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Johnny Schaefer – April Fool

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John SchaefferPop, jazz, reggae, R & B, dance, chamber music and some tracks difficult to categorize offered by this LA-based artist. Themes include relationships, spirituality, perfectionism and culture clash. Marianne Williamson appears in 3 songs in a unique way.

In a time when one iPod might shuffle tunes by Jason Mraz, David Bowie, Lady Gaga and Bach, Johnny Schaefer offers an intriguing mix of 17 eclectic tunes.

By Valerie Milano

Hollywood, CA (The Hollywood Times) 1/30/2014 – “I’ve been an April Fool, but if I promise to try, oh, could we be back together by Cinco de Mayo?” – Johnny Schaefer’s April Fool from his album Acoustic Remedy
New music at www.johnnysongs.net

A friend once share an album with me that he really loved.  The concept was that one side showcased the singer’s naughty side while the other focused on her sweet, pure side.  The cover highlighted this by showing the artist in an angelic outfit on the front and a devil outfit on the back. I didn’t tell my friend, but I wouldn’t have known which side was which by listening.  They both sounded the same to me.  Obviously, for my friend, though, they were like night and day.  I think that disparity came from our varied reference points.  He mostly listened to a very easy-listening pop genre while I like a lot of variety.  We live in an eclectic city.  LA is home to people from all over the world and that makes for a fascinating cultural tapestry, if we choose to explore it. Some artists contribute by immersing themselves in a particular style and exemplifying it, while others choose to play with all that’s available to create something new.  In his album, Acoustic Remedy, Johnny Schaefer takes the latter approach, with fascinating results.

It’s not every day that you’ll pop a CD into a player and hear a reggae-flavored tune followed by a jazz ballad about culture clash, followed later by tunes featuring spiritual leader/congressional candidate Marianne Williamson and a techno gay marriage anthem.  That, and more, is what you get with Schaefer’s adventurous debut.  Schaefer’s smooth vocals and insightful lyrics span a huge range of emotion with skill.  Schaefer has a degree in music from California State University, Fullerton and has been the cantor at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood for decades.  Consequently, you’ll hear a hauntingly beautiful piece titled Invocation which combines author and lecturer Marianne Williamson’s now famous opening prayer with an 800 year old Gregorian chant, The Golden Sequence, which is sung in many Christian churches at Pentecost.  Schaefer adeptly mixes in a tone poem of instruments from all over the world and the result has my Buddhist monk friend using it for her morning meditation.  The fact that this follows a celebratory dance remix of Schaefer’s response to Prop. 8, It’s About Love, can be jarring, but for some reason, it works.  Add in an ingenious mash up of the children’s classic Row Your Boatwith Moon River accompanied brilliantly and intimately by harpist Carol Robbins and you get an idea of the scope of the recording.  This is not your grandma’s Moon River, but, as Schaefer says in notes on his website, we’ve already heard it done that way by fabulous singers.  Schaefer offers a unique spin and it’s quite lovely.

In an age when no one over 25 is even allowed to participate in American Idol, Johnny Schaefer embraces the fact that he is now 52 with passionate energy.  He experiments with new sounds and also pays tribute to pop songstress Melissa Manchester in a beautiful mashup of her songs, Midnight Blue and Lights of Dawn.  He also explores breaking up with These are the Walls, Your Sweater andCloser than You Think, each with from a different angle both lyrically and musically.  He features some soulful trombone playing by Paul Nowell on the achingly beautiful So Cold.

It was smart of Schaefer to put 17 songs on Acoustic Remedy.  With over 74 minutes of music, it is a journey that will lift you up and make you hit repeat.  The final anthem, Love Shines On, puts an exclamation point on his unabashed message that love conquers all.  It’s worth taking a chance on and is available on his website at www.hearjohnny.com, iTunes, Amazon, and radio sites like Spotify.  You can also hear a great interview where Schaefer discusses the creative process and much more on Daniel Garza’s Put it Togetherpodcast on iTunes radio.