MIKE HARRISON-MIKE HARRISON, SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING AND RAINBOW RIDER.

MIKE HARRISON-MIKE HARRISON, SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING AND RAINBOW RIDER.

There aren’t many artists who enjoy the longevity that Mike Harrison has enjoyed. His career has spanned six decades. During that period Mike Harrison has been the lead singer of  The V.I.P.s, Art and the Hamburg Blues Band. However, Mike Harrison is best known as the lead singer of Spooky Tooth, who were signed to Island Records. It was on Island Records that Mike Harrison released a trio of solo albums between 1971 and 1975. 

These albums were recorded when Spooky Tooth were neither recording nor touring. Mike’s debut album was Mike Harrison which was released in 1971. Smokestack Lightning followed in 1972, with Rainbow Rider completing the Island Records trilogy in 1973. The Island Records trilogy of Mike Harrison, Smokestack Lightning  and Rainbow Rider will be rereleased as a double album by BGO Records on the 1st of April 2016. They’re a reminder of Mike Harrison’s solo career. However, by the time, Mike’s solo career got underway, he was a member of a band who were popular on both sides of the Atlantic, Spooky Tooth. Their roots can be traced to Carlisle.

That was when Mike Harrison’s career began in Carlisle in 1963, when he cofounded The V.I.P.s with bassist Greg Ridley. Over the next four years, The V.I.P.s lineup evolved. Rhythm guitarist Frank Kenyon and lead guitarist Jimmy Henshaw were members between 1963 and 1967. Other musicians played a walk-on role on The V.I.P.s’ story. This included Keith Emerson whose keyboards would play a starring role in The Nice and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. However, by the time The V.I.P.s decided to change direction musically, Keith Emerson had left the band.

For the four years they were together, The V.I.P.s played blues and R&B. By 1967, they decided that to change direction musically. So The V.I.P.s changed their name to Art. Then in October 1967, Gary Wright joined Art. He played on Art’s one and only album Supernatural Fairy Tales.

Art.

Supernatural Fairy Tales.

In 1967, the newly named Art found themselves signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. Art were about to go into the studio with producer Guy Stevens, so began work on their debut album.  

By then, Art still a quartet. However, only two original members of The V.I.P.s remained. Ironically, they were the founding members, vocalist and keyboardist Mike Harrison and bassist Greg Ridley. They were joined by drummer Mike Kellie and guitarist Luther Grosvenor. The four members of Art got to work on what became Supernatural Fairy Tales.

For their debut album Supernatural Fairy Tales, the four members of Art wrote ten tracks. They would be augmented by covers of The Young Rascals’ Come on Up and Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth. Recording took place at two studios.

Pye Studios was where the majority of Supernatural Fairy Tales was recorded. Some recording took place at Olympic Studios. At the two studios, producer Guy Stevens, whose career was in the ascendancy, took charge of production. He guided Art through the maze that’s recording a debut album. The result was Supernatural Fairy Tales, which became a cult classic.

When critics heard Supernatural Fairy Tales, the reviews of Art’s debut album were mostly positive. Its progressive, psychedelic rock sound was decidedly on trend. It tapped into a sound that was commercial. Surely, Supernatural Fairy Tales would prove a commercial success?

That proved not to be the case. When Supernatural Fairy Tales was released in the Autumn of 1967, the album wasn’t a commercial success. This was disappointing for Art and Island Records. Chris Blackwell wasn’t giving up on Art. Instead, he introduced them to Gary Wright, an American vocalist and organist.

Gary Wright was also a psychology student, who had travelled to Berlin to finish his studies. That was where Gary Wright formed the band The New York Times with some American expats and a German bassist. They had opened for Traffic, and were thinking about recording an album. So Gary Wright contacted his old friend Jimmy Miller. The producer was working for Island Records, and suggested that The New York Times hotfoot it to London.

When The New York Times arrived in London, the recording sessions didn’t go to plan. The rest of the band split, leaving Gary Wright. It was then, in October 1967, that Gary Wright was introduced to Art. Ironically, Art were just about history. However, a new band were about to be born, Spooky Tooth.

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Spooky-Tooth.

It’s All About.

Straight away, work began on Spooky Tooth’s debut album. The new recruit quickly made his presence felt. Whereas the four members of Art cowrote most of their debut album Supernatural Fairy Tales, that wasn’t the case with Spooky Tooth. 

