Eric Johnson - Venus Isle (1996)
EAC | FLAC | Tracks (Cue&Log) ~ 372 MB Mp3 (CBR320) ~ 133 MB Scans ~ 98 Mb
Label: Capitol | # CDP 0777 7 98331 2 2 | Time: 00:58:27
Rock, Pop/Rock, Fusion, Instrumental Rock

Venus Isle is the fourth studio album by guitarist Eric Johnson, released on September 3, 1996 through Capitol Records. The album reached No. 51 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and remained on that chart for six weeks. "Pavilion" was released as a single and reached No. 33 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock, while its B-side "S.R.V." is a tribute to guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and features his elder brother Jimmie Vaughan as a guest soloist.

Eric Johnson performed in Boston during his Venus Isle tour in the fall of 1996; and before his band took the stage, an emcee took the microphone to apologize for Johnson's condition: He was recovering from an illness and wouldn't be able to sing, so the concert would be entirely instrumental. The audience erupted into a simultaneous cheer.

The fact is, Eric Johnson could guarantee himself better sales by positioning himself as a "guitar hero" and recording instrumental albums. Instead he continues to record thoughtful, cohesive music where lyrics and guitar solos collaborate to serve compositional function. He's a perfectionist with an artistic vision. You've got to respect that.

I think "Venus Isle" stands as one of the best rock albums of the Nineties. If you're hoping for pyrotechnic solos, with sweep picking and finger tapping on every track, then you'll be disappointed. On the other hand, if you're willing to set aside your expectations and judge the music on its merits, then I would suggest you listen with a good pair of headphones. There's a lot to hear, made possible by first-rate engineering and production. Each song stands solidly on its own - and collectively, the program comprises a hell of an album.

After Johnson's hit "Cliffs of Dover," there was a lot of pressure for him to follow up with an album quickly to capitalize on his popularity. Instead of dashing off a few quick instrumentals and selling a million CDs, he spent six years planning his next work. (This infuriated his record label.) He allegedly recorded at least one other full album, which got as far as the mastering stage before he decided to discard it and start over from scratch. "Venus Isle" was the work he finally deemed worthy of release. I think it was worth the wait.

Eric Johnson is notorious for his perfectionism, but the six-year wait between his breakthrough Ah! Via Musicom and its follow-up Venus Isle seems a little extravagant, especially considering the resulting album. In six years, it could be assumed that an artist would undergo a number of different phases, exploring several different musical genres and textures. Johnson didn't spend his six years exploring - he spent them refining. Venus Isle reveals no new insights about the guitarist, it only offers a new spin on the territory Ah! Via Musicom covered. In one respect, this isn't a bad thing. Johnson is a consummate guitarist, pulling out tones and licks from his instrument that no other musician can quite match. It is a joy to hear him play, but Venus Isle nevertheless seems like a lost opportunity because he never departs from his standard bag of tricks. There are the occasional jazzy grooves, a handful of blues, several fusion numbers, and a few stabs at prog rock - all of the things that distinguished the album's predecessor. With playing as stylish and distinctive as Johnson's, it may seem churlish to complain about the lack of innovation, but given the large span of time between albums, it should have been more adventurous and unique. Venus Isle would have been a perfect follow-up if it had been released in 1992 or 1993, but it has to rank as a disappointment, no matter how enjoyable portions of it are.


01. Venus Isle (05:28)
02. Battle We Have Won (05:59)
03. All About You (08:20)
04. SRV (03:03)
05. Lonely In The Night (06:04)
06. Manhattan (04:52)
07. Camel's Night Out (05:17)
08. Song for Lynette (04:54)
09. When The Sun Meets The Sky (07:53)
10. Pavilion (05:02)
11. Venus Reprise (01:29)