Review Summary: Eric Johnson comes out with an under appreciated guitar classic despite the shortcomings this album brings.
Eric Johnson is one hell of a guitarist. From releasing albums since 1978 to being on the G3 tour, this man never stops. He's found himself his rightfully earned spot in the music world. He plays the guitar like an animal living in modern society; he has a raw vibe amongst his playing, but he polishes it up with decent studio production and tasteful playing. He also makes his music interesting by deciding to sing over it. Let's face it; instrumental guitar music can be boring. Guys who show more style over substance (Steve Vai) to those who play the same notes over and over again (Yngwie Malmsteen) don't hold a candle to this guy. Eric Johnson established himself as one of the first shred guitarists who could play tastefully and melodically and have vocals on his tracks without having them reek of trying too hard. Eric Johnson can rightfully be considered one of the best guitar players in the world. Ah Via Musicom was the album that made Johnson famous and rightfully so; it contains some of his best songs to date.
Ah Via Musicom contains many classic songs within it's disc-shaped exterior. You have one of the ultimate guitar songs, Cliffs Of Dover
, to the ballad-rock of Desert Rose
to the hard rocking guitars of Righteous
. Almost every song has a hook or guitar riff that immediately grabs your attention. Cliffs Of Dover opens up with it's instantly recognizable intro solo and catchy main riff and the previously mentioned Righteous opens up with a classic Fifties-style rock 'n' roll riff. No song is ever short on hooks except for the little acoustic guitar solos in the middle of the album, put as stand alone songs. The album runs a gamut of styles, from country to 80's pop to blues to hard rock to shred guitar. You're guaranteed to find something interesting or suited to your tastes on this album. You've got two excellent guitar based ballads in Desert Rose and Forty Mile Town and you also get some bluesy riffs in High Landrons. Eric Johnson is an expert at combining multiple styles into just one song. He doesn't just play guitar solos like other "shredders"; he writes actually songs and selects his note choices wisely
Eric Johnson has a such a sweet, expressive guitar tone. His liquid tone and light sounds only compliment the songwriting. Granted, some of the sections of songs could've used some heavier riffing but other than that, he has perfect tone. I also forgot there are various instruments played throughout this. You have the standard guitar, drums and bass trio but you also get extra instruments like harmonica and lap steel which evoke a country vibe. There's also acoustic guitar, piano, various bits of percussion and even an electric sitar.
He's not content with just having his musicians playing standard instruments. Unfortunately, some of them are harder to hear than others. You have to listen with a pair of nice expensive headphones to catch all of the subtle sounds of some of the extra instruments. They play some some light melodies in the background to accent the song.
Despite how interesting this album may sound, it still has its shortcomings. The production is where i stand on a love-hate relationship. It makes the album listenable, but it buries all of the other instruments except for guitar, vocals and drums. You never really get to hear some of the additional instruments played. Also, Eric Johnson, despite being a better singer than most in the shred guitar genre, is still not that great of a singer. His attempts at singing 80's pop vocals combined with his cheesy lyrics makes for a part of the album that's only worth hearing on a couple of songs. This would have been better as an all instrumental album. Overall, Ah Via Musicom is really worth checking out. It's a stand out in a genre full of endless imitations and many of the songs could be considered radio-worthy. A fantastic listen, i recommend this to anyone interested in music in general. 4/5
Cliffs Of Dover