Gary Wright penned Sunshine Help Me and cowrote another six tracks. This included It Hurts You So and Forget It and I Got It with his old buddy Jimmy Miller. The Wright and Miller partnership weren’t finished. They penned Love Really Changed Me with Luther Grosvenor. That trio joined Mike Harrison in writing Here I Lived So We. Luther Grosvenor and Chris Wight also wrote Bubbles. Spooky Tooth was quickly becoming the Chris Wright show.

If the other members felt uncomfortable that Chris Wight was playing a leading role in Spooky Tooth. He was friends with Jimmy Miller, who was chosen to produce It’s All About. He just happened to be friends with Island Records’ owner Chris Blackwell. To onlookers, these relationships looked too cosy. After all, it was Chris Blackwell who introduced Chris Wright. He would join the rest of Spooky Tooth at Olympic Studios.

Island Records’ recording sessions were notorious for only allotting a specific amount of time to record an album. Woe betide the band and producer who went over budget. Spooky Tooth had twelve songs to record when they entered the studio in November 1967. This included covers of Janis Ian’s Society’s Child, Bob Dylan’s Too Much Of Nothing and John D. Loudermilk’s Tobacco Road. Along with the songs penned by members of Spooky Tooth, the twelve songs became It’s All About.

Before the release of It’s All About in June 1968, critics had their say on Spooky Tooth’s debut album. They were won over by It’s All About. Many critics gave the albums rave reviews. Some critics liked that Spooky Tooth had two different vocalists. This was uncommon. However, with Mike Harrison and Chris Wright sharing the lead vocals, this allowed the band to take their music in a variety of directions. On It’s All About, this included blues, rock and psychedelia. Despite winning over critics, record buyers weren’t convinced.

When It’s All About was released in June 1968, the album wasn’t the success many had forecast. This would soon change. 

Spooky Tooth were about to become one of Europe’s most popular live bands. Then in August 1968, Spooky Tooth were invited to tour America. This was a game-changer. Especially when Spooky Tooth were invited to play at one of the most prestigious venues in America, the Fillmore West in San Francisco.

Promoter Bill Graham invited Spooky Tooth to play the Fillmore West. This was a rite of passage for bands touring America. It was a signal they had arrived. Spooky Tooth were going up in the world, so Island Records’ thoughts turned to their sophomore album, Spooky Two.

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Spooky Two.

Unlike their debut album, Spooky Two only featured eight songs. Partly, this was why Spooky Too was a leaner, more focused album. Again, Gary Wright who had assumed the role of Spooky Tooth’s songwriter-in-chief.

Gary Wright penned four tracks and cowrote three others. This included Feelin’ Bad and I’ve Got Enough Heartaches with drummer Mike Kellie. Mike Harrison and Luther Grosvenor cowrote Waitin’ for the Wind with Gary Wright. Spooky Two’s other track, was a cover of Larry Weiss’ Evil Woman. These songs were recorded at Morgan Studios, London.

Just like It’s About You, Spooky Too was produced by Jimmy Miller. Recording began in November 1968, and Spooky Tooth began recording what’s now considered their greatest album, Spooky Too.

Once Spooky Too was complete, the release was scheduled for March 1969. This didn’t leave much time to promote the album. However, the reviews did a good job of this. Spooky Too was hailed a masterpiece of blues, hard rock, psychedelia and classic rock. Luther Grosvenor’s guitar playing was at the heart of the album’s success. It was loose, but fluid. Spooky Tooth’s played hard, raw and rock on Spooky Too. Critics forecast that Spooky Too was going to be Spooky Tooth’s breakthrough album.

That proved to be the case. On its release in March 1969, Spooky Too reached number forty-four in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Spooky Tooth’s profile rising. 

Suddenly, they were playing in front of bigger audiences on nearly every continent. Other musicians wanted to work with Spooky Tooth. This included French electronic musician, Pierre Henry. 

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Ceremony.

After the release of Spooky Too, there was a change to Spooky Tooth’s lineup. In 1970, bassist Greg Ridley was asked to join Humble Pie. He agreed, and Andy Leigh was drafted in as his replacement. This was the first, but not the last change in Spooky Tooth’s lineup.

After the commercial success and critical acclaim of Spooky Too, Spooky Tooth’s star was in the ascendancy. Suddenly, people wanted to work with Spooky Tooth. This included French electronic musician, Pierre Henry. 

He described himself as a found-object” composer. Pierre Henry took everyday objects and transformed them into an instrument. This wasn’t a new concept. 

