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Mike Harrison - Mike Harrison (LP)

Mike Harrison - Mike Harrison (LP)

Price: $15.00 currently not available     
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Genre: rock
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title:  Mike Harrison
Company: Island
Catalog: SMAS 9313
Year: 1971
Country/State: Carlisle, UKGrade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve; minor edge wear
Available: 1
Catalog number: 6394
Price: $15.00

As a longtime Spooky Tooth fan, I've also thought Harrison was the band's often overlooked secret weapon. Gary Wright usually took the Spooky Tooth spotlight, but his strained voice and chalk-on-a-blackboard falsetto was an acquired taste (that frequently didn't do much for my ears). While Harrison had his own set of vocal limitations, he came off as authentic and handled more than his share of the band's classic tunes.

Following the release of 1970's aptly titled "The Last Puff", Spooky Tooth called it quits with singer Mike Harrison striking out in pursuit of a solo career. Signed by Chris Blackwell's Island Records (which had been Spooky Tooth's label), Harrison made his solo debut with the release of 1971's cleverly-titled "Mike Harrison". Self-produced, the album found Harrison teamed with the band Junkyard Angel (who were from his hometown of Carlisle), showcasing the talents of bassist Peter Batey, guitarist/keyboard player Ian Herbert, drummer Kevin Iverson, and lead guitarist Frank Kenyon. Anyone expecting to hear a pseudo-Spooky Tooth album was probably going to be disappointed by the collection. Mind you, Harrison's voice was enough to ensure there were some comparisons to Spooky Tooth (check out the ballad 'Damian'), but the very fact Harrison kept things low keyed and somewhat un-commercial had a lot to do with making the album such a pleasure to hear. None of the eight tracks was particularly flashy; the majority firmly in the mid-tempo folk-rock, blues-rock realm, but the performances were all energetic - you got the distinctive impression that Harrison and company were having a blast recording music for themselves.

back cover: left to right: Kevin Iverson (standing); Peter Batey (sitting), Frank Kenyon (standing),
Ian Herbert (sitting)
- Penned by bassist Baltey, 'Mother Nature' had an interesting folk-rock feel. Kicked along by some pretty acoustic guitar and Batey's bass, the song actually sounded a bit like a Traffic tune. It would have made an interesting direction for Spooky Tooth to pursue. rating: *** stars
- Showcasing just how good Harrison's voice could be, 'Call It a Day' was a nifty keyboard-powered blues-rocker. With one of those melodies that crept into your head and wouldn't leave, the other surprises came in the form of a pretty guitar solo (not sure if Herbert or Kenyon was responsible for it), and the impressive harmony vocals. Spooky Tooth seldom did as well in the harmony department. The song ended with what sounded like a Catholic choir performing at a high mass. rating: **** stars
- 'Damian' was a stark, but very pretty ballad that, thanks to Harrison's voice, had a distinctive Spooky Tooth feel. Harrison provided some of his prettiest keyboard work on the track. Not sure why (maybe the subject matter), but the song's always made me think of John Lennon ... rating: *** stars
- Side one's most conventional and commercial offering, 'Pain' was a likeable rocker with a great start-and-stop melody, some tasty fuzz lead guitar, and one of Harrison's best vocals. It would have made a nice single. rating: **** stars
- Initially 'Wait Until the Morning' didn't do a great deal for me. Initially a keyboard dominated ballad, the song started out as a dirge, but gradually built up speed and energy and by the time it ended had become one of the standout performances. rating: **** stars
- Perhaps the album's prettiest song, 'Lonely People' had everything going for it - nice melody; wonderful lead guitar, great harmonies ... One of my favorite performances. rating: **** stars
- Harrison's cover of Cat Steven's 'Hard Headed Woman' was given a breezy hard rock edge with some great Herbert or Kenyon twin lead guitar. The shift to slow blues came as a complete surprise, though it gave guest sax player Arthur Blecher a chance to turn in the album's most impressive solo. Wonderful performance and may have been the album's standout performance. rating: **** stars
- Penned by Spooky Tooth cohort Luther Grosvenor, 'Here Comes the Queen' was a tasty blues-rocker that gave Harrison a chance to showcase his harmonica playing. Nice lead guitar on this one ... rating: *** stars

Easily the best of Harrison's solo album and well worth looking for.

For hardcore collectors, there was apparently a Japanese single:

- 'Pain' b/w 'Mother Nature' (catalog number HIT-5010)  
"Mike Harrison" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Mother Nature (Peter Batey) - 2:05
2.) Call It a Day (Peter Batey - Mike Harrison - Ian Herbert - Kevin Iverson) - 6:29
3.) Damian (Mike Harrison - Ian Herbert) - 3:17
4.) Pain (Ian Herbert - Kevin Iverson - Frank Kenyon) - 3:27

(side 1)
1.) Wait Until the Morning (Griffin - Mike Harrison) - 4:22
2.) Lonely People (Peter Batey) - 2:30
3.) Hard Headed Woman (Cat Stevens) - 6:30
4.) Here Comes the Queen (Luther Grosvenor) - 2:30
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