Electromagnets (featuring Eric Johnson)
As many know, Eric Johnson started his career not in the mid 1980s, but 10 years earlier in the Electromagnets, a hot fusion band from Austin. Inspired by the Weather Report, Return to Forever, and Jeff Beck, among others, the ‘Magnets were a talented band with powerhouse musicians, including future EJ sidemen such as keyboardist Steve Barber and bassist Kyle Brock. And no less than Frank Zappa was a fan, calling the popular local group “… a Mahavishnu with a sense of humor.”
The original – and very rare – Electromagnets vinyl LP was reissued on Rhino a few years back, but now, a second CD of studio material from December, 1975, has resurfaced. Available only on Johnson’s website, Electromagnets II is a compelling jazz-rock platter, featuring more aggressive guitar playing than the first album and also an extra helping of Eric Johnson compositions, such as “Cannonball” and the aptly titled 6/8 instrumental “Wake Up.” Eric’s explosive solos exude all sorts of period influences: Beck, Tommy Bolin, Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin, all mixed up into a hot, fusiony stew. For EJ’s clean country chops, check out the light-hearted “Chickin’ Pickin’.” His playing back then was surprisingly mature and ferocious – not too shabby for a 21-year-old kid.
Ultimately, one can only wonder what would have had happened if the Electromagnets had been discovered back then. Had they been signed to a big jazz-rock label of the day (such as Columbia/Epic or Nemperor) and released albums of this caliber, Johnson may have been counted among the top fusion axemen of that generation. Instead, the world would have to wait another decade to discover his Texas-fried chops. In any case, if you like classic ’70s jazz-rock, grab this. – PP
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jun. ’07 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.