Pablo Picasso had pioneered the idea in 1912, when he pasted  aprinted image of chair caning onto his painting Still Life with Chair Caning. Turning everyday objects into musical instruments took the idea further. That’s what Pierre Henry, and many other moderne musicians did.

Originally, Spooky Tooth were collaborating with Pierre Henry. It was his album. The new lineup of Spooky Tooth were essentially his backing band, on Ceremony. 

For Ceremony, Pierre Henry and Gary Wright wrote six tracks. He and the rest of the new lineup of Spooky Tooth made their way to France. It was agreed that Pierre Henry and Spooky Tooth would co-produce Ceremony, due to the fact the album takes the form of a church service.

Quickly, Spooky Tooth recorded their parts. This left Pierre Henry to play synths and take charge of electronics on five tracks. On Hosanna, which closed Ceremony, Spooky Tooth took centre-stage. It was Ceremony’s Magnus Opus. Once the recording was complete, Spooky Tooth headed home.

Having returned home, Spooky Tooth were sent a copy of Ceremony. Gary Wright didn’t like what he heard. He was straight on the phone to Chris Blackwell, urging him not to release Ceremony. This didn’t work. 

Chris Blackwell disagreed, telling Chris Wright: “people will love this album. We have to put this out.” According to Chris Wright, the rest of Spooky Tooth didn’t want Ceremony released. He went as far as to say: “it was against our wishes.”  He thinks that the “release of the album lead to the initial breakup of the band.”

With Island Records determined to release Ceremony, December 1969 was scheduled as the release date. Before that, critics had their say on Ceremony. This fusion of rock and avant-garde was billed as an album from Spooky Tooth and Pierre Henry. Reviews were mixed. It wasn’t what most critics had expected from Spooky Tooth. The problem Mike Harrison says was; “people thought it was Spooky Tooth’s third album.”

When Ceremony was released in December 1969, it reached just ninety-two in the US Billboard 200. Spooky Tooth were going backwards. That was only part of the story.

All wasn’t well within Spooky Tooth. There was disharmony within the ranks. Mike Kellie believes things would’ve been different if Spooky Tooth: “had independent management.” They could have been an arbiter in the conflicts. Without that, Spooky Tooth split-up.

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Spooky Tooth Featuring Mike Harrison.

The Last Puff.

That wasn’t the end of the Spooky Tooth story. Instead, it was just the end of a chapter. Mike Harrison, Mike Kellie and Luther Grosvenor remained. Chris Wright exited stage left. So did bassist Andy Leigh. In their place, came some new faces.

Among them, were guitarist Henry McCullough, bassist Alan Spenner and Chris Stainton. He played bass, piano and organ. His versatility would be put to good use on The Last Puff, which was billed as an album from Spooky Tooth Featuring Mike Harrison.

For The Last Puff, seven cover versions were chosen. Among them were Lennon and McCartney’s I Am The Walrus; Joe Cocker and Peter Nichols’ Something to Say; David Ackles’ Down River and Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Son of Your Father. New recruit Chris Stainton contributed The Last Puff. Ironically, The Wrong Time a song penned by Gary Wright and Hugh McCracken. Given Gary Wright had just left Spooky Tooth this seemed a strange decision.

Recording of The Last Puff took place at Island Studios, London. Producing the album was Island Records’ owner Gary Blackwell and Chris Stainton. Once the new lineup of Spooky Tooth finished recording The Last Puff, it was released in July 1970.

Critics however, received advance copies of  Spooky Tooth Featuring Mike Harrison’s album The Last Puff. Critical acclaim accompanied this album of psychedelia, rock and pop. It seemed the loss of two members hadn’t derailed Spooky Tooth.

That seemed to be the case. The Last Puff proved more successful than Ceremony, reaching number eighty-four in the US Billboard 200. However, not long after the release of The Last Puff, Spooky Tooth split-up. That looked like the end of the line for Spooky Tooth. Island Records were dismayed. They had just lost one of their most popular groups.

So a year later, in 1971, Island Records repackaged and rereleased It’s All About as Tobacco Road. When the album was released, it reached number 152 in the US Billboard 200. By then, they had signed a new solo artist..Mike Harrison.

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Mike Harrison-The Solo Years.

With Spooky Tooth seemingly consigned to musical history, Mike Harrison embarked upon a solo career. He signed to Island Records, and began working on his eponymous debut album.

Mike Harrison.

