Johnny Young and the Stellar Dogs play vibrant fusion on “Cosmic Alley”

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“Cosmic Alley,” the new album from Johnny Young and the Stellar Dogs, is nothing short of an explosion of sound. The blend of rock and jazz is presented in surprising ways that keeps listeners engaged from the first track. Songs such as “Starship” and “Seventh Day” illustrate exactly what Johnny Young and the Stellar Dogs have to offer.

Johnny Young, in brief

Young plays keyboards in the group that he has put together. Potentially challenged by having gone blind at age 17, Young has played in a variety of bands and toured with them throughout the US, Europe, Canada and Japan. As part of other bands or as a bandleader, Young has opened for groups such as UFO, John Mayall, Spacehog and others.

Young met the players who would become the Stellar Dogs after playing a blues show at B.B. King’s. The other three musicians were from Eastern Europe. Even though they had been playing the blues, Young could see that they also possessed jazz-playing skills. Blues, jazz and rock all seem to play a role in the music of Johnny Young and the Stellar Dogs.

In addition to his role with the Stellar Dogs, Young currently plays with Giant Flying Turtles, Peak, and Generations.

Beyond his band work, Young has won an Emmy for the music he composed for the long-running daytime show, “The Guiding Light.” He has also won two Just Plain Folks award for best hard rock band and best hard rock song.

The sound of Johnny Young and the Stellar Dogs’ “Cosmic Alley”

“Cosmic Alley” is a short album of seven songs. Perhaps “short” is not the word. Each song is roughly seven minutes long. One track is just over six, and another more than eight minutes long, but all the rest are in the seven-minute range. The running time for each song is important because it shows listeners how much thought and sheer output is going into each track.

The group gives themselves time to develop each song and the sound and rhythm turns are often unexpected, and always energetic. Sometimes, the soundscape is beautiful, and the music is always engaging.

“Starship” by Johnny Young and the Stellar Dogs

If there is a soundtrack to intergalactic travel, this song should be included. From the first note, “Starship” jumps out at listeners and takes them on a trip. The rock feel is clear, as are the jazz foundations of the song. There is even a hint of the blues.

The searing guitar stands out, but it is rivaled by a persistent bass line. The keyboards play aa moody motif that accents everything. When the song breaks down, and the guitar winds up like an angry engine, each instrument can be appreciated clearly. The bass, the drums, the keyboards, all participate in the sparse rhythm of the break down. Then, the keyboards offer up a gentle motif that accents the background. The energetic drums are a powerful force in this song. Everything comes together to demonstrate the band’s fusion abilities.

“The Seventh Day” by Johnny Young and the Stellar Dogs

“The Seventh Day” is a slowed down duet of keyboards and guitar. The guitar is bright and tinged with classical elements. The keyboards provide an almost-ambient quality.

While the song is “quiet” compared to “Starship,” for example, it has its own energy and movement, even for a song that only uses two members of the band.

Johnny Young and the Stellar Dogs are comprised of Johnny Young on keyboards, Jernej Bervar on guitar, Akos Forgacs on bass and Milos Branisavljevic on drums.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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