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Alphonso Johnson (Bass): Moonshadows/Yesterday's Dreams/Spellbound *

Album Notes

BGO's 2015 three-fer combines the three albums Weather Report bassist Alphonso Johnson recorded as a leader for Epic in the mid-'70s: Moonshadows and Yesterday's Dreams, both from 1976, and 1978's Spellbound. All three of these records walk a fine line between groove-oriented fusion and adventurous jazz, with Johnson and his band -- featuring Patrice Rushen, Narada Michael Walden, Lee Ritenour, Sheila E., and Grover Washington, Jr. at various times -- keeping things supple yet unpredictable. Of the three, Spellbound is the closest to an R&B album, placing an emphasis on vocals and shorter songs (there's still the dense "Face Blaster," which feels as out of place as the winding conclusion, "Earthtales Suite"). Yesterday's Dreams also gets that wild -- "Balls to the Wall" is fittingly hard and complex -- but it, like Moonshadows, shows how Johnson could finesse his mood, finding unexpected common ground between rock, funk, and fusion, never settling for something predictable but never shunning a groovy sound, either. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine



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