Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Paul Johnson - Liquid Bluesdotdotdot
artworkSurf legend Paul Johnson never seems to lose his touch. While much of the music on this release has been done many times by Paul in various incarnations, he always discovers new territory to explore as he reinvents his own work. That's quite a feat for a guitarist with a pedigree that goes back to 1960 with his seminal surf band the Belairs. Most of this is not surf. All of it is exquisite guitar instrumental music as only PJ can make. If you haven't discovered his long trail, search out the Belairs, PJ and the Galaxies, the Challengers, the Good Guys, the Hollywood Surfers, PJ and Artie, Davie Allan and the Arrows, the Everpresent Fullness, the Packards, the Paul Johnson Band, the Hep Cats, the current version of the Surfaris, plus PM Records. His songs have been covered a bazillion times, most notably "Mr. Moto."
Picks: Andele, California Dreamin', Greenroom, Uptown Strut, Spiro, Java Jump, Desert Madness (tango), Coney Island Fever, Big Shot, Tsunami, Albion Blues, The Ring Of Truth, Perseverance

Track by Track Review


Andele dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Paul Johnson has recorded this many times over the years in various incarnations. As always, it's a fine tune with a warm progression and friendly rhythm. I'm still most partial to the Packards' version. This is very nice and pretty, and continues to infectious.

California Dreamin' dotdotdot
Folk Rock (Instrumental)

The Mama's and the Papa's top forty folk rock epic is presented in a fairly straight format. It's warm with smooth guitar and a solid eighties beat.

Greenroom 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. It's more a mood piece than a surf song, yet it does invoke sunset shoreline images. Nice track.

Uptown Strut dotdotdot
Blues / Jazz (Instrumental)

Bluesin', choppin', and groovin' on a lazy afternoon. A very nice tune with a jazzy feel.

Spiro dotdotdot
Blues Surf (Instrumental)

Spanish threads run through "Spiro" as it spirals endlessly through many seaside villages. Warm and friendly, this is a very nice track. Paul's tone is warm, and the performance quite smooth.

Java Jump dotdotdot
Jump (Instrumental)

Backwoods jump and jive fun ooze from every corner of this happy number. Bouncy and very well played, "Java Jump" brings grins all around.

Desert Madness (tango) dotdotdotdot
Surf Tango (Instrumental)

This is such a cool instro, with a tango beat and traditional tango sounding melody. Paul's playing is exquisite, and the rhythm very catchy. Fluid and celebrative.

Coney Island Fever dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This song is structured like his old Belairs tunes in many ways. The guitar sound is dry a la the Southbay Sound. The melody is catchy too. Just plain fun.

Big Shot dotdotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

This is the tune Paul cut with the Challengers way back when. This is significantly slower and more poppy. The horns and the tones, along with the rest of the arrangement place it in the MOR arena, yet make it laugh and play too. Pretty fun.

Tsunami dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

In Paul Johnson's eighties Christian Rock style, based largely on finger picking and Paul's exquisite balance between lead and rhythm, "Tsunami" is a stellar composition that rides at the edge of the genre, and sports fluid feelings and rhythmic pacing. It's also been titled "El Niño."

Albion Blues dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a classical sounding piece Paul has been playing for a long time. It's very pretty, though not very surfy. The guitar work is exquisite, as usual. The pace is slow and deliberate, yet fluid. A little sad, yet warm. "Albion Blues" is a lot like "Lure of the Curl."

The Ring Of Truth dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

"The Ring Of Truth" is a fluid piece with an interesting melody line. A little understated perhaps, but quite nice, especially when Paul's lead kicks in at he midpoint. He has a knack of making solo soaring seem like flights of birds instead of mindless noodling.

Perseverance dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

This essentially gentle number is a warm excursion into a new dawn after a significantly trying time. Optimistic, with a sense of relief.