Life's A Bitch Album Reviews
March 8, 1989
By Mal Peachey
My pappy told me never to trust a man who wears white shoes. Michael Johnson wears white shoes, white trousers and a white shirt with red braceds. He also has one of those huge wads of blond hair that only Americans from Denver don't blow dry, and a rather fine, celver set of songs which appear on his soon to be released 'Life's A Bitch' LP (RCA). A kind of yuppie anti-Bobby Goldsboro, Johnson is undeniably intelligent and talented, he has had hits in America but only appeared over here once, last year with KT Oslin. A seasoned performer, Johnson often seems to feel that his wondering prologues to each song are funnier than most of the audience felt last year, but that could be the cultural divide. His first appearance this week should put all of that talking blues into perspective since he is playing with the man who practically invented it, Guy Clark. A great guitarist and a never less than interesting performer.
March 17, 1989
Denver-born Michael Johnson wraps up a brief British Isles tour tonight at the Olympia, in Dublin, when The Fleash Cowboys will be on stage. Coinciding with the tour, RCA has released the album "Life's A Bitch", a 16-track compilation of remixes from his two American albums plus three new numbers, the title song, "Jacques Cousteau" and "Empty Hearts". Of those, I prefer "Jacques Cousteau".
Johnson covers a wide range of material during his shows and can broaden his spectrum from rock n roll to the classics. This LP is more of a "bluesy" type with most numbers of the slowish variety.
My pick of the lot is "That's What Your Love Does To Me" which is up-tempo in something like jive-time, while a few of the swing numbers are very well treated by the clear-voiced Johnson. Included is "The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder" which had a high chart placing in America.
Edinburgh Evening News
March 18, 1989
Denver-born singer/guitarist in 16 tracks, most of them remixed from his two American albums and with three brand new songs. Produced by Brent Maher, responsible for The Judds' recording success. He is stuck in a country bag, recording in Nashville, but with Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent and guitarist Charlie Byrd listed as idols, it's easy to pick up his rock leanings in this welcome relatively new voice on the contemporary country scene.
Paisley Daily Express - U.K.
March 23, 1989
Singer, songwriter and acoustic guitarist, Michael Johnson has released "Life's A Bitch..." to conicide with this UK tour which, surprise, surprise, does NOT include any Scottish dates.
Still, after hearing his 16-track compilation of two remixed albums we won't miss much.
Seriously, it's pleasant music to drive to but it wouldn't fill you with inspiration to gun the car into top gear on the motorway.
Kilmarnock Standard - U.K.
March 31, 1989
The man who had a big American pop hit with "Bluer Than Blue" in the late Seventies and whose easy vocal style and guitar playing reminds of Dan Seals, now steps into the "new country" arena with his latest crop of recordings.
This LP is, in fact, made up from two previous American releases and boasts no less than 16 tracks.
I enjoyed the catchy "Magic Time" with tinkling piano and sing-a-long chorus; the toe-tapping country-rag "Life's a Bitch ... and Then You Die", and the Mickey Jupp ditty "Hangin' On".
Light and tuneful throughout, I'd select "Rosalee" although the next new version of Plastic Bertrand's "Jacques Cousteau" is worth a listen or two.
Country Music Roundup - U.K.
On the strength of his last RCA album, "That;s's That," which had too much mainstream production-line Nashville sound for my taste, I opted out of catching MichaelJohnson's latest UK tour. Had I managed to hear beforehand his latest, 'Life's a Bitch' (RCA PL 90312), nothing could have kept me away. At the time of reviewing the former, I did say that, if he could rid himself of the bland m-o-r production and synthetic backings, there was much to be said for Johnson himself. He has in fact done this to a large extent on the newie, a sixteen track compilation featuring remixed versions of songs from his last two albums and three new recordings. With this less elaborate, more acoustic backup Johnson's basic folkiness has chance to shine and songs which were always good but suppressed by over-decoration gain full impact. There are still one or two tracks which, due to the way they were initially recorded, are beyond redemption, but the rest are really substantial—particularly the title track, 'Crying Shame,' 'Magic Time,' 'Roller Coaster Run,' 'Oh Rosalee' and 'Hangin' On'. It's surprising how much sympathetic backings assist an artist and how great a detriment the go-through-the-motions production-line are. A man's reputation can rise or fall on such things, and thankfully I've had a second chance to evaluate Michael Johnson.
Country Music People - U.K.
By John Tobler
It is gratifying that RCA have had the foresight and audacity to bring Johnson, an up and coming (at over 40!) star of the US country charts, back here where he created an excellent impression as K.T. Oslin's opening act at the Shaw Theatre in London during Route 88. He came to country music after careers as a folkie (with John Denver in the Chad Mitchell Trio at the start of the '70s) and at the end of that decade as a singer/songwriter who made the US Top 40 with a couple of items. When things began to get a bit quiet on that front, he moved into country, almost by mistake, but has stayed after racking up several recent hits. Four of those hits appeared on his two RCA albums--"Wings" was released in 1986 (but not here), while "That's That" was released on both sides of the Atlantic last year. Very few punters were aware of Michael at the time of his gig, and there probably aren't that many more now, which is a shame because he is an excellent performer (very amusing as well as being a pleasing singer and a very classy acoustic guitarist).
He was back again in March for a slightly more extensive tour (which, unfortunately, will have finished by the time anyone reads this) and to tie in with it RCA (UK) have released this rather good compilation album containing 7 songs from "Wings", six from "That's That", plus four newly recorded items. Makes 17 tracks, right? Well, actually no, because one of the previously released tracks, the sublimely wistful ballad "The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder" is on both the original albums. Perhaps one good reason for treating the UK to a 16 track compilation, rather than RCA (US)'s 9 track albums which invariably seems a rip-off, is to atone for putting the same track on two consecutive albums which only included 17 songs between them. Another reason might be that the concept of a "Best Of" was one which did very well for The Judds who are, of course, on the same label, and with whom Johnson shares a producer in Brent Maher.
Numerous tracks here have considerable appeal, from the softish rockers like "Roller Coaster Run" and "Cryin' Shame" to the rather Lyle Lovett styled "Samson & Delilah" to the intricately assembled "That's That" and the more formal "Moon" and "Give Me Wings". Johnson is a jack of all the many musical styles which he adopts and, fortunately, a master of most of them.
Q Review - U.K.
By Charlie Dick
Billed as a country singer-songwriter based in Nashville, Tennessee, Michael Johnson is a self-consciously quirky easy-listening artiste who might have had novelty hits on the British pop chart around 1975. Of the 16 songs here he only co-wrote two and they're both pretty dull. Scanning the other songwriting credits things start to look up. These include "Hangin' On" by seminal London pub-rocker Mickey Jupp and, wildest of all, "Jacques Cousteau" by Andy Paley and the legendary punk personality Plastic Bertrand. Now that sounds like a bunch of laughs doesn't it? I'm afraid not. Johnson's bland arrangements and delivery could squeeze the life out of a litre of cajun Martinis. The title track amply demonstrates his inability to deal with comic material. This man will have to sharpen his wit if he expects to be name-dropped in the same breath as Randy Newman.
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