Yolanda Johnson - Breathing (2009)

Yolanda Johnson
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Some artists are fond of working their groove once they find it. Be it up-tempo or slow, when those artists get into the comfort zone, they are more than content to stay there. The best of those artists are able to vary theme, pace and mood within a single tempo. Nuance is their specialty, and they can make it work. Others work that groove until it becomes a rut.

Then there are artists such as Yolanda Johnson - who is about as constant as a thrill ride at an amusement park. She showed a lot of variety on her two previous EPs, and the adventure continues on Johnson's full length debut album, Breathing. That's an apt title because after listening to this long and ambitious record, I came away convinced that breathing is the something Johnson is intent on NOT letting her listeners do.

Some artists are fond of working their groove once they find it. Be it up-tempo or slow, when those artists get into the comfort zone, they are more than content to stay there. The best of those artists are able to vary theme, pace and mood within a single tempo. Nuance is their specialty, and they can make it work. Others work that groove until it becomes a rut.

Then there are artists such as Yolanda Johnson - who is about as constant as a thrill ride at an amusement park. She showed a lot of variety on her two previous EPs, and the adventure continues on Johnson's full length debut album, Breathing. That's an apt title because after listening to this long and ambitious record, I came away convinced that breathing is the something Johnson is intent on NOT letting her listeners do.

Tunes go from up-tempo to mid-tempo to slow and begin an incline up the musical roller coaster before sending the listener careening around banked curves, going on sudden drops and doing loop dee loops - and that's just in the first five songs.

Those who like their music to be a little more sedate might not be able to get with Johnson because she appears to have made a conscious decision to fit a bunch of genres into Breathing. Some of the high points include the bass work on "Living" (I haven't heard thumping like that -- unless I'm playing Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten or Stanley Clarke -- since the heyday of funk music). "Living" is preceded by a song that manages to be both dreamy and intense, the keyboard-driven slow grind jam, "I Need You." In the song, Johnson coos that she needs her lover the like the way "I need to Breathing/I need you like birds need wings/I need you like plants need water/ I need you like a book needs an author."

Johnson pulls back a little on the joyous mid-tempo song "When I See You." If you're deep into the neo-soul vibe, a song like "Walk Away" will be your cup of tea. The funky folks will be feeling "Can't Fight the Feeling."

No one will accuse Yolanda Johnson of "taking it easy" on her first full album.  It is ambitious, interesting project with a lot from which to choose.  If you like adventurous music and are ready to go for a ride, then give Breathing a try. Recommended.

Howard Dukes
 
Album of the Month - Juewett Bostick - Shades of Blu
Choice Cut - Kea Michaels - "Not My Friend"
Song of the Month - Bryan Andrew Wilson - "Only You'

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