Johnny Bristol

Feeling the Magic

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After establishing himself as a considerable multi-talented figure at Motown during the label's Detroit heyday, Johnny Bristol went solo, cutting several long-players beginning in the mid-'70s. His second, Feeling the Magic (1975), is much in keeping with his debut, Hang On In There Baby (1974), if not in some ways arguably stronger. Veteran Motown arranger Paul Riser sets a perfect balance of solid, swinging uptempo grooves and sultry intimate ballads. The opener, "Leave My World," rocks steadily behind an airy Memphis-style soul shuffle. He also utilizes one of his trademark vocal overdubs, giving the listener the impression of two vocalists as his double-tracked voice sounds as if there are alternating performers, especially when singing harmonies. "Morganton, North Carolina" is an edgy reminiscence of the hard times and experiences that shaped Bristol during the days in his hometown. The horn and string sections lay down tasty Philly soul fills over the top of the otherwise driving backbeat. Pulling off a great Barry White-inspired vibe, "Love Takes Tears" weaves a soaring hypnotic melody not unlike the one incorporated into the title track from Hang On In There Baby, which was itself a huge crossover hit -- although when "Love Takes Tears" was issued on a 45 b/w "Go On and Dream," it failed to enter the pop charts and stalled at 72 on the R&B countdown. "Feeling the Magic" is a full-bodied knockout that could have doubled for Al Green under the spell of Thom Bell. Showing his lascivious side, Bristol seethes through "Lusty Lady" with an unapologetic and irresistibly honest portrayal of a well-known and recently departed prostitute. The pace slows for the tender and heartfelt longing of "I'm Just a Loser" and the romantic and introspective "All Goodbyes Aren't Gone." "I Wouldn't Change a Thing" concludes Feeling the Magic on a positive note and hitting on all cylinders. Particularly notable is guitarist Melvin "Wah Wah" Ragin's emphatic fretwork, which adds an effervescent luster to the already vivacious score.

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