For his eponymous debut album, Mike Harrison returned to where it all began for him, Carlisle, in Cumbria. That’s where he found The Junkyard Angels. They would become his backing band on Mike Harrison, and would also contribute several songs.

The Junkyard Angels were a cut above the local Carlisle bands of the early seventies. They weren’t just talented musicians, but also songwriters who played a part in five of the songs on Mike Harrison.

Bassist Peter Batey wrote Mother Nature and Lonely People. Peter also cowrote Call It A Day with Lan Herbert,  Kevin Iverson and Mike Harrison.  Lan Herbert and Kevin Iverson then penned Pain with Frank Kenyon. The final song penned by a member of The Junkyard Angels, was Damian, which was written by Lan Herbert and Mike Harrison.  By then, it was obvious that The Junkyard Angels were more than a backing band. They had written most of Mike Harrison.

The other three tracks on Mike Harrison, were Wait Until Morning, a Harrison-Griffin composition; Cat Stevens’ Hard Headed Woman and Luther Grosvenor’s Here Comes The Queen. Along with the tracks written by The Junkyard Angels, this trio of tracks would become Mike Harrison.

When recording of Mike Harrison began, four members of The Junkyard Angels were ready to accompany Mike. The rhythm section featured  drummer and percussionist Kevin Iverson; bassist and percussionist Peter Batey and guitarist Frank Kenyon. Lan Herbert  played guitar, piano and organ and vibes. The four members of The Junkyard Angels would also add backing vocals Meanwhile, Mike Harrison added lead vocals, and played piano, harmonica and organ. When the eight tracks were recorded, Mike Harrison was scheduled to be released later in 1971.

On the release of Mike Harrison in October 1971, reviews of the album were mostly positive. Most critics were won over by the fusion of rock, blues, folk and pop. The songs were perfect for Mike’s vocal. That was the case from the opening track Mother Nature. It’s akin to a musical amuse bouche as Mike’s lived-in vocal brings meaning to the lyrics. That’s the case throughout the eight tracks on Mike Harrison. His worldweary vocal sounds as if he’s lived the lyrics to Call It A Day, Pain and  Wait Until The Morning. Similarly, Mike sounds as if he can relate to Lonely People, and somewhat ruefully seems to sing Hard Headed Woman as if he’s met her, but lived to tell the tale. However, the Ballad Damian features a soul-baring vocal. Closing the album,  is a cover of Here Comes The Queen, where Mike Harrison and The Junkyard Angels takes in a new direction, to Luther Grosvenor’s original. In doing so, it leaves the listener wanting more.

With eight tracks lasting just lasting around thirty-three minutes, Mike Harrison was just a taste of what was to come from Mike Harrison. Freed from the constraints of Spooky Tooth and Gary Wright’s ‘helping hand’, Mike had come in to his own. He had just cowrote three tracks on his eponymous debut album and produced it. Mike Harrison was well received, and although it wasn’t a huge selling album, it’s a hidden gem that showed Mike that there was like after Spooky Tooth.

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Smokestack Lightning.

Buoyed by the reception his eponymous debut received, Mike Harrison’s thoughts turned to his sophomore album. This time, there was no sign of The Junkyard Angels, who played such an important part in his eponymous debut album. They cowrote five of the eight tracks. Mike had only written three tracks, including two with members of The Junkyard Angels. So this presented something of a problem. However, Mike Harrison had already thought of the solution.

His sophomore album would mostly feature cover versions. The exception was Turning Over, which Mike and Luther Grosvenor cowrote.  However, the other five tracks were cover versions. This included Tears and Pay My Dues, which were penned by Jimmy Stevens. Other familiar songs included Fats Domino and Maddux-Jessup’s What A Price; Joe Tex’s Wanna Be Free and Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning. This blues classic lent its name to Mike’s sophomore album. It was recorded stateside.

To record Smokestack Lightning, Mike Harrison followed in the footsteps of countless musicians. His destination was Muscle Shoals, in Alabama, where he would work with the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. They featured some of America’s top musicians, who had worked with everyone from Aretha Franklin, Candy Staton and Etta James to Percy Sledge and Wilson Pickett. Now Mike Harrison was ready to make that journey, and work with the legendary studio band.

