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Borderline,London, 1 December 2006

Whether cast in the role of soul singer, R&B interpreter, passionate blues singer, or front man for post-psychedelic rockers Spooky Tooth, this Borderline showcase proved Mike Harrison to be an enduring straight ahead growler who backed by the enterprising Halo records is giving the business one more shot. That said, this enjoyable lunch time session told us nothing that we didn't already know about a fine singer who is hoping to find a unique selling point for his undiminished vocal talents.

Originally signed to the fledgling Island record label with the VIP's, Mike made his name with the semi legendary Spooky Tooth, alongside drummer Mike Kellie who ably backed up his efforts here. Thereafter, having seen very little financial reward for his efforts Harrison went back to Germany - always a stronghold for passionate vocalists such as Roger Chapman and Chris Farlowe - to head up The Hamburg Blues Band. And despite a fine reputation and occasional glimpses of recorded excellence, things never quite happened for Mike.

So what are we to make of his new project? The presence of the organ is reminiscent of Spooky Tooth of course, but for the most part the set rarely veered away from gritty but unreconstructed mid-tempo renditions of personal blues and soul favourites.

Indeed early on Mike told us that he had settled on performing songs that he liked by his favourite artists. This made for a hefty dose of Ray Charles delivered in a soulful Delbert McLinton style. On 'Real Good Thing' Mike was assisted by the excellent bv's of Kiwi chanteuse Riette Austin who added a welcome dynamic to an otherwise static band.

Mike had already set the tone for the evening, reaching back into his early career for the slow blues 'Have Mercy', and excelled on Ray Charles' 'Real Good Thing' and Otis Redding's 'Dreams To Remember'. However, unlike the aforementioned Delbert McLinton who has gone on to achieve Grammy status by working a popular Americana niche, there was little here to suggest this excellent singer will break out of his current 'underrated' tag.

It remains to be seen whether Halo have the marketing tools to recreate what is essentially a soul market for an enduring vocal talent still in search of his niche.

Review by Pete Feenstra

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