Album Reviews

Roland Johnson

Imagine This

Artist:     Roland Johnson

Album:     Imagine This

Label:     Blue Lotus Recordings

Release Date:     06/24/2016

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After years in cover bands, St. Louis singer Roland Johnson makes his label debut at 68 with a set of undiluted, classic soul that will please fans of Otis Redding and Johnny Taylor. Roland Johnson’s sure ear pinpoints the blues in rhythm and blues, and his appealing, raspy tenor voice is honest and supple. His indie outing, Baby, I’m Ready (2011), was smooth R&B. This time, the singing is grittier and more mature and the arrangements are more fun. The horns and saxes are crisp and energetic. Johnson co-wrote 9 of the 10 songs including the inviting up-tempo opener “Can’t Get Enough” with its O’Jays influence. “Sweet Little Nothings” has a Motown feel that lingers in the ear, just like his sweetie’s whispers.

Renee Smith’s warm alto cuddles with Johnson’s sandy tenor on two declarations of devotion. “Yours and Mine” and “Promised Land” bring to mind the loving duets of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, sounding perfect for film. “The Things You Do” manages to recall both the Temptations and James Brown, in a ‘50s stroll that shows off Johnson’s singing skills. The joyful arrangement echoes early rock’n’roll, with tenor sax, piano and electric guitar. Other standouts include the wonderfully tender ballad “Ain’t That Loving You” and “Keep On Dancin’,” in which Johnson convincingly states that dancing could be the cure for all the world’s troubles. With a romping title tune that’s 110% pure getdown, Imagine This is too much fun to miss.

-Annie Dinerman

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