When Mike Harrison arrived at Muscle Shoals, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section’s lineup featured some of the top session musicians America had to offer. The rhythm section featured drummer Roger Hawkins,  bassist David Hood and guitarists Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carr. They were augmented by slide guitarist Wayne Perkins, keyboardists  Barry Beckett and Clayton Ivey. Along with the horn section, they recorded six tracks. When it came to record Turning Over, the cowriter Luther Grosvenor added acoustic guitar. When Smokestack Lightning was complete, it was  very different album to Mike Harrison.

The soulful and heart-wrenching  ballad Tears opens Smokestack Lightning. It comes complete with lush strings and later, some stunning guitar licks. Paid My Dues is best described as mid-tempo slice of string drenched, blue eyed soul. This proved to be very different from the rest of Smokestack Lightning.

It’s all change on What A Price, Wanna Be Free, Turning Over and Smokestack Lightning. These songs see Mike head in the direction of the blues. Accompanied by a smoking band, he embraces the role of bluesman as the  Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section jam.  Smokestack Lightning is totally reinvented, and becomes a twelve minute hypnotic, smouldering bluesy jam. Mike has kept his best blues until last, as he pays homage to Howlin’ Wolf in a fitting fashion. In an album that oozes quality, Mike Harrison kept one his best songs until last.

When critics heard Smokestack Lightning,  they were impressed by Mike Harrison’s new sound. They hailed Smokestack Lightning as Mike Harrison’s best album so far. Most critics preferred Smokestack Lightning, to Mike Harrison and wondered aloud what the Cumbrian’s third album would sound like? However, Mike had a surprise in store for his fans.

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The Return Of Spooky Tooth.

You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw.

In September 1972, Spooky Tooth reformed, with a new lineup. The only musician who had played on The Last Puff was Mike Harrison.  

Since then, Luther Grosvenor had joined Mott The Hoople, where he dawned the alias Ariel Bender. His replacement in Spooky Tooth, was future Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones. Mike Kellie was replaced by drummer and percussionist Bryson Graham. Chris Stewart became Spooky Tooth’s fourth bassist. However, the biggest surprise, was the return of Gary Wright. 

Quickly, Gary Wright resumed the role of Spooky Tooth’s songwriter-in-chief. He wrote six of the eight songs, and cowrote Times Have Changed with Mick Jones. The other song on You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw was the Bryson Graham composition This Time Around. These eight songs were recorded at three London studios.

Recording of You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw. Olympic Studios, Island Studios and Apple Studios. It seemed no expense was being spared for Spooky Tooth’s comeback album. These were some of London’s top studios. One expense that was saved was a producer. Spooky Tooth produced You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw. It was scheduled for release in ay 1973.

Many of Spooky Tooth’s fans eagerly awaited their comeback album. However, when reviews were published, they were mixed. Some critics felt that You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw wasn’t Spooky Tooth’s finest hour. It stuck to Spooky Tooth’s familiar mixture of hard rock and psychedelia. While hard rock was still popular, progressive rock dominated the charts. However, other critics were won over by Spooky Tooth’s comeback album.

Other critics liked the dual keyboard sound on You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw. This brought a new dimension to Spooky Tooth’s sound. There was no consensus. For once, a Spooky Tooth album had divided the critics’ opinion. However, record buyers were of one mind.

On the release of You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw, in November 1973, the album reached number eighty-four in the US Billboard 200. This matched the popularity of The Last Puff.  Spooky Tooth were back to where they were before Ceremony. What could go wrong? 

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Witness.

After making their comeback with You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw, Spooky Tooth looked as if their career was back on track. Then there was a change in Spooky Tooth’s lineup.

This time, Spooky Tooth’s original drummer Mike Kellie made a comeback, and replaced recent recruit Bryson Graham. However, that wasn’t the end of Bryson Graham. He played on some of the tracks on Witness. It was a tale of two drummers. 

One thing didn’t change, Gary Wright wrote most of Witness. He penned six of the nine tracks, and cowrote the other three tracks with members of Spooky Tooth. Considering the other members weren’t regarded as songwriters, they were proving a reliable source of songs. Gary Wright and Chris Stewart penned Don’t Ever Stray Away. Mick Jones collaborated with Chris Wright on All Sewn Up. Drummer Mike Kellie celebrated his return by cowriting Pyramids with Chris Stewart. It seemed the other members of Spooky Tooth had hidden talents.

They also produced Witness, which was recorded at Olympic Studios and Island Studios, in London. At two of London’s premier studios, Spooky Tooth recorded their sixth studio album. Little did anyone realise, but this would be the last time one of the band set foot in a recording studio with Spooky Tooth. It was the end of an era.

