Syl Johnson:  Bridge to a Legacy


Syl Johnson


For those unfamiliar with Syl Johnson, his bio states he was known as the King of Soul and Blues of the '70s, recording such songs as "Take Me to the River" and "Sock It to Me." But if you're looking for a straight up blues album, Johnson's 1998 release, Bridge to a Legacy, is not it.

Unlike the audio-redundant, synthesizer-plagued sample music known today as Rhythm and Blues, Johnson is still true to the real thing: '60s and '70s styled R&B evocative at times of consummate soul artists as diverse as James Brown and Teddy Pendergrass.  On five of the 10 tracks, Gene Barge wrote horn arrangements that are right on the mark. If you love the music Europeans have renamed Deep Soul, you'll love this album.  DJs also take note: this is get up out of your chair and wave your hands in the air dance music.

At the outset, there is no question that the man is going to take you on a musical ride. His first track, "Who's Still In Love," jumps out with an in-your-face, ass kickin' five-piece horn section and classic 1970s wah-wah guitar. 

Track two features the everpresent blues Wunderkind Jonny Lang on lead guitar and in a vocal duet with Johnson. Much has been said about this kid not paying his dues, etc., but his heart is in the right place, introducing a new generation to seasoned performers. In a few years, when he finds his own voice, he should join the ranks of mature players. His inclusion on the CD is part of the "bridge that crosses all generations and all cultures" mentioned in the liner notes.

Syleena Johnson, Syl's daughter, puts in a commendable vocal performance on "Half a Love." The arrangement is the classic R&B vamp between the major and the relative minor, and after all these years, it still works. "I Don't Know Why" reminds me of early Carlos Santana, right down to the tone of Johnson's guitar, deftly blending soul with Latin rhythms.

For you tech heads, the CD was recorded at the Chicago Recording Company, engineered by Dennis Tousana, mixed by Chris Sheppard and pre-mastered on Sonic Solutions. Some cuts were remixed by David Z.  All but one cut was written by Syl Johnson.

If you're into R&B, surf to Antone's Records and buy it.   Support your working musicians.

-- Sonny Boy Lee

CD review courtesy of
Sonny Boy Lee's "Ain't Nothin' but the Blues!"

Review Copyright 1999-2004 Sonny Boy Lee.
CD cover Copyright 1999-2004 Antone's Records.
All rights reserved.