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Scott Johnson - John Somebody CD (album) cover

JOHN SOMEBODY

Scott Johnson

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars At the time that this album was originall released in 1986, Steve Vai was already known for his guitar imitation of first Frank Zappa's spoken voice, and then David Lee Roth's. Scott Johnson took a similar technique, and expanded it into something quite spectacular.

On the 4-part (I have the original, not the expanded version) piece John Somebody, Johnson took a number of recorded spoken word tapes, cut a few specific phrases, and used the speakers' own vocal inflections to develop intricate melodies. By splicing, looping and layering these tapes, he developed some backing tracks containing distinct melodies, upon which he added more layers of guitar, bass, electronics, percussion and woodwinds. The result is a set of pieces that sound otherworldly, but at the same time, eerily human.

What he has created is difficult to describe, but I do feel a slight comparison to Captain Beefheart,s band, around the time of "Shiny Beast" may be appropriate. He begins with a phrase, repeated a few times, until it begins to sound musical. He then begins adding guitar, then other instruments, until each piece is overflowing with lushness and intensity.

I must make a special note for Part 3 - Involuntary Songs. This piece is nothing less than brilliant. In this section, Johnson takes some tapes of a woman (or is it women?) laughing, and using his editing techniques, manages to come up with an incredible backing track that contains numerous themes and melodies, which he expertly embellishes with guitar.

On the last track of the album, No Memory, Johnson gives the same treatment to shorter tape edits, which come out as mere vocal noises. On this piece, he does more manipulation of the sounds, with harmonizers and pitch shifters. Here, the track he creates becomes as much a rhythm track as a musical accompaniment. But the sound is no less exquisite.

One of these days I have to get the expanded CD.

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Posted Thursday, February 28, 2013 | Review Permalink

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