Sadly, with one of the band about to call time on their career with Spooky Tooth, the reviews of Witness were mixed. Not for the first time, a Spooky Tooth album divided opinion. Some critics enjoyed Witness mixture of hard rock and psychedelia. Others felt the sound was dated. Record buyers had the deciding vote.

They too were undecided. When Witness was released in November 1973, it stalled at ninety-nine in the US Billboard 200. Witness hadn’t matched the commercial success of  You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw. That was disappointing. However, it wasn’t as disappointing as losing one of the band’s most important figures. 

Mike Harrison, who founded The V.I.P.s ten years previously, called time on the band he cofounded with Greg Ridley. The group’s cofounder wanted to pursue other projects. Another departure was bassist Chris Stewart. While he was a loss, his departure didn’t leave the void that Mike Harrison’s left. It was a case of the King is dead, long live the King.

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The Solo Years Part Two.

Rainbow Rider.

After Spooky Tooth split-up, Mike Harrison resumed his solo career in 1974. Two years had passed since Mike had released Smokestack Lightning It was hailed as Mike’s best album.  His third album, Rainbow Rider, had a lot to live up to.

For Rainbow Rider, Mike Harrison chose a mixture of new songs and cover versions. Among the cover versions were Somewhere Over The Rainbow; The Beatles’ We Can Work It Out; Bob Dylan’s I’ll Keep It With Mine and Don Nix’s Maverick Woman Blues. Don Nix also cowrote Like A Road (Leading Home) with Dan Penn. The other cover version was the Jennings-Seal composition You and Me. Mike had cowritten the rest of Rainbow Rider.

This includes Friend a Harrison-Belcher composition; while Easy was a Aitkin, Brown and Harrisona composition. Mike Harrison and Luther Grosvenor penned  Okay Lay Lady Lay. Along with the six cover versions, they became Rainbow Rider.

As recording of Rainbow Rider began, Mike had a new band. It featured some of Nashville’s top session players. The rhythm section featured drummer Kenny Buttrey, bassist Norbert Putnam and guitarists Kirk Lorange and Bob Cohen.  Two familiar faces were Spooky Tooth and then Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones, and Mott The Hoople keyboardist Morgan Fisher. They were  joined by The Memphis Horns and a choir from the Corana Stage School. With Mike Harrison taking charge of production, Rainbow Rider soon took shape, and was released in 1975.

When Rainbow Rider was released in 1975, the album was well received by critics. Mike Harrison they said had picked up where he left off on Smokestack Lightning. 

Elements of rock, blues, folk and soul shine through on Rainbow Rider. The blues are to the fore on Maverick Woman Blues, before You And Me is a fusion of blues, funk and rock. Mike struts his way through the lyrics, before delivering a soul-baring vocal on the ballad I’ll Keep It With Mine. Accompanied by gospel-tinged harmonies, it’s one of the highlights of Rainbow Rider. So is the Dylan-esque Like A Road (Leading Home). Strings and horns play leading roles in the song’s success. Then a familiar face makes a welcome appearance.

Although The Beatles’ We Can Work It Out had been covered by many artists by 1975, Mike brings something new to the song, and reinvents it. Funky, bluesy and rocky describes Okay Lay Lady Lay. Then Easy is a beautiful ballad, where a piano, stirring strings and gospel-tinged harmonies accompany Mike’s impassioned vocal. Easy proves to be another of the highlights of Rainbow Rider. Almost as beautiful is Mike’s cover of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Somehow, he brings something new to an oft-covered song. Friend, another heartfelt and melancholy ballad brings Rainbow Rider and the Island Records trilogy to a memorable close.

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Rainbow Rider completes the Island Records trilogy in 1973, and the story of Mike Harrison’s all too brief solo career. Sadly, Mike Harrison never quite enjoyed the commercial success his music deserved. That’s a great shame.

The three albums Mike Harrison released for Island Records showcase a talented singer, songwriter, musician and producer.  Sadly, his music never found a wider audience. Instead, Mike Harrison, like Michael Chapman and to some extent John Martyn, is another  artist who is another of music’s best kept secrets. Maybe not for much longer though.  BGO Records will release the Island Records trilogy of Mike Harrison, Smokestack Lightning  and Rainbow Rider on the 1st of April 2016 on two discs. This is the perfect way to discover Mike Harrison’s Island Years trio of Mike Harrison, Smokestack Lightning  and Rainbow Rider. 

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