Don Johnson

The Essential

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"The Essential" Don Johnson might be stretching it. Still, Johnson's two albums had their merits, particularly Heartbeat, his debut. Of the 16 cuts on this set, nine of the ten original tracks from Heartbeat are included here. Of the tracks that come from Let It Roll, only the best make the cut, such as Johnson's versions of "Tell It Like It Is," "Your Love Is Safe With Me," "Heartache Away," etc. Johnson was smart about his singing career. He enlisted help form major-league songwriters like Bob Seger ("Star Tonight") and Tom Petty ("Lost in Your Eyes"), and of course his biggest hit, "Heartbeat," was written by Eric Kaz and Wendy Waldman. Throughout this collection there are surprises, and Johnson's voice is steady, rock-solid even. The material isn't always great, but it is never less that reliably sound pop/rock played by a host of aces, with guest stars including Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Ron Wood. Pretty cool, kitsch or not.

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