Jef Lee Johnson

Things Are Things

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The double-album-length (21 songs in 71 minutes) Things Are Things is Jef Lee Johnson's most eclectic set yet. In the first three songs alone, the Philadelphia-based Johnson moves from a clattering free jazz-style instrumental ("New Ways To Say Nothing"); to Robert Cray-like R&B ("It Ain't Hard For You"); to a woozy, neo-psychedelic slab of funk-rock ("Funk Is Not Enough") that Prince would be happy to claim as his own. Johnson can seemingly do anything, but unlike a lot of similarly eclectic artists, he doesn't come off as an unfocused genre- dabbler. For some reason, the muscular 11-minute dance-funk instrumental "Law and Order " -- which sounds like Sonny Sharrock sitting in with the early Golden Palominos -- just sounds right sitting next to a faithful acoustic cover of Donovan's hippy-dippy "Mellow Yellow," which itself fits nicely next to the wiggly, Hendrix-like "Absolutely Maybe." An artist who has grown artistically from album to album, Jef Lee Johnson has by this point reached a state where he could logically progress just about anywhere.

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