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06 July 2009 @ 11:56 pm
Song of the Week #53: Eric Johnson "Trademark"  
Well, it’s been a few weeks – amazing what the weeks prior and after surgery are like, a touch insane. Anyway, let’s hope I’m back on schedule here. Thanks to all those who emailed wondering where the picks had gone.

My brother was working in commercial radio back in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s and brought home this amazing album, Ah Via Musicom, from a Texas guitarist by the name of Eric Johnson and I became instantly hooked. I was lucky enough to see him open for Rush in 1991 and he was simply amazing. He even beat Rush at the 1992 Grammy’s for best instrumental for “Cliffs of Dover.” A virtuoso, but not of the flashy-shredding variety, Ej is all about the songwriting.

Eric Johnson: "Trademark"


This song has always been about a journey for me. It’s an IMAX film waiting to happen. And while Eric shines, the magic is in the entire piece. Tommy Taylor on the drums adds such finesse and precision to the track. Listen to the way he works the entire kit adding textures and accents – the build to 1:50 and then the ride cymbal rhythm at that point going forward is just brilliant – the way it propels the songs and carries it. His fills are primarily centered around the snare, but he makes such great use of it and doesn’t go overboard, he highlights Eric’s guitar rhythms. 3:29’s ride cymbal shadowing Eric; 4:01 starts a thing of beauty with a great accent roll at 4:20 – he’s a subtle master. Kyle Brock on bass helps propel the song forward and steps out from underneath Eric for a few really tasteful and punctuated bass lines – my favorite starting at 1:24. With only drums, bass and guitar – there is a lot of space sonically to fill and while there is a lot of open space on this track which Kyle fills out the bottom end wonderfully.

The main melodies sound so unique because instead of picking, Eric is using his thumb and first three fingers of his right hand together but separately plucking the strings instead picking or strumming. It gives it enough of a distinct and unique sound, it’s effect is really powerful. You can really see this in the live version below. I encourage you to check out the live version actually as it’s amazing to see Eric work the frets, but the studio version holds some magic that the live version doesn’t for me.

I’ll spare you the crescendo points that lift and drop my stomach like a roller coaster every time I hear them – you can find them yourself. It’s a journey well worth taking.

He’s always pulled emotional triggers for me as well, so I’ll go all soft and acknowledge a few here: Mark for introducing him to me and going with me in 1991 to Rochester to see him with Rush; Rosh, who always loved everything I forced on her, but we shared a deep love of Ej’s music; T.E.L. who I’ll always think of very briefly when I hear this; John Vinson who was turned onto Eric well before I was, but helped blossom not only my love of Eric’s music, but also pushed and fueled my concert photography passion from my first show in college to Rush, Metallica, Def Leppard, Celine Dion, Phil Collins, and beyond.

More Eric Johnson:
Trademark (live)
Cliffs of Dover (live Tonight Show performance, 1991)
Pavillion/Mountain Medley (live)