Mike Vernon is no stranger to the music industry, having engineered and produced records with some of the biggest blues legends, such as Peter Green, Bo Diddly, Muddy Waters, and Eric Clapton. This love of the blues even led to him forming his own label, Blue Horizon, which had unprecedented success in promoting blues artists, all the more impressive when the late sixties was a time that also saw the birth of the Mersey Beat and Beatlemania.
A brief flirt at stardom in the pop charts with Rocky Sharpe and the Replays in the eighties proved Mike could perform on stage as well as behind the scenes. Fast forward almost forty years, and Mike is finally living the dream of fronting his own blues band after pulling in some like-minded musicians to form the Mighty Combo as his backing group.
Mixing up blues, jazz, and rock-a-billy, and bringing the big band sound from the Rat Pack era to their latest album, ‘Beyond the Blue Horizon’, Mike Vernon and the Mighty Combo will be playing various festivals and gigs right up to and beyond the September album release date.
Don’t be drawn in by the title ‘Rock the Joint’ on the first track if you’re a metal head, this is more Eddie Cochrane than Eddie Van Halen. Setting up the mood for the majority of the album, a steady beat that Teddy boys could flick their quiffs to, and heel-toe their crepe soles across the dance floor to impress the ladies. But the blues is still strong in the album, helped by a deep baritone saxophone and a slow wailing guitar on ‘Kiddio’, an apt title to introduce guitarist Kid Carlos, as he gets his first chance to shine with a sweet solo reminiscent of the early blues masters.
The retro feel to the album continues with big band sound of ‘Heart and Soul’, and it’s only when Carlos is allowed free reign that the blues briefly reappears. The mixing up of styles continues into the next track ’I Can Fix It’, starting out as a rock-a-billy vibe, but Vernon’s’ crooning style of vocals don’t quite match the feel good tinkling of the ivories.
More suited to Vernon’s vocal style is the cover of the 1931 classic ‘I Don’t Know Why’, made most memorable by Frank Sinatra’s version in 1946. The Rat Pack style of swing is definitely Mike’s era, but the influence from the Mighty Combo gives so much variation to this album, as the Chuck Berry style guitar blasts through in the middle of ‘Be on That Train’.
Kid Carlos again gets the lead for ‘Your Mind is On Vacation’ and following track ‘Old Man Dreams’, and the band always sound their best when he gets his chance to shine. The keyboard and sax are a perfect accompaniment for the classic delta blues sound.
‘Jump Up’ and ‘Red Letter Day’ are straight out the ‘50s, and really just chill out background music while we wait for the stronger ‘A Love Affair With The Blues’ to come along, which is made all the better with the introduction of a bit of harmonica.
Final track to close the album ‘Hate to Leave’ opens with Vernon just starting to warm up and come to life, this is more like the energy the rest of the album needed to push the boundaries they have really only tickled up to now. The power and energy is there in the band, they just need to be let off the leash a bit more to release the blues from their souls.
We’re Gonna Rock the Joint
Heart & Soul
I Can Fix It
(I Don’t Know Why I Love You) but I Do
Be On That Train
Your Mind Is On Vacation
Old Man Dreams
Red Letter Day
A Love Affair with the Blues
Hate to Leave (Hate To Say Goodbye)
The Band Are:
Mike Vernon (vocals)
Kid Carlos (guitar)
Ian Jennings (upright bass)
Matt Little (keyboards)
Paul Tasker (saxophone)
Mike Hellier (drums)
Steve Weston (Harmonica)
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