Johnny Johnson

Breakin' Down the Walls of Heartache: The Best of 1968-1975

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Johnny Johnson & the Bandwagon were kind of oddballs as soul groups went, not so much for their music as for their unusual career path. Though Johnson and his group had little success in their native U.S., it was a different story over in the U.K., where they landed three Top Ten hits and a couple smaller ones in the late '60s and early '70s. This well-chosen compilation has a couple dozen of their tracks, all but one from 1967-1972 (the 1968-1975 date range of the title being off by one year), variously billed to the Bandwagon, Johnny Johnson & the Bandwagon, or Johnny Johnson & His Bandwagon. Certainly the biggest and best of them is the 1968 number four British hit "Breakin' Down the Walls of Heartache," which sounds a little like a Motown record that you think you must have heard sometime on AM radio, but haven't (and which was later covered by Dexys Midnight Runners). None of the other late-'60s cuts are in the same league, and the Bandwagon often sound like a Motown group that couldn't quite stay on the roster. Sometimes, indeed, it seems as if they can't decide whether to emulate the Four Tops or the tougher side of the Temptations, sometimes coming off like a somewhat poppier version of the Four Tops. But while Johnson was far from the most original or talented of artists (and there are a few forgettable covers of soul and rock hits padding out his recorded repertoire), the discs he cut for Epic were on the whole pretty likable, if a little lightweight in their somewhat ersatz Motown feel. The Epic material takes up almost two-thirds of this compilation, but the disc does also include just slightly poppier stuff he did in the early '70s, including the big British hits "Blame It (On the Pony Express)" -- whose chorus lifts a hook from the theme to the Scooby Doo cartoon -- and "Sweet Inspiration." Also among the later cuts is what has to be the strangest cover of "Mr. Tambourine Man" this side of William Shatner, done with such an overt belting early-'70s soul arrangement that you might not even recognize the song until the chorus.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 02:36 Amazon
2 03:08 Amazon
3 03:07 Amazon
4 03:05 Amazon
5
02:08 Amazon
6 03:00 Amazon
7 02:46 Amazon
8 03:10 Amazon
9 02:55 Amazon
10
02:46 Amazon
11 02:31 Amazon
12 02:56 Amazon
13
03:03 Amazon
14
02:48 Amazon
15 03:13 Amazon
16 03:06 Amazon
17 03:09 Amazon
18 02:35 Amazon
19 02:57 Amazon
20 03:07 Amazon
21 03:05 Amazon
22 03:35 Amazon
23 02:32 Amazon
24 02:21 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick