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Johnny Lee “H-e-e-ere’s Johnny!” Classic Album Review

Johnny Lee's second album.Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always on the turntable, in the CD, or in the MP3 players.  Today’s Classic Album Review is a 1977 GRT release from a then-relatively unknown Johnny Lee.  H-e-e-ere’s Johnny was his second album release.  While the album failed to chart, it did contain his first Country 40 and Country 20 hits.

The album opens with a slow ballad, “Dear Alice”.  Not spectacular, but not bad.  One thing interesting to note, though, is how different the younger Johnny Lee sounds, when compared to “Lookin’ For Love” and later.  The style is still developing, here.

“Red Sails In The Sunset” was a hit, three times in 1935, thanks to Bing Crosby, Guy Lombardo, and Mantovani.  A song that has been revived numerous times, over the years, including Top 40 pop versions by Nat King Cole, The Platters, and Fats Domino.  Johnny Lee’s version would become his first Country 40 single, peaking at twenty-two in the Fall of 1976.  The track has a cool 1950′s-style arrangement, but still with enough Country to it to keep the twangy part of the ear, satisfied.  A bouncy, likable track with the beat and prominent sax work.

Another cover, here, is the Nat King Cole hit “Ramblin’ Rose”.  Slightly quicker than the original, it’s not a bad cover, at all.

However, the best cover on the album, may well be Johnny Lee’s take on the Fats Domino classic “Blueberry Hill”.  Quicker than the original, Johnny gives an exceptional performance, here, as the song seems to glide effortlessly, from start to finish.

While Johnny Lee’s vocal work on the Elton John classic “Your Song” is decent, there’s a feeling of not quite being a fit, here.  You want to like the track, but there’s just not enough there to make you do so.  In fairness, “Your Song” is a track that I’ve never heard anyone really perform effectively, outside of Elton John, himself.

Side one ends with a rollicking, rocking track, “Ruby Louise”.  It sounds just like something Billy Crash Craddock would have done, both in song styling and arrangement.  A nice departure to end the first side; a true Country rocker.

Side two opens with Johnny Lee’s first Country 20 single, 1977′s “Country Party”.  A reworking of the 1972 Rick Nelson hit, “Garden Party”, the single peaked at fifteen, during the Summer.  Not bad, but I think with the lyrics being such as about nostalgia (which comes through on this version, as well), it would have been more effective in the hands of a veteran act.   Also, the lyrics feel forced, in spots.  Nothing to complain about, performance-wise, though.

“Frisco” is a decent ballad about, not the long-departed rail line of the same name, but rather of someone who’s tried to make it in the big city of San Francisco, but hasn’t, and is going home.

One of the album’s best tracks is “Saturday’s Heroes”.  Johnny Lee really excels, here.

One more time, they dip into the 1950′s-style Rock ‘n Roll sound, utilized on the track, “This Time”.  A good performance, here, and the song, itself, is a fine composition.

As good as most of the tracks have been on this disc, had they all been of the caliber of “Victims Of The Pretty Things In Life”, then we’d be talking about a true classic; a killer of an album.  Pure country, with a beat that is reminiscent of the Ray Price shuffle, mixed with an outstanding performance.

The album wraps with an odd juxtaposition on “Long Black Veil”.  Lyrically, a rather morbid, haunting track (especially in the hands of Lefty Frizzell), mixed with an almost dance-like beat.  And it actually works, pretty well.

Long out of print, this is an album that I did not find too many used copies of.  Of the ones I did find, the price range was $5 to $25.  This album was released on vinyl and 8-track, but I’m unsure of cassette.  Most, if not all, of these tracks can be found on other CD collections.

My pick for Standout Track is “Red Sails In The Sunset”.  Cool sound I really like.  I’m going with “Victims Of The Pretty Things In Life” for my Hidden Gem.  Weakest Track goes to “Your Song”.

Overall, a pretty good effort.  Johnny Lee is still finding his style, here, yet one can hear traces of what was to become in the next decade.  The biggest change that would come would be a more mature tone in the voice.  Still, the tracks are worthy listens, and the album has very little of what I’d consider “filler” material.  I rate it a 3 out of 5.

 

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