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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Ed Alleyne-Johnson

Reflections

Review by Greg Olma

One of the upsides of being in the midst of the demise of the brick and mortar record store is the ability to search through iTunes to find unique covers of your favorite artist’s songs. Now granted, there is plenty of substandard cannon fodder out there in terms of badly done covers, but every now and then you can run across a real treasure of a song. Rarer still is the entire album of cover songs done so well and uniquely, that each track is a familiar yet new experience to listen to. Such is the treasure I stumbled across while perusing the virtual aisles of iTunes and the one you will find by listening to Reflections, the latest album from electric violinist Ed Alleyne-Johnson.

This seventh album from Ed Alleyne-Johnson, his second one made up of cover songs, finds the violinist delving into the 1970’s for a selection of classic rock songs played in his unique style on his handmade electric violin. The choice of songs he takes on runs from the obvious hit (“Freebird”) to the deeper cuts (“Child in Time” and “Parisienne Walkways”) to the downright daring (“Shine on You Crazy Diamond”). Whereas many cover songs these days are cheap cash-in’s by record labels to get their artists names out there, the thing you will find throughout your listen to this album is while these are well known songs from the classic rock era, Alleyne-Johnson’s emotion filled playing shows his love and respect for the music and artists who created these songs. This is no cash-in album.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
In choosing this piece by Pink Floyd to open his album, Ed Alleyne-Johnson shows both his daring and musical abilities to pull it off. This is essentially “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)” right down to the overall length of the piece. Alleyene-Johnson’s violin playing both the guitar and vocal parts is backed by low key drums and bass. You will swear that is a guitarist emulating David Gilmour’s notes, but it is in fact a violin. The violin also stands in for the vocals in the song, making what has to be an excellent multi-tracked performance as the vocals and guitar overlap, though his unofficial website says he makes heavy use of delays in many of his live performances.
Life On Mars?
David Bowie’s 1971 hit from Hunky Dory becomes a brooding, piece under the bow of Alleyne-Johnson. It’s not nearly as note for note a reading as the preceding or following numbers.
Kashmir
Put your headphones on for this one. Except for the drum and bass parts, that is a violin holding down the rest of this song. It’s truly amazing when you listen to the overlapping guitar and vocal sections. Alleyne-Johnson never steps on his own performance while bringing out the unique nuances of the original.
Freebird
I called this song the “obvious” one at the start of this review, because frankly, if anyone tries to do an album of covers from the 1970’s and doesn’t include the unofficial national anthem of the South, well then why bother listening to begin with! Alleyne-Johnson gives a respectful and amazing “by the notes” rendition of this classic. One could shout “Play Freebird!” at one his performances and not be disappointed by what they heard.
Parisienne Walkways
You will swear that is a guitar, but it is really Ed Alleyne-Johnson’s electric violin busting out the guitar intro to this Gary Moore/Phil Lynott number from 1979. It’s perfect for a slow dance with someone or holding your lighter up just because.  
Child In Time
I make no secrets about Deep Purple being my favorite band and this song is what caught my attention on iTunes. The original being one of the more powerful moments in hard rock history, I was intrigued by what a guy with a violin could do. Well, let’s just say that playing double duty by covering Gillan’s vocals and Blackmore’s guitar, Alleyne-Johnson pulls off a breathtaking rendition of this number. The opening vocals have a Middle Eastern modal quality to them. This number along with “Shine…” and “Freebird” really demonstrate what an amazing performer Ed Alleyne-Johnson is.
Sylvia
The second best known song by Dutch proggers Focus gets a fantastic bow to strings treatment here. Short, sweet and to the point like the original, this is the kind of cover that you might hear and go, “wait, I know this song, what the heck is it?” Since the original was an instrumental you don’t get the same vocal/guitar interplay by the violin, but that is made up for by the style with which he plays.
Like A Hurricane
Neil Young’s number becomes arguably the most unique piece on the album, with Alleyne-Johnson’s strings filling in for Young’s fragile vocals and some nice finger picking harmonics off the top of the song. I have enjoyed listening to this particular song over and over more so than any other on the album. Ed Alleyne-Johnson is not a cover artist in the traditional sense and has five albums of original material in his discography which are also well worth exploring. His albums including the passionate and beautiful Reflections are also available on iTunes and at Amazon.com.
 
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