Jonathan Butler's music is always a celebration of the human spirit. Butler's 15th solo release (his debut on the Rendezvous label), Jonathan, is no exception. It's a wonderful celebration from beginning to end. Two-time Grammy nominated songwriter, guitarist, and producer, Butler wrote or co-wrote all but one track on the album.
Kicking the album off is the upbeat “Rio,” which features Rick Braun on trumpet. Next up is “Mandela Bay,” a great celebratory tribute to the man and the city (Port Elizabeth) soon to be named after him. There is an amazing spirit running throughout the song.
Jonathan covers all the instruments on “10 Degrees South,” another upbeat, uplifting track with a South African groove. “Randy's Song” is a gentle ballad that begins with an almost lilting dance-like feel between Jonathan and his guitar and switches to a engaging dance between Butler's guitar and Dave Koz's trademark soprano sax.
The first single from Jonathan is Butler's wonderful cover of James Taylor's classic hit, “Fire and Rain.” Jonathan truly makes it his with his own stylings on the vocal and instruments. Jonny Lang adds a great electric guitar solo.
Butler expresses his joy in life's simple pleasures with gentle guitar ballad, “Precious Things,” that features some nice piano work by Greg Wachter. “Sweet Island Love” is one of those tracks that makes you wish you were kicked back at the beach somewhere. It has a really laid-back tropical groove interspersed with some very playful, funky grooves.
“Baby Love” is one of only two Butler vocals on this CD. It's a great love song with African rhythms and some fantastic rhythm guitar work running throughout. “For A Friend” is a moving tribute to the brother of one of Butler's son's best friend who died in a car accident. But true to Jonathan Butler, it is also a joyous celebration of life.
“Spirit of Our Nation” features the delicate vocals of Butler's daughter, Jodie, and is co-written with David Batteau. This is a moving message for their fellow South African countrymen, but also a message for us all.
Gerald Albright steps in and adds his touch to the soulful, R&B flavored “Move Me” that closes out Jonathan with some fantastic guitar/sax interchanges.
Pop Jonathan in your CD player and celebrate life with Jonathan Butler.
- Elizabeth Ware