Sammy Johns' "Chevy Van," an ode to romance in the back of a van, reportedly boosted the sales of Chevy vans when it hit the Top Five in 1975. Johns' sunny country-folk-rock style recalls Jonathan Edwards, as do his celebrations of the simple pleasures of "Early Morning Love" (a minor hit) and "Friends of Mine." Johns graced the adult contemporary charts with "Rag Doll" and the nostalgic "Peas in a Pod" during his mid-'70s heyday, but, ironically, his chart career ended as he moved from the short-lived independent label GRC to larger labels. Golden Classics compiles all but two songs from Johns' self-titled GRC album from 1975, and a handful of singles dating from 1973-1976, one of which ("Run Boy Run") is audibly mastered from vinyl. Johns occasionally flavors his easygoing singer/songwriter sound with Cajun seasoning ("Bayou Bay") or gospel flourishes ("Shake a Hand"), but the biggest surprise to listeners familiar only with "Chevy Van" will be the overtly religious nature of many of his songs, from "Holy Mother Aging Father" to "Way Out Jesus" (misidentified as "Way Out Tears" on the CD). Johns wrote all but two of the songs, and his choice of covers also reflects his religious sensibility: "We Will Shine" was written by gospel star Mylon LeFevre, and "Rag Doll" comes from Steve Eaton's 1974 album Hey Mr. Daydreamer, which also contains strong religious messages. GRC, the label for which Johns recorded, was owned by the notorious pornographer and murderer Michael Thevis and went out of business when Thevis was jailed in 1976, which contrasts starkly with the gentle nature and religious orientation of Johns' music.
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AllMusic Review by Greg Adams