Michael Johnson

The Very Best of Michael Johnson: Bluer Than Blue

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During the late '70s, soft rock and country-pop struck up a friendship and soon the lines separating the two genres were blurred beyond recognition. Glen Campbell was at the forefront of the movement, but few epitomize the entire genre like Michael Johnson, a former folkie who moved into soft rock as the '70s drew to a close. He had two big soft rock hits -- "Bluer Than Blue" and "This Night Won't Last Forever" -- before the decade finished, and as the '80s progressed, he slowly moved from the adult contemporary charts to the country listings without ever really changing his sound, as Razor & Tie's definitive compilation Bluer Than Blue (1978-1995) proves. There's really no difference in sound or style on any of these 17 songs; they all sound like variations on the same mellow vibe. Occasionally, the pop, folk, or country elements are emphasized, but Johnson's work retained a remarkably consistent tone over the course of 17 years. That's not to say that it's always interesting -- part of the problem with soft rock is that it's hard to say why certain songs work and others don't, since they all share a similar aesthetic. Johnson was rarely adventurous but he could deliver the goods, even though listeners with a passing interest in the songwriter may find the material a little monotonous. That said, Bluer Than Blue does an excellent job of rounding up highlights from a career that was consistent in style but not in quality. Pop fans will be roped in by his two earliest hits, plus "Almost Like Being in Love," while country fans will use "Give Me Wings" and "The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder" as their entrance. Chances are both camps will find the entire disc satisfying -- providing they were fans already, of course, since this music could sound quite dated to listeners unfamiliar with Johnson.

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