L.J. Johnson

The Best of L.J. Johnson: My Destination Is Love

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One of Englishman Ian Levine's first American soul discoveries, Chicagoan L.J. Johnson was among the said producer's earliest acts promoted on the British Northern soul scene. His sensual, soulful falsetto tones and natural phrasing carried the chugging stomper "Your Magic Put a Spell on Me" to much success there, resulting in an appearance on the famed Top of the Pops. Levine and partner Danny Ray Leake's busy arrangement is replete with an insistent string section, a charging backbeat, and fanatical horns which all add up to a quite upbeat listening experience, but occasionally intrude on Johnson's territory. The more restrained follow-up, "Dancing on the Edge of a Dream," allows the singer to shine more, while displaying his tenor range in full voice. In addition to these singles, My Destination Is Love includes all of the tracks from Johnson's 1979 AVI LP L.J.'s Love Suite, as well as three "lost" tracks that were previously only available on a scarce vinyl-issue series from England in the late '80s. Many of the selections are disco-fied R&B numbers, such as "24 Hours a Day," earlier recorded by fellow Levine protégée Barbara Pennington, and the fulfilling title track. But there are also several charming throwbacks to Motown's heyday in "Floating" and "Daydreams Can Come True," and Johnson's seductive coo makes the ballads "Staring in Space" and "Things Will Work Out in the End" nothing but sheer quiet storm heaven. The end result is considerably further ranging than what would be similar compilations on other Levine-driven acts of the time such as Tyrone Ashley and Doris Jones. The difference lies in both Johnson's captivating delivery and also the production and arrangement input of Leake, whose style is less clothes-pinned than Levine's primary subsequent collaborator, Fiachra Trench. The only shortcoming of this collection is the editing of four tracks off of the Love Suite LP -- time-wise, there's ample room for the full recordings. But that weakness will remain until a superior L.J. Johnson collection comes along.

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