Michael Johns is not exactly a household name as yet, but he's definitely been in your household – via your television, that is. Last year the Australian crooner auditioned for American Idol and was eliminated from the Top 8 which caused a mass upset with fans all around. He soon made the television rounds and found himself a new fan base in some famous faces like Tom Hanks, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres and more so of those appreciating the rocky blues and soulful vibe he so nonchalantly showcases when performing.
During the time of the season seven finale of American Idol, Johns was gearing up for touring with nine of his best friends for the American Idols Live Tour, which hit 50 cities and made it one of the highest selling summer concerts of 2008, all while working solidly on the soundtrack for the Shaun White documentary, Don't Look Down. The soundtrack which is created by Johns and his long-time friends and music partners, Rye Randa and Jeff Foxworth has now been released exclusively on Amazon and iTunes distributed by Fontana and contains 17 original songs, composed by the three musicians.
As Johns sings lead on the majority of the tracks, Randa sings lead on the documentary's closing credits, ("View From Up Here") which comes off as a rocky rush of adrenaline while Foxworth sings background vocals in a few of the songs here and there. The songs that Johns sings not only reveal the quality of his voice but the sheer realization that he's a natural born singer. When you listen to the first track of the soundtrack ("Here We Go") you become conscious of the fact in this toe-tapping track that he's got a grasp of himself and the music he wishes to put out. The second song on the soundtrack ("Bless My Soul") is quick with pulse-pounding rhythms reminiscent of Johns' days singing bluesy rock in clubs.
The duet on the soundtrack ("Life is Okay") with American Idol season seven friend and absolute bottle of sunshine, Brooke White has became a fan favourite since it's official release from Three Ring Projects to the Michael Johns fansite, Michael Johns Online. It soon exploded into a fan favourite and most expressed their wishes that it were a single heard on the radio. A lot of Idol fans all over had been expecting to hear something between the two of them since they mentioned a duet during the competition on Idol last year.
Michael Johns tells Allison, the owner and administrator of Michael Johns Online that regarding the song, "Life Is Okay" he simply wanted to do a duet with Brooke, which resulted in him writing the track for them exclusively. This action made and initiative taken from Johns' song writing proves true talent and determination to create a successful name for himself in the music industry.
Brooke White blogs to her fans on her MySpace that the track was shown to her around the end of the American Idols Tour by Johns. "One day he picked up a guitar to show me this song he wrote that he thought would make a good lil' duet that kind [of] fit my style and asked me if I was interested. I thought it was really catchy and really nice of him to ask me so of course I said, sure," she blogged.
The other tracks on the soundtrack like, "Never Coming Back" and "Tell Me" are upbeat and wild in their arrangements as heavy drums and electric guitars pierce their way through. His sharp vocals compliment the music and create a let-loose sort of vibe. The ninth track on the album, "Come On, Come On" prepares you for an adrenaline rush and creates an imaginative adventure in one's head as euphoria pulls into gear. Johns' vocals on "Real Life" come off almost haunting and melodic, as if it's reaching out to you in a sense while you hear the depth and range in his voice.
The instrumental tracks on the soundtrack are most impressive with arrangements that aim to uplift and illustrate the type of material most suitable for such a soundtrack focusing on the sport of snowboarding as well as being music appropriate for a television show or even a movie's soundtrack. It feels as though the instrumental songs are put into the album most rhythmically to compliment the vocal tracks and to ease down the listener to a state of quietude.
The track, "Don't Look Down" (Acoustic) is easy going and tranquil yet at times it comes off more reflective than anything compared to the vocal tracks. A few songs like "Japan" and "Killing Sphere" are sweet and mellow new-age sounding tracks with sharp notes followed by the placid and gentle indie-rock track, "A Little Different".
The last track, "River of Life" is a bittersweet song, originally released nearly three years ago by Johns, Foxworth and Randa that includes vocals by the late Lebo Kgasapane. Kgasapane, a student and singer was a 21-year-old South African rape victim who died of AIDS a year later but dreamt of having the world hear her sing. Kgasapane sang the song in which she wrote about her school to the filmmakers of Ithuteng: Never Stop Learning who then took the song and passed it along to various artists for them to interpret it in their own style.
With the collaboration between Johns, Foxworth and Randa at Three Ring Projects, they created their own such version of this track. The arrangement created by the three producers is lively and gives a warm sense of understanding and is poetic in the added lyrics as Johns' vocals compliment Kgasapane's so very well and reach out to the listener. Since then other artists have attempted their own versions including Raine Maida and Chantel Kreviazuk. The track following "The River of Life" is short but very attractive and sums up the overall feel of the soundtrack most aptly and grips onto the rugged feel of snowboarding and adrenaline.
Every track on this album connects well and most fittingly to the overall theme of the album. The songs add to the feel of Shaun White's energy and exuberance in his craft and most of all ties well into the Michael Johns style, without losing anything in the process.
While his Idol cohorts David Cook and David Archuleta are well-known for their individual sounds, Michael Johns plays the modern day role of a young rock and bluesy artist pretty chaste in his choices and puts out a pretty bold album, even if it is a soundtrack to a snowboarding documentary. The combination of Johns, Randa and Foxworth make an excellent team with their creation of music that swells into magnificent gestures, great arrangements and beautiful vocals. This is definitely an album to download!
In addition to the soundtrack, the DVD, Shaun White - Don't Look Down, featuring original music by Michael Johns, Rye Randa and Jeff Foxworth is now available on DVD in-store and online.
Stars: * * * *1/2
Don't Look Down - The Height of Competition (Soundtrack)
Composed by: Michael Johns, Rye Randa and Jeff Foxworth
Length of Album: 50 minutes approx.
Produced by: Three Ring Projects
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