Monday, 30 April 2012

Bass From Ear To Ear

Vail Johnson - Come Together
Album Review
Genre: Funk/Jazz

If you don't know the man's work, here's a brief bio quoted from his website.

"Vail has been playing bass for a living since graduating high school in Seattle.

His first 'professional' gig was with 2 of his older brothers (musical family of 6 boys and mother, Dad was somewhat tone-deaf!) playing and singing Dixieland and Bluegrass songs. The bros both played banjo and one doubled on sax, the other trombone; they played to sold out crowds in Pioneer Square, Seattle for a number of years.

Vail learned the number system and gained invaluable ear training from the fast paced leader (brother Gareth) who called out keys with hand signals and numbers for chord changes. 

Tons of club gigs playing pop/ rock and R&B followed (many years' worth of 5 nights a week, talk about second- hand smoke!) and led to a great opportunity in 1986 to play with Kenny G.

He moved down to Los Angeles shortly after to seek his 'fortune and fame'.

Vail has also enjoyed working with many other great musicians from Herbie Hancock to Stevie Nicks; George Benson to Michael Bolton and lots more."

A few years back, Vail Johnson decided to take on The Beatles with a solo album, Come Together. Most bands will have their own take on one or more songs from the Fab Four. As an example, I give you Aerosmith's version of the song, "Come Together," which I enjoy equal to or more than the original. It's dirtier, grouchier, and if you've ever seen the movie, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," you know that Steven Tyler smokes it in mood and facial expressions alone.

But could Aerosmith do an entire album of Beatles music, keep each song true to its roots, yet take it to a new and interesting place?

My point is that it's risky making an entire cover album of Beatles stuff. We all know the songs and how we want them to be. Some of us won't even "go there" when it comes to Beatles covers. We love our Lads from Liverpool and everybody else can just go find something else to record. But Johnson fills his album with enough mood, feel, jazz, funk, swing, slap-pop, and rock (either on the yummy yellow Kubicki headless - below - a Mick Donner EUB, or his 1962 Fender P-Bass) to give the listener a reason to stay with him on his bass romp through Beatlesville.

If you like the original tunes, you'll find yourself bouncing and tapping along with Johnson's instrumental interpretations. First and foremost, the songs are treated with respect. He mixes lead bass with background bass, so you are filled ear-to-ear with all the sounds a thunder-maker can produce. The bass is both the beat and the voice. This allows the listener to sing along with his or her own vocal stylings - very interactive and emotionally satisfying!

It helps to be backed by great musicians, too. Most of his compatriots here are co-workers from the Kenny G days.

My particular faves are:

Come Together - Funky as all get-out. Great sax!
Let It Be - Just like back in school, at the Friday dances. Warm and spiritual.
Get Back - Mind-blowing bass chops!
Something - George would like this. While my (bass) guitar gently weeps.
Yesterday - Such thoughtful blends and harmonies.
The Long and Winding Road - A beautiful take, with feeling and heart.

Rounding out the pack are:

Eleanor Rigby - Moody like a rainy day, with Kenny G on sax.
Hard Day's Night - Bouncy, twanging bass.
Lady Madonna - Love the bassline at the very bottom.
Can't Buy Me Love - Funky fun.
Penny Lane - Impressive bass blends.
I Want To Hold Your Hand - More great harmonies and blends.

All great tunes, well done.

My faves are based on my love for the originals, but everybody likes what they like, so I'm sure you'll find your sweet spots among this impressive collection.

Definitely check this one out, bass lovers - it'll hit the spot!! Available everywhere great music is found!  And check out Vail Johnson on the web, for more info on this talented bassist, and some great sound samples, too!!

© 2012 CL Seamus for Thunder Row

Meet Vail himself...

...and then see him on stage...


  1. nesecito bajar este albun pero no me deja desde aca no veo el link


  2. Replies
    1. Are you looking for a place to buy this? You can get it on Vale's website.

      I think it's also available on iTunes.