General Johnson – 1972 – Generally Speaking
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Best known for his work with Chairmen of the Board, 1972 saw singer General Johnson step out with what was technically a solo album. Produced by Johnson and the team of Raynard Mayner, Greg Perry, and William Weatherspoon, “Generally Speaking” wasn’t a major change in direction from his earlier work. If you liked the Chairmen of the Board albums, then you were probably going to find this one agreeable. In fact, if you liked the Chairmen of the Board albums you were probably going to quickly recognized some of these songs sounded familiar. That might have something to do with the fact three of the tunes overlapped the second Chairmen of the Board LP. ‘It was Almost Something‘, ‘All We Need Is Understanding‘, and ‘Everything’s Tuesday‘ were all found on the “In Session” LP. ‘Saginaw County Line’ was lifted from the “Bittersweet” LP. I’ve never bothered comparing them, but based on memory, these versions sound very similar to the originals. The good news was all of the repeats were good. Even better news, most of the new tracks were fantastic – highlights included ‘God’s Gift To Man‘ and ‘My Credit Didn’t Go Through‘.
A1 Saginaw County Line 4:16
A2 God’s Gift To Man 3:57
A3 It Was Almost Something 3:06
A4 Every Couples’ Not A Pair 4:42
A5 All We Need Is Understanding 2:55
A6 Everything’s Tuesday 3:05
B1 I Never Get Tired Of You 5:21
B2 My Credit Didn’t Go Through 3:37
B3 Things Are Bound To Get Better Later On 6:14
B4 Mary Lou Thomas 5:02
Review by RDTEN1
‘Saginaw County Line‘ first appeared on The Chairmen of the Board “Bittersweet” album. Country soul ? I guess that’s the label I’d slap on ‘Saginaw County Line’. Co-written by Johnson and Perry, this one sounded a lot like something Clarence Carter might have recorded (think along the lines of ‘Patches’. Musically it wasn’t particularly original, but Johnson turned in a nice vocal that made it interesting.
With a goofy Latin-eaque and one of those cutesy lyrics that you find on lots of Invictus albums, ‘God’s Gift To Man‘ sounded like something out of The Chairmen of the Board catalog (that was meant as a compliment). Very commercial and one of those tunes that jumped in your head and doesn’t want to leave. Shame it wasn’t longer.
‘It was Almost Something‘ appeared on the second Chairmen of Board album (“In Session“). I’ve never compared the two songs, but based on memory, this one sounded very close to the original. Yeah, this one borrowed a little bit from the earlier ‘Give Me Just a Little More Time‘ but that didn’t detract from it’s pleasures, including some great fuzz guitar. Very commercial and would have made a good choice for a single.
‘Every Couple’s Not a Pair‘ : Remember my earlier comment about cutesy lyrics ? The chorus on this one was gorgeous, but this mid-tempo ballad found Johnson stretching, in the process employing his most irritating voice. The screechy female chorus didn’t help.
‘All We Need Is Understanding‘ was another track that sounded like it was lifted directly from the “In Session” album. Opening up with some roller skating rink organ, ‘All We Need Is Understanding’ found Johnson singing the album’s uplifting ‘save the world’ ballad. Hokey beyond all description, but still enjoyable.
Everything’s Tuesday‘ was the third “In Sessions” track,. General Johnson had an instantly recognizable voice and he was in prime form on this bouncy pop-flavored numbers. A far more typical Invictus composition, this song had one of those killer melodies that seemed to effortlessly flow out of the Invictus creative machine – bubblegum soul ? One of the album’s most commercial offerings, it was easy to see why the track was tapped as the lead off single.
‘I Never Get Tired of You‘ : More country soul with a distinctive Clarence Carter edge, but the first half of the song didn’t offer up much in the catchy melody department. And just when you were about to give up on the track it morphed into a percussion and bass heavy jam. Shame they didn’t extend this one.
‘My Credit Didn’t Go Through‘ was the kind of tune that would have sounded great on one of The Chairmen of the Board albums. Soul, but with a commercial edge that Invictus and Hot Wax seemed to specialize in. If this one doesn’t make you smile, you should probably check to make sure you have a pulse.
‘Things Are Bound To Get Better Later On‘ : The unexpected jazzy opening was pretty cool, but then the tune began to bog down in a plodding activist lyric. The melody picked up when the song hit the title track chorus, though it was a bit clutttered and lacked a killer hook.
‘Mary Lou Thomas‘ : And one more country-soul singer-story teller tune – this one actually reminded me a bit something that would have slotted well on a Tony Joe White album.. A bit more tuneful than ‘I Never Get Tied of You’, but not as god as their version of ‘Patches’. Wonder what a duet between Johnson and Tony Joe White would have turned out …
Curiously Invictus doesn’t seem to have done a great deal to promote the album. As far as I can, they didn’t even release a single off the album.
A tribute to General Johnson in our back pages here
The Chairmen Of The Board albums on FMS here