Alain Johannes - Spark (Rekords Rekords)

It's time for Alain Johannes to have his name in lights

Released Aug 8th, 2011 via Rekords Rekords / By Paul Robertson
Alain Johannes - Spark (Rekords Rekords) Alain Johannes is one of those guys, like the actor you always see and love but who never seems to get a juicy role, Johannes seems to have spent the most visible portion of his career being a sideman...but WHAT a sideman!

When Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell needed a hand making his debut solo album Euphoria Morning, he turned to Johannes and his late wife, Natasha Shneider, as did Queens Of The Stone Age mainman Josh Homme, when he needed help with Songs For The Deaf and Lullabies To Paralyse. Johannes and Shenider must have made quite the impression on Homme, as the pair stayed with QOTSA until Shneider's tragic death in 2008, after which Johannes seemed to become Homme's go-to-guy for just about anything and everything – most notably playing second guitar in Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones' Them Crooked Vultures live band.

It was Johannes and Shneider's sterling work with the criminally underrated band Eleven, who released five albums between 1990 and 2003 but never knew commercial success that made Cornell and Homme sit-up, pay attention and recognise a pair of greatly talented tunesmiths.

All of which preamble goes some way toward explaining exactly how long in coming Spark has been, and how much it deserves to be heard and loved by a wider audience.

Written with the intention of commemorating the life, memory and love of Shneider, Spark emerges as a passionate celebration of all that she was, and still is, to the man who loves her.
This collection of energetic, tender, honest and beautiful music fizzes and shimmers with the intensity of true love and the joyfulness of a life lived and celebrated with true passion.
Johannes layers sound upon sound using a variety of – mostly acoustic – instruments with the skill of a consummate music-maker, but the heart of the music is a combination of his louche, melodious voice and a cigar-box guitar that Johannes calls the 'Cigfiddle' that has something of the quicksilver timbre of a Mandolin, sittting at the heart of a tightly drawn web of energetically strummed guitar, near-tribal hand percussion and a decidedly eastern feel to the whole.

Johannes vocal tone sits somewhere between the louche drawl of Josh Homme and the higher register voice of Chris Cornell (most noticeably on the prettily downbeat 'The Bleeding Whole') – yet another reason he made such an excellent foil and collaborator for them – is flexible enough to pass for a female backing vocalist (on the bittersweet, melancholy 'Spider'), and prone to cracking under moments of emotional strain.

The intensity of Johannes love for his late wife is clearly articulated over the course of Spark, barely held in check, it threatens to spill from the speakers and fill the room with its golden glow and quicksilver tones. This is what Spark allows us to do, to bask in the reflected love of one man for one woman, and to know what the unfettered joy can sound and feel like. Spark feels like a privilege to hear, and such a privilege ought to be shared as widely as possible.