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Molly Johnson - Meaning To Tell Ya

Posted by April Galenzoski on 2018/05/22

If I could pick a surprise breakthrough album less than halfway through this year, without question that esteemed designation would be afforded to Canadian icon Molly Johnson. In one fell swoop, the Juno award winning vocalist has traded her proverbial jazz mic for a sound that is superb soul, funk, groove and an unexpected contrast from any of her previous half dozen releases since 2000.

Meaning To Tell Ya, released by Universal Music Canada, brings Molly together with Grammy winning producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman) on her 10 song offering, which includes 7 originals and 3 interpretations of classics for an engaging and wondrous project that even Johnson herself says is long overdue.

“This is the record I’ve been waiting to make for years’, says Johnson. ‘Working with Larry Klein was magic. When it was finally my turn, I jumped at the opportunity’, she adds.

Lucky for us her number came up. Meaning To Tell Ya includes a superb re-imagination of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 social commentary ‘Inner City Blues’, which she, like many people including me, found the message of urban decay and struggle as relevant today as it was upon its initial release. Better Than This is an up-tempo feel good vibe of soul positivity, encouragement and hope with a sweet melody. Gone offers some rock’n’blues fun while conversely reflecting on a relationship split with some gritty guitar and dose of Hammond organ soul.

Johnson provides some satisfyingly smooth southern soul and blues on another social message, Protest Song, which is neither contentious nor confrontational but rather uplifting and inspiring, evoking memories of the peaceful words of the late Dr. King with lyrics of ‘singin’ about freedom, we shall overcome’ . Tribute is paid to the iconic Canadian poet and singer Leonard Cohen with a rendition of Boogie Street, though slightly less dark and haunting than the original. Soul and funk swagger dominate on L.O.V.E. with choral backing vocals, and clever references to classic song titles such as ‘Ball Of Confusion, Rock Steady, and The Kids Are Alright.

With Klein’s masterful production work and Johnson’s beloved sophisticated vocals, the album transcends any generational gap back to the classic soul and R’n’B era, while bringing it forward with a 21st century sound. Meaning To Tell Ya is musically exhilarating, lyrically engaging, and whatever Johnson has been wanting to express, she has accomplished it with soulful articulation.

Reviewed by Stu Berketo
On-air host 94.7HD2/95.9HD2

Special Note: 94.7HD2/95.9HD2 is excited to present Molly Johnson in concert June 14th at the historic Regent Theatre in Oshawa! Don’t miss an incredible night hearing songs from Meaning to Tell Ya up close and personal with Johnson and her stellar back up band. Use the link on our concerts page to reserve your tickets now!


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