Wilko Johnson

The Best of Wilko Johnson, Vol. 2

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Given the renewed interest in all things Dr. Feelgood and guitarist Wilko Johnson due to Julien Temple's acclaimed film Oil City Confidential, about the band and its iconic songwriter and axeman, this best-of collection was an inevitability, though one long overdue. Both volumes one and two focus on tracks Johnson cut with Dr. Feelgood and as a solo act, first with his Solid Senders and then with his new one -- although he has dwelt in obscurity for the past 25 years, he has released a number of albums with his powerful trio featuring the great Norman Wyatt on bass and a couple of different drummers, and has played incessantly in pubs and small clubs throughout Europe. Though it’s true that Johnson spent a bit of time as a member of Ian Dury’s Blockheads, that is not the focus of either of these volumes issued by Cadiz. Musically, the 12 tracks of material on volume one are rich and varied, and carry Johnson’s singular guitar style -- though none of it is live and therefore lacks some of the sheer kinetic insanity of the live performances. While it ranges across his career, one of the more frustrating aspects of this collection is its lack of general information: one has to be familiar enough to know what’s been taken from his actual albums and what's from his work as member of that famed pub rock ensemble; and which versions have been re-recorded by his current working band. (On this volume, the version of “Paradise” has certainly been re-recorded. And while Johnson’s voice isn’t the equal of Feelgood's late Lee Brilleaux’s, he did write the song and the band musters the burning power to match his almighty riff and frenetic power.) Other standouts include “Ice on the Motorway,” “Cairo Blues,” and “Sneaking Suspicion." Despite the lack of info, this is a smoking collection that is only equaled by volume two -- though it would be great to have Solid Senders and Ice on the Motorway remastered and reissued, or a live DVD for the new punters to get to experience Johnson for the true rock and original he is. The end result of Temple’s film may be, however, that those things just may happen.

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