Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1970)
- Randy Johnson -- vocals, guitar
- none known
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: The Gift of Randy Johnson
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: still in shrink wrap; opened
Catalog ID: 1
I own some obscure albums, and this 1970 album released on the small Los Angeles-based Amaret label certainly fits the definition of obscure.
I haven't spent a great deal of time looking into Randy Johnson, but my initial explorations indicate there just isn't much information out there on Mr. Johnson. Even the liner notes accompanying his 1970 album "The Gift" are bland and uninformative: "It is a rare pleasure to present the talent of Randy Johnson. Acclaimed a contemporary troubadour, this lyric poet is the total artist. His intensity, his vibrancy, his sincere statements, is a communication (sic) only to be heard to be joyfully absorbed. Randy Johnson is a gift to the world."
Johnson seems to have made his recording debut with a 1967 promotional 45 released on the Davy Jones Record Co. label. I had no idea Jones had briefly fronted his own label. Turns out Johnson's 45 was the fourth and final release for the label:
- 1967's 'Fly Superman, Fly' b/w 'Have You Been Dreaming' (Davy Jones Presents catalog number 6662)
'Fly Superman, Fly' was subsequently included on the soundtrack to the 1970 film "The Cycle Savages" (American International Records catalog number ST-A-1033).
Produced by Jerry Steiner "The Gift of Randy Johnson" is a true mystery (starting with how he was ever signed to a recording contract). Johnson was credited with penning all ten songs and from the rear panel photo (assuming the photo was Johnson), he apparently played 12-string electric guitar. Otherwise there were no performance credits. Musically this was just a plain strange album. Johnson didn't have a conventional voice, nor was he a strong singer. His voice was high pitched and he had a tendency to quiver. In fact on the remake of 'Fly Superman, Fly' his performance reminded me of Tiny Tim. As a songwriter Johnson was equally strange and very much an acquired taste. Complete with om-pa-pa horns 'Han's Polka' showcased some of the strangest lyrics I've ever heard. '100 Songs In the Gutter', 'Candles & Cake' and the single 'Fly Superman, Fly' weren't far behind on the eccentric scale. Producer Steiner's habit of providing MOR arrangements for Johnson's weird songs made for an even more disconcerting listening experience. That wasn't to imply the album was without charm. The opener 'Beauty' exhibited a slinky, lysergic-soaked vibe. The album's best tune, 'Garden of Love' exhibited the strongest melody, complete with a sitar solo and one of Johnson's strongest vocals.
This collection isn't going to be for everyone so remember you've been forwarded. Anyone got a clue about the album cover? What does the ship represent?
of Randy Johnson" track listing:
1.) Beauty (Randy Johnson) - 3:21 rating: **** stars
'Beauty' was an interesting ballad showcasing Johnson's dry, whine of a voice covered in heavy orchestration. The effect was definitely lysergic, made even more trippier by Steiner's flat, echo production sound.
1.) Han's Polka (Randy Johnson) - 4:11 rating: ** stars
Geez, I've heard some weird-ass songs, but 'Han's Polka' is certainly up there ... Yeah it's a polka but with lyrics that seemed to be inspired by German deaths as a result of Allied World War II bombing. The end of song stalker movie freak-out section was scary.
3.) Gift of Music (Randy Johnson) - 3:12 rating: *** stars
Accompanied by a big band arrangement, an awesome bass line and some Atari video game sound effects that were apparently lost, 'Gift of Music' sounded like something that Johnson could have trotted out for the Merv Griffin show. It was tuneful in a middle America MOR-style.
4.) Back Stage (Randy Johnson) - 4:02 rating: ** stars
'Back Stage' started out with kind of a groovy jazz feel, but Jackson's high-pitched, waivery vocals quickly deflated the proceedings.
5.) Garden of Love (Randy Johnson) - 3:31 rating: **** stars
And just when I was giving up hope, along came the breezy, highly commercial 'Garden of Love.' Jackson's voice remained an acquired taste, but when surrounded by this beautiful patented '60s melody, complete with lysergic flute, sitar and jazzy electric keyboards, it all seemed to fit together. No idea how, or why, but it was one of the album highlights.
Um, I don't even know how to describe 'And I Say I Love You'. Maybe something along the crazed psych leanings of Johnny Arcesia? Imagine sitting in an Italian restaurant where the local band was accidently dosed with a massive quantity of acid ...
2.) 100 Songs In the Gutter (Randy Johnson) - 3:25 rating: *** stars
Musically the autobiographical '100 Songs In the Gutter' sported an old-timey melody that you could easily have imagined Spanky and Our Gang, or perhaps Mama Cass covering. The cornet solo was certainly unexpected.
3.) Candles & Cake (Randy Johnson) - 4:01 rating: ** stars
'Candles & Cake' opened up sounding like a mash-up of Joel Gray doing a "Cabaret" spin-off and some sort of '50s crooner going over the edge. It opened up into something that sounded like it was written for a '60s porn flick. Nice fuzz guitar solo and some weird sound effects closed it out.
4.) Fly Superman Fly (Randy Johnson) - 3:02 rating: *** stars
Whereas the 1967 'Fly Superman Fly single was very raw, bluesy and distinctly acid-tinged, the remake managed to lose everything that made the original track marginally interesting. Opening up with some horns that sounded like they'd been borrowed from a '60s daytime talk show, the updated version reminded me of a slightly more talented version of Tiny Tim. How this one got included on "The Cycle Savages" soundtrack is beyond me.
5.) Goddess of Day (Randy Johnson) - 3:03 rating: *** stars
Johnson had such an offbeat voice and it was seldom as obvious as on the equally offbeat 'Goddess of Day.' This track couldn't figure out if it wanted to be a MOR ballad, an Indian flavored raga, or a jazzy interlude. It ended up being an indescribable mash-up of all of the above.
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