It happens every time. In the silence of the room, someone snaps a finger, then snaps a second time and a third. Snapped out of my complacency, I turn to see who's there. Except for me, the room is empty. After 20 finger snaps, the jazzy groove of "A Taste of Honey" begins and I've already been drawn into the world of Johnny Eden.
In this case, "A Taste of Honey" is not the classic heavily-orchestrated movie song, but a jumpy little number composed by Johnny Eden. This is the kind of rock-influenced jazz epitomized by popular artists such as Georgie Fame. If the soul of this song is in Eden's vocal and Bill Barnes' guitar, then its heartbeat is in the solid bass and cool drums of Eden's exceptional rhythm section.
While there's a certain blues flavour to the songs on this release, the core of the set is pure, contemporary jazz with a rock edge. In its very eclectic blend, the set manages to be unified and consistent. The first song sets the stage and the rest follow suit in a parade of creative, evocative performances.
"A Room Built for Two" is an especially jazzy number with much the same feel as the often-recorded "Masquerade." The sound is cool and, to a certain extent, erotic. This is jazz in soft-focus, romantic and allusive, enhanced by Eden's vocals, soft and at times almost whispered.
It's no secret that Leonard Cohen has been a major influence on an entire generation of Canadian poets, songwriters, and performers. That influence can be heard especially in three of the songs on this release. "I'm a Fool" and "She's Not For Me" immediately bring Cohen to mind, and the final not-so-hidden track " Is My Lucky Number" brings back that Cohen sound one more time.
Like Picasso, Leonard Cohen has passed through several distinct periods on his journey. The Johnny Eden songs that appear to show Cohen's influence seem to draw upon a period that includes songs such as "The Tower of Song" but also reach back to softer, more romantic modes.
With a deep, rich voice, Johnny Eden sings in a style that ranges from a sort of Barry White romanticism to a dark, bluesy style. His voice has a rawness to it that brings to mind artists like Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen, but is smoother than those artists and less ruined.
The six musicians who worked with Eden on this release support his vocals with excellent performances. The music shines but never so bright that the talent of Johnny Eden can't shine through. The sound is creative, consistent and captivating.
The final song in this set appears to be a parody of the apparently obligatory hidden track. Eden's track 13 does begin with about two minutes of dead air which sets it apart from the other songs. The title, following from the track number 13, "Is My Lucky Number" reads like a private joke shared with the listener. Although set up like a hidden track, this track is listed on the set list.
Johnny Eden is a Canadian artist to watch. For anyone wanting to discover what this writer and performer can do, Midnight Fool is a great place to start. It's well worth the listen.