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Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Mike Harrison (ex Spooky Tooth,The V.I.P.s,Art -1945-2018) "Mike Harrison" 1971 UK Pop Rock,Classic Rock


Mike Harrison (ex Spooky Tooth,The V.I.P.s,Art -1945-2018)  "Mike Harrison" 1971 UK Pop Rock,Classic Rock
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For those of us who remember Spooky Tooth, Gary Wright was the leader but Mike Harrison was “The Voice”. Wright sang in two voices: a falsetto which in today’s world sounds strained and in his natural voice; tries to sound like Mike Harrison. The classic album “Spooky Two” is a gem waiting to be rediscovered. 
Mike Harrison is one of many singers who tried to emulate the soulful sounds of Ray Charles and he pulls it off in his own way. 
The music is progressive 1970s which is a form waiting to be rediscovered (in my opinion) along with groups like Traffic and unfortunately; the price of this CD is way off the charts and probably a collector’s item. 
I don’t own the CD but I did have the original record album and it’s in my memory even after 40 years when this was originally produced. If ever there was a singer to emulate a style in order to create a “current” vocalist, Mike Harrison ranks high on the list. 
I’ll wait until the price becomes more affordable but to those of you who are looking for an “undiscovered” vocalist to inspire you………….Mike Harrison and this album/CD is worth considering…..by.. Philipgstekel…~


Mike Harrison was best known as the gravelly-voiced lead singer of Spooky Tooth, which he fronted off and on from 1967 to 1974 (not counting the revivals.) In this solo effort, he stepped back from the hard-rocking music of Spooky Tooth and joined with some old friends, at least one of which (guitarist Frank Kenyon) had been involved in his previous band, the VIPs. Together, the ensemble backing Harrison was called “Junkyard Angel”. The result was a laid back, gospel-inflected album with soul-searching lyrics and pleasant if not overly memorable tunes. In 1971 their was a brief wave of “Jesus rock” (long before the “Christian Rock” movement got going)… George Harrison, Billy Preston, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, and “Godspell” got it going. Even Steve Miller dipped his finger into the trend with his album “Rock Love”. With this first solo album, Mike Harrison seems to have followed suit. “Mother Nature”, “Damian”, “Lonely People” and “Call it a Day” all have a confessional, meditative, quasi-religious feel– although “Damian” may be an oblique reference to the Hermann Hesse novel, which was also popular at the time. “Call it A Day” is even topped off by a religious choral segment, done up a capella. There are other nice touches in the arrangements, like the vibraphone solo in “Damian”. 

Harrison plays piano in addition to doing some fine singing. Some of the songs were co-written with band members, including bass player Peter Batey, who wrote the best original (“Lonely People”). There are two nice cover songs… “Hard-Headed Woman”, the Cat Stevens song, has a sort-of-heavy jam tacked onto the end with uncredited saxophone playing ( sounds sort of like Ian McDonald of King Crimson). The jam may have been included to extend the album length. The album ends with Harrison’s cover of Luther Grosvenor’s “Here Comes the Queen”. 

Harrison followed this album with a second that was done with the backing of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. That, too, was a good effort that drew on Harrison’s VIP days with a cover of Joe Tex’s “ I Wanna Be Free”, and another cut (“Turning Over”) that was an obvious hash-up done to flesh the album out. 

Mike Harrison had an unbelievable voice, and some good instincts, but on the evidence of his solo records he didn’t quite have the confidence to make it big on his own. This album is too slight to be a classic, but it has some nice moments, and a comfortable feel, sort of like a well-worn leather jacket or a letter from a friend. Their were far worse albums in 1971 that got a lot more attention than this quietly charming effort….by…. Peter Baklava…~


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. ….by…Bad-Cat….~


It’s always a pleasure to go back to Mike Harrison’s solo debut; it’s an album I have such a strong and ancient emotional bond with that I have to admit it may eventually disturb my objectivity; in any case it deserves being discovered as much as most of the Spooky Tooth catalogue; 
In a program consisting of laid-back, mid-tempo or slightly accelerated Folk or Country tinged Rockers with a sonic signature partly comparable to the one on Elton John’s seminal “Tumbleweed Connection”, Harrison displays an intimacy he wasn’t able to express in the company of the more flamboyant Spooky Tooth. 
He’s supported by the Junkyard Angel, an obscure but instrumental and vocal competent band; with Kevin Iverson on drums, percussion and backup vocals, Peter Batey on bass and percussion, Ian Herbert on acoustic and lead guitars, piano, organ, vibes and backup vocals and Frank Kenyon on acoustic and lead guitars and backup vocals, they produce enough tonal variety and an American tinged sound that adequately substitutes Gary Wright’s and Co, and this includes several individually or co-written with Harrison titles, efficient even when kept short and simple as on Batey’s “Mother Nature”. 
It’s an album of deep spiritual moments exacerbated by the eerie vocal harmonies and liturgics chants that close “Call it a Day” or by the exaltation of motherhood on “Damian”: Harrison is sometimes so emotional and impassioned hairs can stand-up on the back of my neck; but whereas the Rocker his not often heard, the troubadour feels equally comfortable on nasty and angered tales or when he contrasts mourning with hopefulness on “Pain” or on “Wait Until the Morning”. 
The track list is complemented by an unexpected cover of Cat Stevens “Hard Headed Woman” which is driven to an accelerating Rocking pulse and crisscrossed by some sonic guitars before slowing down and changing to a menacing ambience instigated by the fat tenor courtesy of guest Arthur Belcher and some biting and spiraling guitar leads intertwined in a controlled rendition of an emotional apocalypse; and by the lilting “Here Comes the Queen”, courtesy of fellow Spooky Luther Grosvenor, where Harrison finds the occasion to blow some bluesy harmonica lines amidst active guitar work. 
OK! Wiped out the emotionally inspired ½ star and rationally left 4 well-deserved stars….by..comusduke …~


