Michael Johnson Photo

Classic Masters Reviews

Today's Cool Album of the Day (#832 in the Series) is Michael Johnson, Moonlit Deja Vu (Red House Records)
Moonlit Déjà Vu is Michael Johnson's first studio album in 15 years. The album proves that as a producer, songwriter and performer, Michael Johnson is at the top of his game. He is best known for his hit song "Bluer Than Blue" and for several number one Billboard-charting country songs, including "This Night Won't Last Forever" and "Almost like Being in Love." Along with being a great songwriter himself, Michael Johnson has always had the ability to choose great songs written by others. The minimal instrumentation and great song choices on the new album are reminiscent of his early albums and also show the taste and sensibilities of a mature artist.

Moonlit Déjà Vu begins with a beautifully written song called "April Fool." by Hugh Prestwood. Johnson included several other Prestwood songs on the album, "Learning How to Love," "How Do You Know What You Know," "The Day I'm Over You" and "Kiss Me Goodbye." These songs are the work of a master songwriter, brought to life by a master guitarist and singer. "Kiss Me Goodbye" has to be one of the most touching songs about true love that this writer has ever heard. Michael's take on Clive Gregson's song, "My Favorite Lies," includes humor and wisdom and his rendering of W.T. Davidson's song, "Gee I'm Glad I Worried About That" adds some macabre but smart humor to the mix. Michael's song, "SoSo" is a great parody of the 1946 song "You Make Me Feel So Young" and the anthropomorphic saxophone played by Dave Carr on this song is an album high point. Michael builds a great mood and plays some gorgeous Spanish style guitar in his song, "Emelio," and "Looking For Rainbows" by Cochran/Cook features Dan Newton on accordion and more amazing guitar work by Johnson. This song placed me in an outdoor French or Italian café for some reason, (I think that the accordion had something to do with it)!

I spoke with Michael about the album and he told me that he had connected with his long lost and newly found daughter Truly Carmichael, who also lives in Minneapolis and He had moved back to Minnesota. He said that connecting with her played a large part in how the album came out. "It just seemed that all roads were leading me back to Minnesota - signing with Red House, working on the new album and most especially, reconnecting with my daughter who lives here." Truly Carmichael and Michael sang a duet on Michael's song "One Mile Apart" on the album.

Besides being one of the best singers, guitar players and entertainers that I have ever heard live, he has also made some wonderful records over the years. His early recordings, "There is a Breeze," "For All You Mad Musicians" and "Ain't Dis Da Life," are still available as a CD collection called "the Early Albums." I still listen to those records frequently and time has not diminished their appeal. I own and appreciate most of the albums that he has made over the years and am especially fond of an album that he recorded in Nashville in 2000 called, "Live at the Bluebird Café." When you listen to the album, you get a sense of what a great live performer Johnson really is.

Michael Johnson grew up near Denver and began playing guitar in his early teens. He studied Music at Colorado State but won an international talent contest and then moved to Barcelona, (1966) and attended the Liceu Conservatory to study with classical guitarist Graciano Tarrago. He returned to the States, lived in a garage with Steve Martin and Gary Mule Deer, joined Randy Sparks in a group called "The New Society" and toured East Asia. After that, he joined the Chad Mitchell Trio with John Denver, (1968) and toured for a year. Michael also worked as an actor in New York off Broadway and toured with the company of "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris."

Michael recorded a major hit single, "Bluer Than Blue," in 1978, from The Michael Johnson Album went straight to number one on the Pop and Adult Contemporary charts and it was nominated for a Grammy. "Almost like being in Love," from the Broadway Musical Brigadoon was also on the album, and it went to number one in the R & B charts, while hitting the top five in Pop and AC. The next album, Dialogue included his next big hits, "This Night Won't Last Forever" and "I'll Always Love You," (Gold Record for European Sales).

Michael lived and toured out of Minnesota from 1969 through 1985 and then moved to Nashville where he continued to tour solo and have more hit records., "Give Me Wings," "The Moon is Still Over Her Shoulder," "That's That," and "I Will Whisper Your Name," among others.

At a recent show Michael was chatting with singer songwriter John Gorka who connected him with his manager and His St Paul-based label Red House Records. Eric Peltoniemi, Red House president, was very familiar with Michael's work and was delighted to meet him and hear his new songs. Michael signed with Red House and recorded Moonlit Déjà Vu at Minneapolis Wild Sound Recording Studio.
- Byron Roche

Amazon.com customer reviews

From the United States

***** out of 5 stars
Buy this album from MJ!
October 14, 2012
Have had this cd album bought from Amazon for about 5 days already. First thing when I opened up the box to get to the cd was how 'proud' it was to see Michael's cd get the attention this great artist deserves! The cd case came within a slip-on thin cardboard piece. The lyrics and pictures and photos inside and on the outer cover makes this cd something special...he got the attention and $$ from Red House Records, Inc that he deserves! Bravo, Red House Records, Inc.!!!

I would associate the song style this album has like going back to his early 1970s album, For All You Mad Musicians... also most of the songs on this album are written by Hugh Prestwood (which some fans may or may not like).

The pacing on this album is slow and deliberate, but keeps one's attention (mine at least). I think the one song that may be a *big hit* on the Country List would be 'Learning How to Love', a mesmerizing guitar riff that repeats throughout the song, with lyrics so meaningful.

His One Mile Apart duet with his long lost daughter...I find it better and a little 'happier' in terms of how it's sung than the previous version back in the late 1990s.

Emilio, Looking for Rainbows, and How Do You Know What You Know... these may be potential hits also..especially, How Do You Know What You Know.

