Angel Air 2015
Song wizard of Oz lays his Trans-Pacific wonders out for observation.
Starting out as a writer, not performer, in the mid-’60s, it took Kevin Johnson some time before he found a voice of his own and for his tracks to cross over from Australia to America and further on. His debut single, 1968’s tremulous “Woman, You Took My Life,” was covered four years later by Tom Jones, but by that time country star Jim Ed Brown had taken Johnson’s “Bonnie Please Don’t Go (She’s Leavin’)” into the “Billboard” charts, to follow upon its homeland action, and this old-time-styled single, together with its predecessor, takes pride of place here, on a compilation titled after Kevin’s biggest success.
A string-drenched autobiographical epic – in its album version – that gains momentum on memorable choruses, “Rock & Roll I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life” became a hit in 1974, when infamous Jonathan King recognized the song’s potential and gave it a boost. There’s enough of acoustic-based balladry in the nostalgic waltz of “Kedron Brook” or the mariachi-tinctured “Grab The Money And Run,” but the piece’s writer never shied away from overt commercialism, as proved by the Caribbean breeze of 1976’s “Someday Sam” and 1996’s countrified disco of “Ready To Roll,” with its harmonica-oiled slide into a catchy rocking. Taking the listener into the artist’s latter-day creativity, “Lola & Sassy” – dedicated to his granddaughters – is the simplest of all 19 tracks on display, yet it’s endearingly warmed with inner light. As is most of Kevin Johnson’s songs, rock ‘n’ roll or otherwise, for which the veteran deserves a wider recognition.