General Johnson


Band members                              Related acts

- General Johnson (RIP 2010) -- vocals

 

 

 

- The Chairmen

- The Chairmen of the Board

 

 

 


 

Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Generally Speaking

Company: Invictus

Catalog: ST 9803
Year:
 1972

Country/State: Norfolk, Virginia

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 882

Price: $60.00

 

 

Best known for his work with Chairmen of the Board, 1972 saw singer General Johnson step out with what was technically a solo album.  Produced by Johnson and the team of Raynard Mayner, Greg Perry, and William Weatherspoon, "Generally Speaking" wasn't a major change in direction from his earlier work.   If you liked the Chairmen of the Board albums, then you were probably going to find this one agreeable.  In fact, if you liked the Chairmen of the Board albums you were probably going to quickly recognized some of these songs sounded familiar.  That might have something to do with the fact three of the tunes overlapped the second Chairmen of the Board LP.   'It was Almost Something', 'All We Need Is Understanding', and 'Everything's Tuesday' were all found on the "In Session" LP.  'Saginaw County Line' was lifted from the "Bittersweet" LP.   I've never bothered comparing them, but based on memory, these versions sound very similar to the originals.   The good news was all of the repeats were good.  Even better news, most of the new tracks were fantastic - highlights included 'God's Gift To Man' and 'My Credit Didn't Go Through'.   

 

"Generally Speaking" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Saginaw County Line   (General Johnson - Greg Perry) - 4:16

'Saginaw County Line' first appeared on The Chairmen of the Board "Bittersweet" album.  Country soul ?   I guess that's the label I'd slap on 'Saginaw County Line'.  Co-written by Johnson and Perry, this one sounded a lot like something Clarence Carter might have recorded (think along the lines of 'Patches'.   Musically it wasn't particularly original, but Johnson turned in a nice vocal that made it interesting.   rating: *** stars

2.) God's Gift To Man   (General Johnson - Greg Perry) - 3:47

With a goofy Latin-eaque and one of those cutesy lyrics that you find on lots of Invictus albums, 'God's Gift To Man' sounded like something out of The Chairmen of the Board catalog (that was meant as a compliment).   Very commercial and one of those tunes that jumped in your head and doesn't want to leave.  Shame it wasn't longer.     rating: **** stars

3.) It was Almost Something    (William Weatherspoon - Raynard Miner) - 3:06

'It was Almost Something' appeared on the second Chairmen of Board album ("In Session").  I've never compared the two songs, but based on memory, this one sounded very close to the original.  Yeah, this one borrowed a little bit from the earlier 'Give Me Just a Little More Time' but that didn't detract from it's pleasures, including some great fuzz guitar.  Very commercial and would have made a good choice for a single.   rating; **** stars

4.) Every Couple's Not a Pair   (General Johnson - Greg Perry - Angelo Bond) - 4:42

Remember my earlier comment about cutesy lyrics ?  The chorus on this one was gorgeous, but this mid-tempo ballad found Johnson stretching, in the process employing his most irritating voice.  The screechy female chorus didn't help.    rating: ** stars 

5.) All We Need Is Understanding   (Ronald Dunbar - E. Wayne) - 2:55

'All We Need Is Understanding; was aother track that sounded like it was lifted directly from the "In Session" album.   Opening up with some roller skating rink organ, 'All We Need Is Understanding' found Johnson singing the album's uplifting 'save the world' ballad.  Hokey beyond all description, but still enjoyable.    rating: **** stars

6.) Everything's Tuesday   (Ronald Dunbar - E. Wayne - D Dumas) - 3:05

Everything's Tuesday' was the third "In Sessions" track,. General Johnson had an instantly recognizable voice and he was in prime form on this bouncy pop-flavored numbers.  A far more typical Invictus composition, this song had one of those killer melodies that seemed to effortlessly flow out of the Invictus creative machine - bubblegum soul ?  One of the album's most commercial offerings, it was easy to see why the track was tapped as the lead off single.   rating: **** stars  

 

(side 2)
1.) I Never Get Tired of You
   (General Johnson - Greg Perry) - 5:21

More country soul with a distinctive Clarence Carter edge, but the first half of the song didn't offer up  much in the catchy melody department.  And just when you were about to give up on the track it morphed into a percussion and bass heavy jam.  Shame they didn't extend this one.   rating: *** stars

2.) My Credit Didn't Go Through   (General Johnson - Greg Perry) - 3:37

'My Credit Didn't Go Through' was the kind of tune that would have sounded great on one of The Chairmen of the Board albums.   Soul, but with a commercial edge that Invictus and Hot Wax seemed to specialize in.  If this one doesn't make you smile, you should probably check to make sure you have a pulse.   rating: **** stars

3.) Things Are Bound To Get Better Later On    (General Johnson - Greg Perry) - 6:14

The unexpected jazzy opening was pretty cool, but then the tune began to bog down in a plodding activist lyric.   The melody picked up when the song hit the title track chorus, though it was a bit clutttered and lacked a killer hook.  rating: *** stars

4.) Mary Lou Thomas   (General Johnson - Greg Perry) - 5:02

And one more country-soul singer-story teller tune - this one actually reminded me a bit something that would have slotted well on a Tony Joe White album..   A bit more tuneful than 'I Never Get Tied of You', but not as god as their version of 'Patches'.   Wonder what a duet between Johnson and Tony Joe White would have turned out ...   rating: *** stars

 

Curiously Invictus doesn't seem to have done a great deal to promote the album.   As far as I can, they didn't even release a single off the album.

