SNAPSHOTS: LIVE AND HALF-UNPLUGGED STUDIO RECORDINGS--originally released 2002, and reissued in 2010 w/bonus concert footage from California, Michigan, & Pennsylvania.
After two highly-produced recordings (FIRE and EXOTIC ANIMALS), Blair took a more acoustic tack with SNAPSHOTS, mixing solo concert footage with semi-unplugged studio takes, in a set that includes some of Blair's most popular originals with highly-stylized covers of songs by Buffalo Springfield, Donovan, Sly & the Family Stone, and Patti Smith. Guest musicians include Bennett Green (Greg Kihn, Peter Tork), noted film composer Richard Marriott (Club Foot Orchestra, www.richardmarriott.com)
, & Kim Osterwalder (Barbara Manning, Julie Miller, Smog).
(Original 2002 news release): Cappuccino, novelists, and the Beach Boys' "American Gothic" period fuel the latest sounds of Johnny J. Blair. Also known as the "Singer at Large," he just released "Snapshots," a collection of acoustic-oriented songs recorded live in concert, in the studio, in loft space rehearsals, and on television broadcasts, from California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
The high-spirited singer-songwriter has also been called "The Tasmanian Devil of the coffee house set." Goldmine magazine said, "(Blair) delivers pop music with a conscience, framed by jazz, punk and techno."
"I've always been a fan of 'big production,' but a part of my audience kept asking me to go organic," says Blair. On "Snapshots," he "goes semi-unplugged," drawing from blues ("I'm a Jerk"), old school pop/rock and gospel standards ("Workin' on a Building").
"Snapshots" culls from concerts and sessions tracked in California, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Live cuts include an energetic cover of "Dancing Barefoot" (Patti Smith) and a neo-prophetic, Staples Singers-styled remake of Stephen Stills' "For What it's Worth," performed on slide 12-string guitar.
Novelists are outsourced for Blair's ideas, heard in the Beatle-esque "Unresolved (Graham Greene's Script for Laurel and Hardy)" and "Steinbeck Found the Valley," an instrumental featuring accordion, cellos, piano and trombones. "Desert Ruby" is a semi-autobiographical "Los Angeles allegory," with images from The Bible, Raymond Chandler and T.S
"I'm Too Ugly for CCM, Too Stupid for TBN" is already getting attention as a satire of contemporary Christian media. Blair asks, "If Jesus were around today, would He tolerate this much image over substance?"
Blair is based in Williamsport PA but has lived all over the United States. His movements includes a five year stretch as a bike messenger in San Francisco. These "street experiences" provided material for songs about baptism, bus stops, coffee drinking, hope, love, smiling, racial harmony and religious hypocrisy.
"Snapshots" and Blair's previous recordings, "Fire" and "Exotic Animals & Beaches of Pennsylvania," are offerings from Fire Inside Productions, a musical partnership with Davy Jones (of The Monkees), with whom Blair records and performs with.
Blair says, "Here's my job--do music that picks people up and do it with conviction." He has shared the stage with Blessid Union of Souls, Jerry Garcia Band, Buddy & Julie Miller and others. His admirers include surf-guitar hero Dick Dale, Brit-pop legend Cliff Richard and Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), who called Blair "a virtuoso."
Review excerpt from Webb Weekly (Williamsport PA, 10/29/03): "There is a lot of music on this CD. Blair...covers a series of genres including blues, pop, jazz, and even more...overall, it is a solid effort...'Weirder Than Money' has a cool Barenaked Ladies-esque quality to it...(with) 'For What it's Worth,' Blair has taken this Buffalo Springfield classic and made it his own. It is an awesome take on an awesome song that could use another round in the spotlight."
Notes on the bonus material: These concert tracks were considered for the CD but were set aside because it would've made the CD too long. Enjoy them as a glimpse of my journey. Thanks for listening! --JJB
released September 11, 2003
Cassie Blair: harmony vocals
Johnny J. Blair: accordion, bass, banjo, guitars, keyboards, percussion, violins, lead & harmony vocals
Bennett Green: bongos
Richard Marriott: trombones
Kim Osterwalder: cellos
Bridget Purifoy: harmony vocals
Steve Reid: interviewer
KR Spyker a.k.a
. evinrude: percussion & harmony vocals
SNAPSHOTS was produced by Johnny J. Blair. Live recordings were made on camcorders, portastudios, & other contraptions by Jon Beckman, the late Aaron Gregory, Michael Ickes, & Steve Reid. Studio recordings mixed by Tim Breon, Erik Nielsen, & Greg Sostrom.
Technical note from the original release: "...Source material wasn't always optimal. Audio anomolies (audience chats, espresso machines, etc.) cannot be removed from the live recordings. It is my hope that these 'flaws' are not a distraction and, instead, add charm and context to the songs."