Legendary producer turns into performer to give his expertise and experience a new spin.
It’s mind-boggling to think of the energy resources at Mike Vernon’s disposal. Slightly older than Peter Green and much younger than John Mayall whose sound the producer preserved for posterity and, thus, helped to mold the British blues as we know it, Vernon may have retired from manning the desk – although the veteran was invigorated enough to steer Sari Schorr’s debut – but Mike is still very much active as an artist in his own right. Picking up where a brace of the master’s early ’70s albums left off and going off on a genre tangent, “Beyond The Blue Horizon” – a nod to the label that set things in motion five decades ago – is his showcase as a bandleader and singer able to seamlessly mix a smattering choice covers and original material of equal vim yet, more importantly, it’s a collection of good-time music, with a tad of obligatory sadness thrown in for good measure.
His encyclopedic knowledge of the idiom and detail that infuse this record and its liner notes don’t burden songs in any way, as there’s an easy, if not without swagger, romp through classic R&B on the likes of “(I Don’T Know Why I Love You) But I Do” which find Vernon’s croon backed with sympathetic groove and sensual sax. Opener “We’re Gonna Rock The Joint” providing an intent to latch onto makes it impossible to ignore Mike’s smile – and to keep still, because the patinated moves displayed here gradually burst into technicolor thanks to the artist’s impassioned delivery and infect the listener with jitterbug. The band will slow down on “A Love Affair With The Blues” for harmonica to oil the sentiment and on “Kiddio” for Kid Carlos’ fiery licks to burn the ground, but yelling for more is optional, the players keeping tempo balance in check throughout this dozen of tracks and letting everyone within earshot swing their hips in comfort.
There’s no burden of years, either, the veteran’s vocals so youthful on such ivories-driven cuts as “Old Man Dreams” or “Heart & Soul” – the former a solid, deliciously long slab of Chicago blues and the latter a New Orleans kind of jive – so it’s not a nostalgic trip, “Hate To Leave (Hate To Say Goodbye)” signing off on a boogie roll and bringing panache home on a natural high. Just as much gusto is applied to the reflective “Your Mind Is On Vacation” and to “Red Letter Day” that’s possessed with an elegant shuffle, while call-and-response, tentative on “I Can Fix It” which has the ensemble engage in conversation with the voice and with each other, gets unfolded on “Be On That Train” and “Jump Up” to the powerful twang of six strings and blare of brass. In these circumstances, joining the party and reaching for event horizon must be mandatory: Mike Vernon’s album leaves no other choice except having fun: it’s a truly timeless trip.