Live From Austin, TX '84

Eric Johnson

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Live From Austin, TX '84 Review

by William Ruhlmann

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.

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