Venus Isle

by Eric Johnson

(1996) Capitol #CDP 0777 7 98331 2 2

Description Venus is EJ's most compelling and complex synthesis of classic rock guitar (a la Hendrix, Beck, Clapton) with other diverse elements from the world of jazz (Wes) and country (Reed and Atkins).
Posted By Inactive Member
Directory Recordings: Rock/Pop
Rate/Review This Resource
Overall Rating: 4.2 (of 5)
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From 6 votes total

Member Reviews

On 2/21/2004, John Rich (3189) posted:
Overall Rating:
Many people have problems with this album due to its somewhat pretenous nature, but I encourage anyone who is a fan of brilliant guitar work to take another listen. This album came out of frustration and was an extremely difficult album for Eric to make both physically (he suffered some hearing loss) and emotionally (it marked his departure from Capitol Records). Anyone who thinks this is his worst album should reconsider due to the circumstances that he was facing not only as a musician, but as a human being. I mean just think about it. He won a Grammy on his last album "Ah Via Musicom," and it is hard to make an album after something major like that happens. He became obssessed with getting a song perfect even more so than ever during this period. I personally felt that this album doesn't suffer from originality; however, I do wish it had more instrumental songs on it. Musically this album is a departure from "Ah Via Musicom" which was Eric's intent, because he wanted to grow as musician. Now for the age old question: does Eric seem more concerned with technique than feel? In one word: no. "Venus Isle" is, without a doubt in my mind, a more emotional album than "Ah Via Musicom." Many people would disagree with that statement, but if you listen to songs like "Manhattan," "Lonely in the Night," and "When the Sun Meets the Sky" it is hard not to say that there is a feel to what he is playing. Now many people have said that he had lost musicial direction on this album and that he was uninspired. Then again I disagree. This album had more direction than anything he has done and will do. There is an underlying theme to this album and that is beauty and grace. Anyway, I beg anyone who has the wrong impression about this album to reconsider their thoughts, because they need to consider all of the frustration and pressure Eric had to face making this album. If you don't like the album that is fine, but just because it isn't a total shred fest doesn't mean it isn't good. Shredding doesn't mean anything. Music is about making a statement not playing a million notes in a measure. That is what I like about this album, it shows maturity and expansion. Eric Johnson is one of the greatest guitar virtuosos of the past decade.
On 7/26/2000, Gabriel Karaffa (6) posted:
Overall Rating:
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.

On 12/30/1999, Michael Sawley (577) posted:
Overall Rating:
Not sure about his singing but the guitar playing is top notch
On 12/14/1999, Jason Reich (1765) posted:
Overall Rating:
On a less sophisticated level, I found this CD to be great music, but a little softer than I expected. He jumps from style to style alot, and being the metal head I am, I liked Manhattan and SRV the most. Eric is an amazing guitarist, and while this album is a little slower than I expected, its still a great peice of work and deserves a listen. Sadly, my opinion is biased by my love of fast rock, sorry eric.
On 11/4/1999, Inactive Member posted:
Overall Rating:
Quite a few people consider EJ's best work behind him in the Tones era. I can't agree with that assessment at all. I think each recording represents an advance from the previous one. To date, Venus represents his magnum opus. The hot spots for me are Manhattan, Camel's Night Out, Pavilion, and perhaps his greatest song (along with Trademark off Ah Via Musicom) is When the Sun Meets the Sky -- what a masterful balance between lush rhythms, tasteful fills, and soulful leads.

I do have two reservations about EJ however. One, the man can't sing to save his life. This is obvious to anyone who has seen him live. Second, his lyrics are just a little too 'New Age' and corny for me -- I often feel compelled to eat some herbs and stare at a crystal when I listen to his music. Oh well, that is a small price to pay for such incredible music.