Electromagnets - virtualguitarmagazine.com
This review is by Pete Prown and was in Guitar Shop's January 1998 issue. Our thanks to Guitar Shop for allowing us to reprint it.
Imagine what Eric Johnson sounded like when he was 21 years old. Was he the monster he was later when he scored a smash with Ah Via Musicom - at age 36? An exciting new video gives us the answer: This new video (VHS, $29.95) documents a 1975 performance by Eric's old fusion band, the Electromagnets, on an Atlanta TV show, Playback, as well as including interviews with all the band members. Armed with a blue Strat and a groovy pair of off-white bell-bottoms, Eric's playing here is simply incredible.
Featuring keyboardist Steve Barber and bassist Kyle Brock (both of whom still appear in Eric's studio albums), and drummer Bill Maddox, the Electromagnets were a classic '70s jazz-rock band, replete with fuzzed Fender Rhodes piano riffs, Alembic-fueled bass lines, and Eric tearing it up on lead. Picture Return To Forever with Jeff Beck on guitar, and you'll get a good idea where Eric and Co. were coming from at the time. More interestingly, Eric's renowned picking chops were fully formed at this young age, combing both fast alternate lines and hammer-ons. His tone is fabulous, too (unfortunately, there are no close-ups of his amp rig), but perhaps the only thing that hadn't fully formed yet was his chordal mastery. That would come later.
But the most fascinating aspect of this vid is simply speculating on what would have happened had the Electromagnets hit the big time back in 1975. Judging by this performance, the band was surely as technically competent as any other mainstream fusion band of the day, be it RTF, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Larry Coryell's Eleventh House, or Jean-Luc Ponty's outfit. What if Eric's national debut was in '75, instead of 1986, when his first solo album, Tones, made waves? Our 6-string landscape could have been drastically different if, instead of being considered an '80s and '90s guitarist, Eric had been rubbing shoulders with the great fusioneers of the late '70s, such as Al Di Meola and Allan Holdsworth. The Electromagnets' video proves that he had the talent, though for whatever reason, fortune wouldn't shine on his career for over another decade.
Regardless, The Electromagnets Video is an absolute must-have for Eric's followers, as well as old-school fusion fans. And while you're waiting for the mailman to show up, you can also visit the Electromagnets web site at www.ericjohnson.com.
There is an equally flattering review in the December 1997 issue of Guitar Player. We could not get permission to reprint it here, so take a look in an issue.
I received my copy of the Electromagnets video from the "Playback" PBS show from 1975. I have watched the video two times and all I can say is, "this is fu**in great stuff!!" I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would ever see the Electromagnets, this is like a dream come true!! Eric looks like a young Jeff Beck and sounds like a combination of Hendrix, Wes Montgomery, Jeff Beck, and Jan Hammer all rolled into one!! It's amazing to see just how developed he was even back in 1975. If you are a fan of Eric Johnson's playing you MUST purchase this video tape. Outstanding!! - Paul Kohler