Mike Harrison’s first album with Junkyard Angel resembles a poor man’s Spooky Two. The same voice with some of the angst and a few familiar rhythms give a hint of Spooky Tooth in their prime. The material isn’t quite as good but that is asking a lot in comparison. The featured cover song is Cat Stevens “Hard Headed Women”. It’s a perfect fit for Harrison’s voice and he certainly does it justice. Former bandmate Luther Grosvenor supplied his best song “Here Comes the Queen” and it closes out the album nicely. 
File this one under obscure as no one has rated or reviewed it until now. However it would be a nice find for fans of early Spooky Tooth….by…otismidnight …~
According to the BBC, British rock legend Mike Harrison passed away of unreported causes on Sunday, March 25th, 2018; Harrison was 72 years old. 
Harrison is best known as the voice of revered ‘70s-era rockers Spooky Tooth, the band he co-founded with guitarist Luther Grosvenor, bassist Greg Ridley, and drummer Mike Kellie. The four were originally in a band called The V.I.P.s, the band including future superstar Keith Emerson. When Emerson left to pursue fame and fortune, they changed their name to Art.
As Art, the band released a single album in 1967 titled Supernatural Fairy Tales. Released by Chris Blackwell’s Island Records label, the album’s sales were mediocre at the time but it has since been reconsidered as a psychedelic-era classic, and notable for its Hapshash & the Coloured Coast cover design. Blackwell was supportive of the band, and urged them to add American singer, songwriter, and keyboardist Gary Wright to the line-up, at which time they changed their name again to Spooky Tooth. 
Spooky Tooth released four critically-acclaimed albums between 1968 and 1970, and enjoyed a modicum of success with 1969’s Spooky Two, which was fueled by FM radio hits in “I’ve Got Enough Heartaches” and “Hangman, Hang My Shell On A Tree.” At Wright’s insistence, the band recorded a 1970 album, Ceremony, with French electronic composer Pierre Henry; after its release, Wright left the band for a solo career. After the release of 1970’s The Last Puff (credited to Spooky Tooth featuring Mike Harrison), the band broke up for the first time.
Harrison pursued a solo career with the 1971 release of his self-titled debut, the singer backed by a band from his hometown of Carlisle, Junkyard Angel, which included his former V.I.P.s bandmate, guitarist Frank Kenyon. A second solo album, titled Smokestack Lightning, was recorded at the Muscle Shoals Sound studio in Alabama with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and released in 1972. Not much happened commercially with either album, prompting Harrison to re-form Spooky Tooth to record 1973’s You Broke My Heart So…I Busted Your Jaw. Wright returned to the band while Luther Grosvenor – who had joined Mott the Hoople (as ‘Ariel Bender’) was replaced by future Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones; Ridley and Kellie were also gone, the bassist to Humble Pie and the drummer to the Only Ones. 
Spooky Tooth released one more album with Harrison, Witness, in late 1973, after which time Harrison left the band once again, Wright and Spooky Tooth later releasing The Mirror in 1974 with singer Mike Patto on the microphone. Harrison released his third solo album, Rainbow Rider, in 1975, but when he allegedly discovered that Island Records was taking royalties from his solo work and applying the money towards debts owed by his former band, he retired from music for nearly 25 years, reportedly working in a warehouse in Canada and various other odd jobs like bartender and milk man
In 1999, Harrison decided to inch back into the world of music, which resulted in a reunion with Grosvenor, Ridley, and Kellie and the release of the underrated Cross Purpose album under the Spooky Tooth name. Around the same time, the Hamburg Blues Band offered Harrison a monthly gig singing with the band, which yielded the 2001 album Touch, which featured lyrics by Pete Brown, longtime songwriting partner of Cream’s Jack Bruce. Harrison reunited with Wright and Kellie in 2004 (Ridley had passed away in 2003) as Spooky Tooth, their short tour documented by the 2007 concert DVD Nomad Poets. Harrison released his fourth and final solo album, 2006’s Late Starter, the album recorded with members of the Hamburg Blues Band and, along with Wright, he was still touring as Spooky Tooth as late as 2009. 
Harrison’s contributions to British rock history are unassailable; although often overshadowed in the band by Wright, he was nevertheless a soulful singer that imbued both his solo work and that band’s songs with powerful emotion and no little nuance. His 1970s-era solo albums have withstood the test of time, and Spooky Tooth’s hard rockin’ proggish sound influenced bands like Blodwyn Pig, Patto, Marillion, and Kansas while providing battle-tested veteran musicians to outfits like Humble Pie, Mott the Hoople, Widowmaker, and Foreigner. Harrison never received anywhere near the accolades he deserved, dying in relative obscurity when he should be considered as a rock ‘n’ roll legend….~



Personnel: 
Mike Harrison - Vocals, Piano, Harmonica, Organ 
Kevin Iverson - Drums, Percussion, Background Vocals 
Peter Batey - Bass, Percussion 
Lan Herbert - Guitar, Piano, Organ, Vibes, Background Vocals 
Frank Kenyon - Guitar, Background Vocals 

Spooky Tooth

Tracklist 
A1 Mother Nature
A2 Call It A Day
A3 Damian
A4 Pain
B1 Wait Until The Morning
B2 Lonely People
B3 Hard Headed Woman
B4 Here Comes The Queen 

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