DONALD RAY JOHNSON "PURE PLEASURE" MARVISTA MUSIC
BY PETER "BLEWZZMAN" LAURO (c) APRIL 2008
Ironically, as I'm sitting here listening to some red hot blues from Canada , the very people who sent me the disc are experiencing a mid spring snow storm. I guess, as the expression goes, you've got to suffer if you want to sing the blues.
" PURE PLEASURE ", by DONALD RAY JOHNSON, consists of thirteen wonderfully arranged tracks of which eight are DRJ originals. While assembling the ensemble for this project, DONALD not only sought out high quality musicians, he sought out a high quantity of musicians as well - nearly thirty of them. They are: DONALD RAY JOHNSON on drums, keyboards, piano and vocals; CHRIS BRYRNE, GEORGE PHILLIPS, ROB VAUSE and RUSSEL JACKSON on bass; MICHAEL HUSTON, JOHN MILLS, BILL JOHNSON, JAMES CHIP BURNEY and MAURICE JOHN VAUGHN on guitar; RON CASAT on organ; B. J. EMERY on trombone; GRAHAM GUEST, NATE STRONG, DALE RENE` and GARY BOWMAN on piano; RALPH MONCIVIAS, MIKE YOUNG, DON "DICKIE" CHILDS, MIKE CLARK (also on background vocals) and PAT BELLAVEAU (also on soprano sax) on tenor sax; JIMMY CARVER on keyboards; GIBB MONKS and P. J. PERRY on alto sax; BRAD STECKEL on acoustic guitar; JOHN PAIN on drums; JANIS KIBLLE and STEVE PINEO on background vocals; PHEW! It's a good thing the horn section had no trumpet players or I'd be out of room.
Obviously, the opening track wasn't titled for the band, 'cause they certainly didn't " SLOW DOWN BABY ". This track features a funky rhythm with hot sax and guitar solos by RALPH and MICHAEL and dynamic vocals by DONALD. Great opener.
In spite of some fine guitar and tenor riffs by JOHN and MIKE, " HERE TO STAY " is all about DONALD. His very soulful and slightly sultry vocals and outstanding keyboard work highlight this very sexy and somewhat Barry White-ish type dance song.
"SONG FOR PERRY" (WALK AROUND HEAVEN ALL DAY) , is a spiritual ballad which, according to the liner notes, appears to be dedicated to a late friend of DONALD'S. Although melancholy in mood, the performance is stellar. GIBB'S alto sax at the onset and RON'S organ work throughout the track are both outstanding, the background vocals are right on and you can just feel the sorrow in DONALD'S voice. Ya gotta know Perry's hearing this one.
Had this song been written this year, " THRILLING YOU KILLING ME " would have been my nomination for song of the year. It just does not get any better....or more blue than this. If the question "What is the blues" should ever be asked, this is the song that should be played as the answer. It's the type of song that just stops you in your tracks, makes your eyes close, your head hang down and carries you away. I'm feeling this one. DRJ, ROB VAUSE and JOHN MILLS are flawless on this one.By far, the discs best.
In addition to musically being another of the discs highlights, " NO GUITAR BLUES " is a lyrical pisser. In the middle of this very serious and low down blues number, while MICHAEL'S making his guitar cry out some scorching blues, DONALD starts softly telling a story about how a record company exec once said something to him about not having a guitar. The hotter MICHAEL'S notes get, the more hilarious DONALD gets. Good stuff right here.
Trouble is just one of the many " NAMES " that DONALD comes up with for his lady on this one. Because she "digs" so many guys, Shovel is another, and of course, there's Misery as well. Hmmm, I wonder if he's seeing one of my ex's? Along with some good tenor work by DON, some of the discs best bass and piano work can be heard right here by GEORGE and NATE.
Other tracks on this incredibly good disc are: "ROCKING IN THE SAME OLD BOAT", "GONE SO LONG", "DON'T LET THE GREEN GRASS FOOL YA", "IT AIN'T EASY BEING BLUE", "HEY GIRL", "WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD" and "TOO YOUNG TO KNOW". Although this disc is several years old, I'm highly recommending that if you don't yet have it, then you should make it new to your collection. You can do that by visiting DONAL RAY JOHNSON at www.donaldray.com . Of course, after you buy the disc, ya gotta tell him the Blewzzman sent ya.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com