Venus Isle is a more cohesive album than Johnson's two previous albums. Most notable is the seamless running order of the music. Venus Isle is best experienced beginning to end.
With the exception of "Camel's Night Out", there are no weak tracks on this album, but "CNO" is a pretty deep low. Musically, "CNO" sounds out of place on an Eric Johnson album. Indeed, "CNO" was not written by Eric Johnson, and that is the root of the problem. The introduction of an alien piece of music, into what is an extremely strong CD, has the net effect of weakening the album as a whole.
The climactic point of Venus Isle is "When The Sun Meets The Sky". Interestingly, this song is a collaboration and not a solo composition by Johnson. This is interesting when contrasted to "Camel's Night Out" which is not a Johnson composition, and represents the lowest point on the album. Perhaps the indication here is that Johnson is at his best when collaborating with some of his Austin cohorts.
On a more concrete level, guitarists may find that this album lacks some of the soloing bluster that existed on Ah Via Musicom. A deeper investigation, however, reveals a much more mature approach to soloing which comes from freeing one's self from the idea of creating a great "Guitar CD".
As always, Johnson is most often compared to Hendrix. Johnson's work is so strong on its own, however, that no one could ever accuse him of being a mere Hendrix imitator ( A fate that befell Robin Trower for many years, before listeners woke up to what he was really doing. )
As a listener, I would get this CD for the sheer beauty of its music. As a guitarist, I would get this CD because it is one of the first truly inspirational works in a long time.