 

So here's something I've never done before - two ratings for the same album.

 

Three stars if you own some of The Chairmen of the Board albums.

Four stars if you don't own any Chairmen of the Board albums.   

 

 

 


Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  General Johnson

Company: Arista

Catalog: AL 4082
Year:
 1976

Country/State: Norfolk, Virginia

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap (opened); includes original lyric inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5948

Price: $20.00

 

Maybe because I was born in Southern Alabama I've been a soul fan since I can remember.  Some of my first musical memories are of soul acts I heard on the radio.  Among my lengthy list of personal favorites were the criminally overlooked The Chairmen of the Board.

 

In 1976 Johnson made his Arista label debut.  Co-produced by Johnson and Rick Chertoff, the cleverly-titled "General Johnson" served as a nice introduction to Johnson's multiple talents.  He'd previously enjoyed considerable success as a songwriter (for both The Chairmen of the Board and outside acts) and that talent was well displayed on this collection.  Almost sounding like a demo intended to showcase his versatility, the set included stabs at country-soul, funk, and pop.  Johnson also had one helluva voice.  Unlike many singers, Johnson had a chameleon-like ability to adjust his voice, effortlessly shifting from gritty and raw ('Patches'), to silky smooth ('Lies'). 

 

"General Johnson" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Temperature Risin'  (General Johnson) - 5:50

Kicked along by a fantastic bass pattern and Johnson's gritty voice 'Temperature Risin'' was a nice slice of old school funk.  Yeah, the extended instrumental segment stretched the song to the breaking point, but even that had some advantages - particularly if you were a fan of cheesy '70s-era synthesizers.   Nice way to start the album.   rating: **** stars

2.) Don't Walk Away  (General Johnson) - 4:12

Of the album's eight songs, the mid-tempo ballad 'Don't Walk Away' was the track that most closely recalled Johnson's work with The Chairmen of the Board.  Hard to aptly describe, but the song had the same feel that producers Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland crafted for that group when they were recording for Invictus.  Always loved the jazzy guitar solo ...One of my favorite performances and easy to see why it was tapped as a single.   rating: ***** stars

3.) We the People  (General Johnson - Roland Christian Jr.) - 4:35

Okay, lyrically this one sounded like a Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff throwaway, but the track had a pounding beat and you couldn't really criticize the guy since most of the sentiments were dead-on  ...  'Course here we are thirty years later and not all that much seems to have changed.  Another one that was tapped as a single.   rating: ***** stars

4.) Lies  (General Johnson) - 3:10

The first disappointment, 'Lies' was one of those 'big' ballads that someone like Whitney Houston would have driven to the top of the charts.  Unfortunately, even though Johnson turned in a nice vocal, the song was just way too over-the-top and MOR to make much of impression on me.   rating: ** stars

 

(side 2)
1.) All In the Family   (General Johnson) - 4:10

'All In the Family' was a nice slice of country-soul with Johnson turning in one of those singer-storyteller performances that Clarence Carter and others briefly made commercially viable.  With it's tale of family empowerment, to my ears this one was actually even better than 'Patches' (see below).   rating: **** stars

2.) Only Love Can Mend a Broken Heart   (General Johnson) - 3:32  

3.) Patches   (General Johnson - Ronald Dunbar) - 5:33

Given Clarence Carter's success with the song, most folks have no idea that Johnson actually wrote 'Patches'.  Carter's version was a bit faster and didn't have the extended , tear jerker spoken word segment, but really didn't stray very far from the original version ...  simply one of the best soul story-teller songs ever written !   rating: **** stars

4.) Keep Keepin' On   (General Johnson) - 2:56

With a nice nod to the earlier 'All in the Family', 'Keep Keepin' On' was a mindless, throwaway slice of party fun that seemed tacked on to the end of the album more for running time than artistic merit.  rating: ** stars

 

Arista tapped the album for a number of singles, with four of the six hitting the R&B charts:

 

- 1976's 'All In the Family' b/w 'Ready, Willing and Able' (Arista catalog number AS-0177)  (# 22 R&B)

- 1976's 'We the People' b/w 'Keep Keepin' On' (Arista catalog number AS-0192)  (# 36 R&B)

- 1976's 'Keep Keepin' On' b/w 'Temperature Risin'' (Arista catalog number AS-0193)

- 1976's 'Don't Walk Away' b/w 'Temperature Risin'' (Arista catalog number AS-0203) (# 42 R&B)

- 1976's 'Only Love Can Mend a Broken Heat' b/w 'Patches' (Arista catalog number AS-0234) 

- 1977's 'Let's Fool Around' (b/w 'Temperature Risin'' (Arista catalog number AS-0264)  (# 78 R&B)

 

I'll admit this one doesn't match the cream of The Chairmen of the Board catalog, but remember that Johnson was a quarter of that line-up.  Here he was going it alone.  Regardless, at least two thirds of this set was dynamite.  That's a pretty good batting average no matter where you are.

 

There is a small Johnson related website at: http://www.generalnormanjohnson.com/

 

 

Sadly, only 67, he passed on in October 2010.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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