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Departure Album Reviews

Dirty Linen
October/November 1995
by Jim Lee

Michael Johnson fits into that mold of performers, who, while writing some of their own material, also choose to cover the best songs they can find. Johnson has endured (largely these past years in the country market) because he's such a superb performer with a warm, expressive voice, wonderful guitar skills and an endearing stage presence. His newest recording amply demonstrates these talents. Backed in part by Alison Krauss' band, these 12 songs have a contemporary, yet timeless, feel. Four were written by Hugh Prestwood, but the best track, "Cain's Blood", was written by Johnson (with Jack Sundrud).

All Music Guide
by Tim Griggs

Michael Johnson has a relaxed, pleasant voice with an ever-so-slight bluesy feel. The mellow songs on Departure complement his voice. The four tracks (including the title track) written by Hugh Prestwood plus the W.T. Davidson-penned "She's Real" are the highlights of this fine pop album. There's not a bad song in the bunch. Allison Krauss makes a subtle guest appearance.

October 1995
by Stephen A. Ide

Denver native Michael Johnson is an artist seemingly at home in almost any genre. Known for the pop hit "Bluer Than Blue" and the country song "Give Me Wings", he offers an amalgam of styles, from folk to jazz and blues to synthesized rock, on his debut Vanguard release, Departure.

Joining Johnson are Grammy winners Alison Krauss and Union Station, who add instrumental and vocal backup, though not in their usual bluegrass fashion. Also adding to the mix are Krauss' brother, Viktor (bass), Kirk "Jelly Roll" Johnson (harmonica), Roger Williams (sax) and Kenny Malone (drums, percussion).

A former member of the Chad Mitchell Trio, Johnson is a trained classical guitarist. On this outing he plays nylon-stringed and steel-stringed acoustic guitars. But between the guitar licks lies the meticulous craftsmanship of a fine writer, composer and singer. In Johnson's hands, torch songs like "Old Fashioned Love" and "Unconditionally" become instantly memorable. "Miami Beach" rollicks with a joyousness that reminded me of the more recent material by James Taylor . And the bouncing synth-pop of "Software" (written with co-producer Randy Goodrum) cleverly and humorously parallels love and computers, and is likely to find a home as a chart-topper.

Johnson's singing intertwines with his rolling fingerpicking in the title track by Hugh Prestwood (who penned four songs on this album), ripe with passion and liberation: "And we'll stand on a peak overlooking the world / And sing it as loud as we can / Not one of the millions below us will hear it / But won't the elation be grand."

Many of the songs here are destined for use on romantic evenings. If you like soft candlelight, a fine bottle of wine and good company, Johnson's music will take care of the mood.

Amazon.com customer reviews

kheyer@wwa.com from Illinois
**** out of 5 stars
August 9, 1998
Michael Johnson's guitar and voice still shine...

Michael Johnson is a classically trained guitarist who is equally at home playing folk, jazz, or country guitar. This album blends several styles from his varied repertoire, from the jazzy "Old Fashioned Love" to the philosophical title tune "Departure". There are ten others to enjoy along the way, with Alison Krauss performing backup vocal on three tunes and playing on one. Add the thoughtful lyrics, and you have a satisfying album.

"Miami Beach" is the story of a 30's beauty who, from her wicker chair world tells today's youth, "I must be your future 'cause you surely are my past."

In "Dirty Hands and Dirty Faces", we hear a father's dialog with his young son, "I hope you'll be more kind and understanding with your dad than I was with mine."

In the bittersweet "Imogene" he asks whether it's some sort of sign that "Everybody's playing good time music, but no one's having a good time" and ultimately admits sadly, "Time goes by, and so did I."

Through them all, Johnson's guitar artistry shows through. He is equally at home playing the cheerful riff behind "Miami Beach" to the vaguely Native American background to his early tune "Cain's Blood". His fans will enjoy this album, and those who have never heard his work will find it a good introduction to his talents.

A music fan from Chicago, Illinois, USA
***** out of 5 stars
October 19, 1998
Michael Johnson's Best Work

This CD captures Michael Johnson's performance magic better than any other recording I've heard from him. He seems to have selected a group of songs that really highlight his exceptional guitar playing skills while still allowing his golden voice to shine through. If you appreciate him at all, this is a must.

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