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Guitar Legend Steps Into the Spotlight

Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr + The Healers - Boomslang
(imusic / Artist Direct)
3 1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Jan. 13, 2003

Review by Tony Bonyata

Other than Dave Grohl, the one-time Nirvana drummer and now frontman for the Foo Fighter's, there have been very few established musicians able to successfully make the transition from backing musician to frontman / vocalist. That is until now.
Former guitarist and musical composer for the highly influential band The Smiths, Johhny Marr, with six-string in hand, has stepped forward into the spotlight on his debut solo album along with his backing band The Healers entitled Boomslang.
Since the demise of The Smiths in 1987 - with former fey crooner Morrissey building a successful solo career for himself - Marr has kept himself busy under the auspices of other projects such as The The, Electronic - which he formed with Bernard Sumner of New Order, as well as recording and performing with the likes of Oasis, Beck, Talking Heads, Neil Finn and The Pet Shop Boys, among others. All of this musical bed-hopping after his Smiths stint may have been a smart move as Marr explains," If I tried to form a group in the environment of The Smiths split, it would have been so loaded with significance and judgement that the music wouldn't have stood a chance, and The The was the band I would've hoped to form anyway."
With the looming shadow of his former band's legend now far enough behind him, he's not only hired two accomplished musicians for his band - drummer Zak Starkey (son of former Beatle Ringo Starr) and bassist Alonsa Bevan (Kula Shaker) - but, now standing confidently behind the mic stand, he's proven to be an accomplished vocalist.
From the dreamy, atmospheric opening number "The Last Ride" to the electro-groove of "You Are The Magic," complete with Marr's snaky Middle Eastern guitar solo, to the effervescent glow of "Something To Shout About," Marr's cool, laid back vocals are as welcoming as his guitarwork, which, with swirling, psychedelic colorings on the punchy "Caught Up" and stout rock leads featured on the tracks "Bangin' On" and "InBetweens," is as proficient and enduring as any of his previous work.
While Johnny's original vision of The Healers was to sound like a "collision in the Arizona desert between T. Rex, The Stooges, Eno, Beck and The Wailers," he somehow managed to pick up a couple of extra passenger's before the crash. While he never directly cops any influences from the artists that he's previously worked with, he instead lightly hints at them, as on the shimmering "Down On The Corner," which sounds hauntingly like Oasis when they're not reading from their 'How To Sound Like The Beatles' songbook, and "Need It," where Johnny's pleading vocal delivery is faintly similar to that of former cohort Morrissey's.
It seems with an album as fresh, hip and intoxicating as this, Johnny Marr has finally latched onto his true second coming.

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