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R&B act John John debuts long-awaited CD
John John’s album title Cita Grandson has a history. “It was the earliest memory of a nickname that I had or I ever heard people call me,” vocalist and songwriter John Francis said on July 27 just after the launch of his first CD album. The launch took place at TAO Sushi restaurant in Maraval. “It was also the first name I chose to call myself when I started music as a career, before I changed it to John John.” Three years in the making, the album features 12 original tracks written by John John along with several collaborators and was released by the T&T music label Highway Records. The launch was hosted by Synergy TV general manager O’Brian Haynes, who gave a rousing introduction of the singer as well as a positive endorsement of Highway Records—officially naming them “the hardest-working record label in T&T.”
Highway Records director Stuart Fortuné was also present and brought brief remarks expressing his congratulations to the man of the moment and kudos to the production team on a job well done for completing the album. John John also spoke, offering many thanks to a long list of supporters, collaborators and team members. John John and Dayo Bejide took the stage at 10 pm to a standing-room-only audience.Right out the gate, John John’s powerful vocals elevated the crowd to an immediate groove with Angel, the first song on the album. He then swept into a contemplative mood with Small Ting, which had well-controlled vocals infused with genuine emotional connection to the message of the song. It was a pleasure to hear the frequent and stylishly ornamental details in the music played by backing band Dayo Bejide, with keyboards by Marc Brewster and rhythm riffs by Javed Juman on guitar. Groovy bass lines by Joshua “Super Youth” Salcedo and power-percussion by Modupe Onilu added accents to move the lyrical storyline along.
For independent artistes, it is always a challenge to decide how to perform newly released music. The choice is often between performing a song exactly as it will be heard on a CD versus changing the groove or stepping completely outside of the box with song and theme variations. Interestingly, John John decided to do the latter; a reasonable choice, given that most of his music had been released over three years and had received moderate airplay on local radio. Maintaining his distinctive R&B vocal style, he seemed to give the band the artistic freedom to frolic in and out of multiple thematic motifs from reggae to rock and funk. In a post-performance interview, John John confirmed that a live album was in the works to capture some of the outstanding musical moments from his stage performances. The artist took the audience through several album songs, including an emotional Heaven; his latest composition Don’t Go, a previously unreleased live track from Cita Grandson; and Cry Freedom, an inspired original with a hard rock treatment, complete with screaming guitars and head-bang-worthy energy.
Throughout, John John had equal measure of performing confidence and commitment, and the audience was with him all the way, heads bumping and bodies rocking in agreement. Let’s Make Music provided an opportunity for a few women in the front row to get the full John John serenade treatment. After over 90 minutes of performance, however, my ears began to experience fatigue, not only from the overly loud sound levels and periodic moments of insensitivity by the band in such a tight space, but also from the distinct overuse of John John’s falsetto. If not managed carefully, indulging in a falsetto could have short-term negative effects on a singer’s vocal stamina during a session of singing, and worse, long-term effects on the listener’s desire to hear the performance again. However, what the performance lacked in cohesive sound etiquette and consideration for the human ear was made up for with enthusiasm and some magical moments of musicianship. John John said Cita Grandson would soon be available for purchase at Cleve’s, Crosby’s and Music Shak. A music video for Let’s Make Music is in the works, as well as an official release of Don’t Go. John John also intends to increase the number of his live performances to push album sales at as many music festivals across the Caribbean as he can, to get his music to a wider reach of people. With the support of social media and direct interaction, his label intends to connect directly with the fans.
Info and CD sales: 729-8909 or 328-6993.
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