211. Icons – Jeff Johnson

ICONS (1984)

Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson was making “New Age” music before “New Age” was cool. In fact, he was making it before it existed at all.

More progressive rock than many of his new age instrumental contemporaries Jeff Johnson has, over the years, created a monstrous library catalog of utterly brilliant, passionate and spiritually moving music that has unfortunately escaped the attention of many in the CCM world. When “New Age” instrumental music was all the rage in CCM during the mid-1980’s Johnson was a leading artist, but many missed out on his more creative, provocative and, dare I say, commercial vocal projects.

Of those many overlooked albums comes “Icons,” an utterly brilliant, and completely unforgettable album that is a must own for any audiophile. Not quite as commercial or rock influenced as “Fallen Splendor,” Icons contains some of Johnson’s best vocal music and remains his most cohesive vocal driven project. It also contains “Closed, Please Call Again,” which is Johnson’s finest song.

Opening with “Tesseract,” an instrumental opener inspired by the concept of space travel as described in Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel, “A Wrinkle In Time.” The book may be the only time in this blog I ever use the term “BYSO!” Johnson’s musically explores the “feeling” expressed in the book as the main characters travel through space using the tesseract.

The album includes more of Johnson’s early progressive rock influences than on any album that follow outside of Fallen Splendor. “People in Peril” starts with limited percussive sounds and accompanying synthesizer background that is added upon as the song grows. Johnson’s wonderful falsetto is offset by a distant backing vocal that seems to challenge or respond to the lead the vocal as the song fades.

The previously mentioned “Closed, Please Call Again” musically explores the heart of one postponing a response to the call of the Gospel or closed off to any true human contact. The song features some of the finest saxophone work on any Christian album. The longing heart is musically portrayed through the instrumental work and the aching vocals make this song a sheer delight.The saxophone is introduced brilliantly with a vocal and instrument interplay.

There is so much more to be said about this amazing album, but space limitations prohibit a deeper discussion. Suffice it to say this is clearly an AYSO and would serve as a great introduction to the artist for those unfamiliar with his amazing collection of work.

  1. Don
    April 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    A favorite back in the day. People should give it a listen. Deserves to be higher in my opinion.

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