Johnson gets ‘Best’ out of his friendsWritten by Jason Mack | | email@example.com
Jack Johnson & Friends, “Best of Kokua Festival”
There is no better artist than Jack Johnson to put you in the mood for summer. Unless of course you pair Jack with the likes of Eddie Vedder, Willie Nelson, Ziggy Marley, Jackson Brown and several of his frequent collaborators, such as Ben Harper. If you close your eyes while listening to “Best of Kokua Festival,” you can easily picture yourself sitting on a blanket on the lawns of the Kokua Festival with a cold drink in your hand. The album combines songs from the 2004-10 festivals and includes covers of classics from Bob Marley, The Eagles, Jimmy Buffet and Bob Dylan, along with Johnson’s music and songs from his guest stars.
Harper is superb on slide guitar, as usual, throughout the album. Harper’s dynamic power blends perfectly with Johnson’s somber voice on Marley’s “High Tide or Low Tide.” The track is a rare moment of intensity on such a laid-back album, and it stands out above the rest. The song was meant for these two to sing it together. They pair up again on the following track with Nelson to provide an island vibe to his 1975 breakout country hit “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”
Pearl Jam’s Vedder fits naturally with Johnson’s music, especially on “Constellations.” Johnson and Vedder also blend well with Zach Gil on a cover of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”
The album is filled with great musical accompaniment from Jack’s frequent collaborators, including Harper’s slide guitar, background vocals from Paula Fuga, piano from Gil and some funky harmonica from G. Love.
Johnson’s live performances normally sound eerily close to his studio versions. However, pairing with so many artists provides a fresh twist to his music. The background noise of people cheering can be a bit distracting in rare moments, but it never overpowers the music. The album is a great “Best Of” compilation and a solid complement to the soon-to-be warm weather.
****1/2 out of 5