset the balance of the track.

Andelé dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another recording of this classic PJ track from the days with the Belairs. This must be the 5th or 6th time Paul has laid it down. I tend to like the early eighties Packards version the best. This is nice and pretty, and not as infectious as the earlier versions. Time to put it to rest.

Green Room dotdotdot
Tribal Third World Mood (Instrumental)

This is more mystical, with the wobble board giving it a Southern hemispheric tribal ambiance. melodic, eerie, distant, interesting. Paul's use of a few damped reverbed notes in the middle add a certain wetness not otherwise present. More a mood piece than a surf song. It gets pretty repetitious before it's over.

Liquid Blues dotdot
Blues (Instrumental)

Like the title says, it's a blues, and a cowboy blues at that. Lookin' for the right bovine in a herd of Herefords, a black Angus would strut his horned stuff to this. Nice, tasty, but unremarkable.

El Nino (voices out takes) (Tsunami) dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Four bit's of failed introductions to track 1 for under a minute. A through away. Like bloopers from the audio file.

El Nino (guitars only) (Tsunami) dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

I think Paul is one fine player, and the proof is right here. How many guitarists' work stand up the removal of the backtrack. Paul's guitars are alone, and it is quite complete, even more interesting than the intended mix from track 1. Say what you will about the old guys, and given Paul's musical pace is lightening up, but at moments like this, there are few who can touch his exquisite playing.