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JACK JOHNSON - IN BETWEEN DREAMS - UNIVERSAL
Record Rating: ****

Jack Johnson - In Between Dreams - Universal His big-label debut ~ 2001ís Brushfire Fairytales ~ was a breakthrough hit and quickly became a fixture on American radio. That out of the box success and more than a few critics grousing that Johnsonís muse was cloned from Ben Harper primed him for the typical sophomore slump. Instead Johnson delivered the platinum selling On And On in 2003, whose tone and title suggested a gentle, tongue-in-cheek rebuke to his naysayers.

Once a champion surfer on the professional route, it seems as if Johnson has found his forte. 2005ís In Between Dreams is his most ambitious work to date, tapping a multitude of styles and moods while revolving as usual around his expressive vocals and searing guitar work. First single Sitting, Waiting, Wishing was a top ten hit on the radio and set the place for this intimate and deeply introspective record that not only looks inwards, but frequently looks at the world from the perspective of a musical poet.

Johnsonís influences like Nick Drake, Donovan and Bob Marley are clear to see among the CDís fourteen songs, but what often goes unnoticed is that Johnson wants people to hear what he has to say, rather than just purely focusing on the music. Strong tracks like Better Together and Do You Remember remind us that his complex, unsettled emotions never seem to come one at a time; instead they are layers to be peeled and reassembled. And sweet love song Constellations honestly may be Johnsonís best song of his short career; itís definitely the best song on the album.

After half a decade of records he knows what he does best and sticks with it, offering one good performance after another. The verdict ~ In Between Dreams remains in the grey matter after a single listen, making this the bona fide sing-a-long album to have for the summer.

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