American soul singer AL JOHNSON – best remembered for his duet with Jean Carn, ‘I’m Back For More’ – has died, aged 65. News agencies reported that he passed on Saturday 26th October.
Al (Alfred) Johnson was born in Virginia in 1948 and made his first music breakthrough with harmony group, The Unifics. Soul collectors will fondly remember their atmospheric ‘Court Of Love’ hit on the Kapp label. After Kapp, the Unifics signed to Fountain, but in 1978 Al joined up with a new group, Positive Change who recorded for Fortress Records.
In the same year Johnson also recorded a solo album, ‘Peaceful’ and went on to play studio sessions with people like Bobby Thurston, Main Attraction and Norman Connors. Connors was so impressed with Johnson’s vocal ability that he had him sing lead on the song ‘I Don’t Need Nobody Else’ on his ‘Take It To The Limit ‘ long player. Connors also produced Johnson’s ‘ Back For More’ album . It included a number of new cuts plus re-recordings of a few songs from ‘Peaceful’. The title cut from the album, a duet with Jean Carn (later covered by Tavares), became an underground cult Soul classic. The album, long in-demand , was reissued on the Soul Music label in 2011.
Through the 80s and 90s Al played sessions with The Whispers, Tata Vega, Bloodstone, Evelyn King, Deneice Williams, Peabo Bryson, Roberta Flack and of course Jean Carn, then after an eighteen year break from solo recording, Johnson released ‘My Heart Is An Open Book’ album for the Committee/Clout label. As is often the case with lesser known soul singers, the album garnered a cult following in Europe.
Johnson continued working into the 21st century; in late 2004, he reunited with the Unifics for gigs in the Washington area. They also released the album, ‘Unifics Return’. Johnson was back in the studio in 2011 working on his first solo album in more than a decade but the putative ‘ Maybe the Fire Isn’t Out’ was never released.
Jean Carn posted this message –
“I received a message and text earlier from Jeff Majors saying that my Friend and favourite Voice, Al Johnson passed away this morning. I’ve been recalling the many, many times I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to share the mic and the stage and commiserate in the studio with Al. Our first recording was “I’m Back For More” which has been sampled many times and was covered, beautifully by Bobby Womack and Lulu. His orchestral arrangements for Artists like The Whispers, were beyond Genius. Thanks Al, for composing the title tune for my Motown album, “Trust Me” and “We’ve Got Some Catching Up To Do”.My Love and Prayers are with Al’s beautiful Wife and Family. Al Johnson, your incomparable Spirit will live on in the gigantic space that you occupy in my heart. Rest in Peace, Beloved Musical Warrior.”