Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Al Johnson with Jean Carn – I’m Back For More

Most Wanted! Al Johnson with Jean Carn – I’m Back For More (Columbia)

On the heels of his participation to Norman Connors‘s ‘Invitation’ album back in 1979, the latter would return the favor, producing Al Johnson‘s ‘Back For More’ album, the year after. An album which includes the highly sought after new version of ‘I’ve Got My Second Wind’. But also ‘I’m Back For More’. A masterfully produced jazzy funk cool gem where he shared the duties with Jean Carn along with The Jones Girls on backing vocals.

– A singer, musician, arranger and producer, Al Johnson started his career as lead singer with The Unifics in the mid-60’s. Together, they released an album – ‘Sittin’ At The Court of Love’ – back in 1968, and a handful of singles before disappearing from the radars in the early 70’s.

Johnson went back to writing and recording in 1978, delivering his solo debut-album, ‘Peaceful’, for Indie label Marina Records. An album which included the original version of ‘I’ve Got My Second Wind’. Meanwhile, he started working as a backing singer and keyboardist with production pair Willie Lester and Rodney Brown. A collaboration which led him to appear on Bobby Thurston, Gayle Adams and Sharon Redd‘s albums.
He also took the lead on Norman Connors‘s ‘Your Love’, the opening track to his 1979 ‘Invitation’ album. Then he renewed the experience the year after on ‘I Don’t Need Nobody Else’ from further Connors‘s album ‘Take It To The Limit’. Connors producing Johnson‘s ‘Back For More’ album in the meantime…

Johnson didn’t manage to get more recognition on his own though, releasing only 3 albums in a 20 years period. He would nevertheless collaborate with many artists during the 80’s. From Evelyn King to The Whispers and Deniece Williams among others.

Johnson released a final album – ‘My Heart Is An Open Book’ – on Committee Records back in 1998.

He sadly died from complications following surgery on Oct. 26, 2013. He was 65.

Jean Carn (also spelled Jean Carne)’s own musical roots were firmly in Jazz. And it’s in this field that she starting a recording career along with her then husband, Doug Carn? in the early 70’s. They would record together 3 albums followed by a best of in 1976 which marked the end of their marriage and recording relationship.

Seen as a featuring vocalist on James Mtume‘s ‘Rebirth Cycle’ album in 1974, Jean Carn also performed with Duke Ellington prior to his death. Spotted by Norman Connors led her to sing the lead on his ‘Slewfoot’ on ‘Saturday Night Special’ albums in 1974 and 1975.

From then, she got signed to Philadelphia International Records where she released 4 albums between 1976 and 1981. One could feel her Jazz background on the outstanding ‘Free Love’ (1976). Other highlights from her Philly Sound period including ‘Don’t Let It Go To Your head’ (1978). And ‘Was It All It Was’ (1979) in addition to her performance on Dexter Wansel‘s ‘Dreams Of Tomorrow’.

Reducing the recording activities of PIR label head Kenny Gamble would help Carn to secure a deal with Motown. This resulted in the release of (only) one album – ‘Trust Me’ – produced by Norman Connors. She would score her first and only US R&B #1 hit 4 years later with the Grover Washington, Jr. produced ‘Closer Than Close’.

Jean Carn is also remembered for her collaborations with Roy Ayers, Stanley Turrentine and Rick James.

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