His musicians that accompany him on the songs are good, and add great texture to the songs...this is not a 'stripped' version of songs like the "Then and Now' cd. The sonics/mixing is very good, imaging is very good...Way better than the Live At the Bluebird (but that was a live version, so I acknowledge the sonics not being as good).

The first night I listened to this album, I was NOT excited...it was like when I heard his 1986 album, Wings...a disappointment during the first round of listening...but now listening to the album every night since...wow, it sounds so good and relaxing.

Michael, I hope that one song becomes a big hit for you (Learning How to Love) in the near future!

MJ fans (like me) ---do not hesitate to purchase this album, it has received great support (A-1 deluxe packaging-wise) by the record label company - kudos to them..

Michael, great album! You really deserve to get accolades for doing this for your present and future fans!

Please don't make us wait so long for another album...I was going crazy!

Peter ***** out of 5 stars
Another wonderful recording by Michael
November 6, 2012
This cd is marvelous! "Kiss Me Goodbye" is so touching; I plan to play it at my wedding next October:) I have been waiting for Michael to record "So So" for many years; so glad he finally did!

I have been a fan of Michael's since the late 1970s. At the time, I was a student at Mankato State University, heard his infamous "Bluer Than Blue", and began collecting his previous recordings.

Years later, around 1998, I saw Michael perform at a Riverfest concert in Chattanooga, TN. It was an extremely hot day, but I will never forget Michael's performance. So personal, and friendly!

I have had the good fortune of seeing MJ perform several times since then, and consider him a friend. His music has been such a wonderful influence in my life. Always will be.

Robert Reynolds
***** out of 5 stars
Michael Johnson's New CD
November 22, 2012
This one just keeps getting better. It seemed almost too laid back on first listen, but the more I played it, the more I've come to enjoy it. April Fool is a great song! Others are Learning How to Love; The Day I'm Over You; How Do You Know What You Know; the next tier is: My Favorite Lies; One Mile Apart, Emilio, Kiss Me Goodbye. The only songs that I find to be out of place are SoSo and Gee I'm Glad I Worried About That. They would be good for perhaps a show tune CD, but they sort of blemish the mood of this wonderful CD. Encourage MJ to release more soon. Buy it!!!

John DeMaria
***** out of 5 stars
A Wonderful Album
March 15, 2013
I have always enjoyed Michael Johnson`s music. The tone of his voice, his beautiful guitar work and his selection of songs to sing. This album showcases the best of all these. Michael Johnson knows how to sing a ballad and this album is full of terrific ones. April Fool, Learning How to Love and Emilio are among my current favorites but I know that others will take their place and I will enjoy this album for years to come. If you like Michael Johnson`s music just buy this album, you won`t be disappointed. It`s great.

***** out of 5 stars
So good to have this friend back
December 7, 2012
I've been following MJ for 25 years or so, have seen him quite a few times though not recently, and seem to always gravitate back to his music. This disc is just great - adult very easy listening, and I don't mean that in a faint praise way. It's enjoyable music with excellent production (for those of us listening to older recordings this is a revelation for the quality) and a nice pace. More, please!

David J. Stash
***** out of 5 stars
July 28, 2017
Listening again to this great album after reading of his death a few days ago. All his releases were great listening

*** out of 5 stars
Each tune too similar
December 15, 2016
I'm a big Michael Johnson fan. This recording is not as good as I hope. Maybe I expected to much. Each song was too alike.

Cristy Jokerst
**** out of 5 stars
love Michael Johnson
August 22, 2013
Not exactly what I expected but was worth taking a chance to hear new music by Michael Johnson. Different, unusual.

Wife in her sixties
*** out of 5 stars
Hoped for better
January 8, 2018
My husband liked it, but I was disappointed in the song selection.

Marylin Krolak
***** out of 5 stars
Best Michael Johnson CD in awhile!
October 10, 2013
Love this artist...have followed him for years. Great selection of songs. Have heard a couple of them by other artists, but were not delivered as well as was my Michael on this album. Worth getting!

warren gilbert
***** out of 5 stars
60 years old-"BLUER THAN BLUE" - Finally something new!!!
October 15, 2012
A fan the first time I heard "BLUER THAN BLUE". Randy Goodrum dosen't write a bad song. But you made it a hit. Bought everything else along the way and here in October you give us a treat and it was worth the wait. You should be way more popular than you are and I pray you'll recieve lots of airplay because this a beautiful album! So happy about your daughter!

***** out of 5 stars
Classic Michael Johnson But Better!
January 7, 2013
This album is fabulous, especially the songs written by Michael Johnson and by Hugh Prestwood. It reminds me of Michael Johnson's best songs of the past. If you can see him in concert, don't miss it. He sounds just as great in concert as on the CD.

From other countries

***** out of 5 stars
Eiji 2014/9/13
Reviewed in Japan on September 13, 2014
Around the 1980s, I loved MICHAEL JOHANSON and listened to it a lot. I had 5-6 albums (LP), but only Home Free remains at hand. Around the middle of June, I watched a program on YouTube that appeared on internet TV and sang a few songs by playing and talking, and I was happy to learn that they are still active today. Also, I learned that a new studio album was released in 2012, so I immediately removed it from Amazon. Moonlight Deja Vu is full of kindness and warmth gained after having a hard life, such as undergoing heart surgery, finally meeting her daughter who went missing and had never met her a few years ago It's an album. I met 3-One Mile Appart, a duet with her daughter (she seems to be a professional singer), 6-Emilio, when I was in my 20s when I went to Spain and studied classical guitar for 4 years I'm singing about my friend who was extremely good at guitar. Personally, I love 11-Kiss Me Goodby and it's the best song on this album. Why don't you try being healed by the gentle vocals of Michael Johanson on an autumn night?

Translated from Japanese by Amazon

Back to beginning of album reviews - There Is A Breeze