The smooth, reflective style that earned Johnson his pop honors in the '70s remains intact and effective for this, his first country album. The material is uniformly strong -- notably "It's Only Over For You" and "The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder". Maher's production is a case study in how to convey intimacy on vinyl.
May 23, 1986
by Jon Bream
Is the Minnesota troubadour ready for the country? Or, more appropriately, is country music ready for this middle-of-the-road pop singer?
Country music recently has welcomed such former pop stars as Michael Martin Murphy and (England) Dan Seals, so why not Johnson? He's already performed a sizable country duet with Sylvia called "I Love You By Heart". What's here is not that far removed from the kind of material Johnson has been singing for the last several years, even though some of the instrumentation is different. (Steel guitar and dobro are new wrinkles.) He's still working with Nashville producer Brent Maher, who produced Johnson's hit "Bluer Than Blue" and more recently the country triumphs of the Judds and Sylvia.
Johnson's warm voice does not express heartache as effectively as some of country's best known singers, but he sounds fine on the happy songs. The twangy, thigh-slapping "That's What Your Love Does to Me" is his most convincing uptempo effort. The pretty "True Love" and jazzy "Magic Time" are characteristic medium-tempo Johnson pieces that would sound right at home on pop radio stations geared to adults. "Give Me Wings", about the need for freedom in a relationship, may be his best shot at an across-the-board triumph in seven years.
This album, Johnson's liveliest since his '73 debut effort, suggests that the move to country may be a worthwhile business if not artistic strategy for this modest 41-year-old singer-guitarist.