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ALIEN LOVE CHILD: LIVE AND BEYOND
RELEASE DATE: January 1st, 2000
E R I C J O H N S O N and A L I E N L O V E C H I L D - 2010 Press Bio...
The Grammy-nominated group Alien Love Child is yet another vivid stripe in the musical spectrum of acclaimed guitarist, songwriter, singer, pianist and song interpreter Eric Johnson. Hailed as "an extraordinary guitar player" (Memphis Commercial Appeal) who creates music, as one critic observes, "the way Michelangelo painted ceilings: with a colorful vibrancy that's more real than life," he formed the band as an adjunct to his primary career within which he can "appreciate the magic that happens as it happens."
Alien Love Child - Johnson, bassist Chris Maresh and drummer Bill Maddox - was more than just a side project for the six-string superstar and musical legend who is a member of Guitar Player's Gallery of Greats and was named one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of the 20th Century by Musician magazine. Known for his rigorous devotion to composing, recording and performing ambitious music of the highest quality, Johnson also loves to cut loose, improvise and let his music flow and take both his fellow players and their audiences to unexpected, exciting and often surprising places. And Alien Love Child is where he does just that.
The group's sole album, aptly named Live And Beyond and recorded in Johnson's hometown of Austin, Texas at Antone's nightclub in January 2000, was hailed by Amazon.com for capturing Alien Love Child "at the peak of its powers" and its "groove-laden, flavorful yet delicate playing, and the band's tight, fluid jams." Released on Steve Vai's Favoured Nations label, it earned a Best Pop Instrumental Grammy nomination for the song "Rain" to go alongside Johnson's Best Rock Instrumental Performance award and five other nominations.
Johnson formed Alien Love Child in the mid 1990s while recording his Venus Isle album to keep his live performing chops sharp and fresh and enjoy the converse pleasures of free-ranging onstage creativity while also immersed in his meticulous studio craftsmanship. "After spending time in the studio sawing BBs I just wanted to get out and play," recalls Johnson.
Drummer Bill Maddox was a founding member of the cult legend 1970s fusion band The Electromagnets that Johnson was in and has also played with Omar and The Howlers, Charlie Sexton, the band Grady and others in addition to recordings and tours with Johnson. Bassist Chris Maresh, who Johnson befriended after Maresh caught his ear trying out basses in a music store, has performed with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Doobie Brothers Michael McDonald and Pat Simmons, Willie Nelson, Ellis Marsalis and the Austin and Laredo symphony orchestras and recorded with Monte Montgomery, Alejandro Escovedo, Toni Price, Marcia Ball and many more while also doing live and studio work with Johnson.
What started as a casual blues-based jam group playing an Austin club gig every other week soon began to soar well beyond that as audiences began to pack their shows and the threesome discovered a collective identity that reflected their shared grounding in and love for a wide variety of musical style. Alien Love Child has since become an ongoing proposition within Johnson's many diverse musical activities that has toured internationally and built a fervent legion of followers.
Meanwhile, Johnson continues to burnish his stature as "one of the most respected guitarists on the planet," as Guitar Player magazine notes. Born in Austin and raised on a breadth of music that includes rock, pop, jazz, blues, the classics and more, by his teens he was already creating a sensation in his hometown as one of the hottest guitar guns in Texas. Johnny Winter heard Johnson when he was only 16 years old and later recalled "wishing that I could have played like that at that age."
After touring with The Electromagnets and recording two albums with the band that became prized collectors items (later released on CD), Johnson embarked on a solo career and in 1976 cut his first solo album, Seven Worlds, that was shelved due to contractual complications. Undaunted, Johnson continued to stoke his growing reputation as a stunning musical artist through live performances and recording sessions for Cat Stevens, Christopher Cross and Carole King.
A 1984 "Austin City Limits" segment featuring the still-unsigned guitarist was seen by Prince, who urged his record label to listen to Johnson. Fellow Warner Bros. artist Cross, who knew Johnson well from their days on the Austin club scene in the 1970s, had also been talking him up to the company, which offered Johnson the recording deal that has so long eluded him on its Reprise label. When his Warner Bros./Reprise album Tones hit the street in 1986, Guitar Player featured Johnson on its cover and praised it as "a magnificent debut," and Johnson earned his first Grammy nomination for the song "Zap."
With his next album in 1990, Ah Via Musicom on Capitol Records, Johnson vaulted into the pantheon of great modern guitar players with the million-selling disc, which yielded a record three Top 10 instrumental tracks from a single album: The Grammy winning "Cliffs Of Dover" as well as "Trademark" and "Righteous." Venus Isle earned Johnson two more successive Grammy nominations in 1997 and 1998, and his most recent 2005 solo studio album Bloom garnered him yet another Grammy nomination. His catalog also includes a limited edition 2002 collection of outtakes and rarities, Souvenir, as well as two DVDs, Live From Austin, TX (2005) and Anaheim (2008).
Widely admired by his fellow guitarists, Johnson is an avid collaborator with other players. His 1996 G3 tour with fellow guitarists Joe Satriani and Steve Vai yielded a best selling album and platinum DVD, G3: Live in Concert, and Johnson was also tapped by Eric Clapton to appear at the 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival. "Cliffs of Dover" is featured in the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, and Johnson boasts both a signature Fender Stratocaster electric and Martin MC-40 acoustic guitar. He recently appeared on the Experience Hendrix Tour with former Hendrix sidemen Billy Cox and the late Mitch Mitchell.
"Very few musical artists achieve a true signature style - one which makes comparisons to other musicians impossible," notes All Music Guide. "But Texas guitarist Eric Johnson arguably comes as close to this echelon as any musician from the past quarter-century." And Vai praises his fellow guitar star for having "more colorful tone in his fingers than Van Gogh had on his palette. He is one of those few musicians who keeps getting better and better."
As he finished work on his next studio album in summer 2009, Johnson performed again with Alien Love Child to enjoy its live counterpoint to the recording process. "The majority of the music we make is spontaneous and fueled by the emotion of the three of us playing together," says Johnson.
"It's almost all improvisation," he notes. "It's nice because it can be wherever you are, and it can be as great as you want it to be. It's fun and the vehicle is a really cool way to just make music." And the result is a thrilling and often astonishing live listening experience celebrating creative freedom and virtuosity that is unlike anything else to be heard in contemporary music.