Monday, February 27, 2017

EJ (2016), by Eric Johnson

CD Fan Review

To this day, Eric Johnson’s acoustic guitar instrumental “Desert Song,” from his 1986 debut album Tones, strikes me as underwhelming. Perhaps it’s because it stands alone among and pales in comparison to his vastly superior electric guitar songs on that record.

However, Johnson’s acoustic compositions have improved greatly over the years – his virtuosity as both an electric and an acoustic guitarist was never in question – and EJ, his first full acoustic guitar and piano album, showcases him at the apex of his skills away from the electric guitar.

Housed in an elegant digipak with a glossy booklet and high-quality artwork and photographs, the collection provides a balanced mix of acoustic guitar and/or piano instrumentals and vocal songs – some covers and some originals – with additional backing from guest musicians and vocalists on a few tracks.

In addition to his superb mastery of frets and keys, Johnson is also at the top of his game as a singer. At 62 years of age, he still sounds exactly like he did in his 20s, but with more soulful nuance and the wisdom of much experience.

Instrumental highlights include “Once Upon a Time in Texas,” “Song for Irene,” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” Of the vocal songs – all of which are excellent – my personal favorites are the folksy jazz-rock fusion take on Jimi Hendrix's "One Rainy Wish," "All Things You Are," and the epic, stunning solo piano rendition of Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair/Canticle."

EJ not only takes its place alongside Eric Johnson’s finest works and the top guitar/piano albums, but also as one of the best efforts in any music genre.

--Raj Manoharan

Friday, February 10, 2017

Live at Jay Resort, Jay, Vermont 9/10/2016 (2016), by Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers

Music Download Fan Review

I was looking for a good overview of Bruce Hornsby’s thus-far 30-year career, and wouldn’t you know it, Hornsby himself just provided a great one as a free download at

With a running time of at least two hours, this set not only revisits some seminal songs from The Range but also features a lot of Hornsby’s solo and Noisemaker material.

While the majority of the tunes are not as recognizable as Hornsby’s hits from his 1980s heyday, they all feature his unique talents on piano, keyboards, accordion, and hammered dulcimer, as well as his penchant for quirky, funky rhythmic grooves.

And from the sound of his voice, Hornsby’s pipes are as golden as ever, showing no trace of his 62 years of age. In fact, Hornsby’s singing leaves today’s younger “talents” in the dust.

Adding to the exhilaration and exuberance of this live performance is the energetic and enthusiastic playing of The Noisemakers: JV Collier on bass, Gibb Droll on guitar, JT Thomas on organ, Ross Holmes on fiddle and mandolin, and Sonny Emory on drums and percussion.

Musical highlights include “Take Out the Trash,” “Dreamland,” “The Show Goes On,” and Hornsby’s brilliant, beautiful, breathtaking fusion of his “Fortunate Son” with the Pink Floyd classic “Comfortably Numb.”

If you’re looking for an awesome and enjoyable celebration of Bruce Hornsby’s first 30 years of music, this timely and entertaining release certainly fits the bill.

--Raj Manoharan

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Richard Hatch (1945-2017)

I was a literally starry-eyed five-year-old when I first saw Battlestar Galactica upon its premiere in 1978.

For the next year, I was rapt as I watched Commander Adama (Lorne Greene), his son Captain Apollo (Richard Hatch), and Lieutenant Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) lead a ragtag fleet of spaceships in search of the lost thirteenth human colony, Earth.

Around the same time, or maybe a little while after, I remember seeing Hatch on the big screen in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen.

In the late 1990s, I had the good fortune, honor, and privilege of interviewing Hatch by telephone for the IGN Sci-Fi Web site. At the time, Hatch had written a couple of Battlestar Galactica novels and produced a professionally made trailer for a potential sequel series starring him and many veterans of the original show.

At the end of the interview, I mentioned to Hatch that my mother was a fan of his since his soap opera days. He immediately asked for my mother’s name and address and promptly mailed her a personally autographed black-and-white photograph of himself.

Thank you, Mr. Hatch, for taking the time to talk to me, and also for your graciousness.

--Raj Manoharan