November 22, 2010
New West
Jazz, Fusion, Instrumental Rock, Guitar Virtuoso, Album Rock

Album Review

Eric Johnson is held in such high regard as a guitarist, and his releases of new recordings are so infrequent, that a significant part of his discography has come to consist of juvenilia and other archival recordings. Live from Austin, TX '84 is not to be confused with the 2005 album Live from Austin TX. The earlier album chronicled a 1988 performance by Johnson; this one, as the title indicates, goes back a further four years, though it also chronicles an appearance on Austin City Limits. The difference is notable, since 1984 was two years before Johnson's national debut album, Tones. Here, however, he is already well formed, displaying a remarkable mastery of the guitar and of a variety of styles. He takes an architectural solo on the early instrumental "Friends," then performs a four-song acoustic mini-set that includes "Song for Life," which has a Renaissance flavor; a version of Paul Simon's "April Come She Will"; his "Tribute to Jerry Reed" (later to turn up on an official album); and the intricate "I'm Finding You." The range of his influences is indicated by the inclusions of Lalo Schifrin's jazzy "Down Here on the Ground," a tune written for the 1968 film Cool Hand Luke, and (no surprise) Jimi Hendrix's "Spanish Castle Magic." Fans will want the album simply for the early version of Johnson's hit instrumental "Cliffs of Dover," which is in the Joe Satriani/Steve Vai school of electric guitar workouts.
William Ruhlmann, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Soulful Terrain
  2. Friends
  3. All I Need
  4. Song for Life
  5. April Come She Will
  6. Tribute to Jerry Reed
  7. I'm Finding You
  8. Cliffs of Dover
  9. Down Here on the Ground
  10. Bristol Shores
  11. Spanish Castle Magic
  12. Soulful Terrain
  13. Friends
  14. All I Need
  15. Song for Life
  16. April Come She Will
  17. Tribute to Jerry Reed
  18. I'm Finding You
  19. Cliffs of Dover
  20. Down Here on the Ground
  21. Bristol Shores
  22. Spanish Castle Magic