The brilliant musician, composer, and guitar virtuoso Eric Johnson comes shining through with a record breathing with aura of romance, sweeping melodicisms, and breathtaking mystical quality. Venus Isle, released by Capitol records gave a genuine and much deserved positive boost to the popularity and image of Johnson. This is certainly is most enduring and captivating work since his grammy nominated gem, Cliffs of Dover. The songs are stringed together perfectly and spontaneously glide in and out of other, and the album as a whole sizzles with musical quality throughout. Venus Isle is a bold, haunting opening track that gracefully flows into the following song, Battle We Have Won. All About You, perhaps the song that most fits the mold as a radio-friendly single, is a romantic song filled with shimmering scale passages and Johnson's signature guitar tone. This song closely reflects through style and grace a reminiscence of Cliffs of Dover. Track four is a captivating arrangement with a tapestry of engaging rhythms and a guitar tone in dedication to the great blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughn, in which S.R.V. is appropriately named after. A brilliant composition, it spills out all of Johnson's appreciation and respect for a true musical friend he hopes to keep alive always through song. Stevie's brother, Jimmy Vaughn steps in cordially with a guitar improvisation in love for his brother. The secret of her love is locked away and her smile-Mona Lisa style is the message eloquently put to music in Lonely in the Night, credited to songwriter Vince Mariani. Manhattan really is the most ethereal and dreamy piece of the record. It's atmosphere is so visionary that the listener can genuinely feel the vista of the great island city of New York and it's abundant nightlife. Camel's Night Out sincerely reflects a Mediterranean appearance in percussive rhythm and through it's tonal melodic shifts. Song for Lynette is the most striking and romantic song of it's form, filled with heartwarming piano and a message of hope, a place and a time for everything and everyone, and the excitement of anticipation or accomplishment. It also seems to bring about moods of "even if all is going wrong, and the sky is a rainy gray everyday, just being alive and full of spirit is fulfilling enough." When the Sun Meets the Sky breathes life into the soul with it's chilling, haunting string opening, and then suddenly rolling into a optimistic chorus-filled guitar statement. "It's dark here, if I don't have you around, so I hoped today would lead me kind of your way, and the sun would be shining on my face," charms the listener with the thrilling hopes of a fresh new love. Rounding off this eleven song experience is Pavilion and the Venus Reprise, which puts Johnson's work his future musical ambitions in perspective, perhaps to help his next release build and flow from the gifted work, Venus Isle. Full of dashing guitar virtuosity, orchestral prowess and poems of the romantic, this record is a gratifying listen from beginning to end, even for the not so devoted Eric Johnson fans.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Shawn M. Haney