Eric Johnson / Alien Love Child: Live and beyond
On Live and beyond, Eric Johnson serves up a helping of live Texas blues rock with his band Alien Love Child, a trio featuring Chris Maresh on bass and bill Maddox on drums, with Johnson and Maresh sharing occasional vocal duties with guest vocalist Malford Milligan. Johnson's infamous meticulousness over guitar equipment and his recordings has delayed several of his studio records in the past decade, but Live and beyond presents Johnson in a less inhibited live setting.
Johnson shines when the band jams, even over some rather stock blues riffing like "Enzo Shuffle" or the solo section of "The Boogie King," after the dull intro, but the music lags during the vocal sections. Many of the blues shuffle riffs sound quite similar, and "Once a Part of Me" and "Don't Cha Know" with guest Milligan feel even more hackneyed. None of the live cuts match the mournful wail of the single studio track "World of Trouble."
Johnson wields his trademark silky smooth lead sound with mixed results, such as the wonderfully snappy, gloomy solo on "Once a Part of Me," and the ponderously extended solo in "Last House on the Block." His sparkly clean guitar passages add a welcome contrast to the repetitive gritty blues riffing, particularly the almost Allan Holdsworth sounding ethereal swells opening "Elevator Sky Movie." The pedantic rhythm section supports Johnson adequately but fails to add an additional spark to the music. Perhaps the studio version of the band, with Steve Barber on Hammond B3 organ, better suits Johnson's writing and playing.