Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stronger Every Day reviewed by Mark Thompson

Stronger Every Day
Mike Morgan and The Crawl
Severn Records

It's been four years since Mike Morgan's last release on Severn. His latest finds him utilizing a number of musicians and vocalists on a batch of original tunes and one cover, a surprisingly brief version of "Okie Dokie Stomp" that comes to end just as things are heating up. Morgan's guests include Randy McAllister and former bandmate Lee McBee on lead vocals.

The disc opens with a tough, Texas-style groove on "All Night Long" that loses some impact because of Morgan's vocal. His thin voice lacks the heft and range needed to handle a tune like this. The next track, "Where's the Love," features a pleading vocal from McAllister that quickly show that his skills far exceed Morgan's ability. Stefano Intelisano provides some fine accompaniment on the organ.

McAllister's gritty voice is featured on four other tracks that travel down the soulful side of the street. The title track steadily builds the intensity level with Morgan providing an outstanding guitar part. Even better are the performances on "When I Get Back Home," a superb ballad featuring a simmering vocal from McAllister with help from Benita Burns. Morgan has always been a solid guitarist, seldom straying into the land of excess. He may not have awe-inspiring technique or speed but his guitar work gets to the emotional center of most tracks, as he does on this cut.

McBee was around for the classic recordings Morgan made on the defunct Blacktop label. It's great to hear the two of them working together once again. Lee has a higher pitched voice that always seemed to be the perfect fit with Morgan's guitar. Mike certainly sounds inspired on "Sweet Angel," his guitar spitting out hot licks in contrast to McBee's laid-back vocal. "I Cried for My Baby" is nothing special as a song but McBee takes a tougher tone, Morgan once again lays down some sparkling guitar parts and Intelisano's organ work creates a great foundation, creating another highlight performance. "Time" closes the disc with McBee wailing away over a boogie guitar riff from Morgan.

After hearing these two singers, it was hard to get excited about Morgan's vocals on three other tracks. "The Birthday Song" rates as throwaway filler material. The best of the three is "How Much More Time," a lighter tune that is a better fit for Morgan's limited vocal range. If McAllister and McBee had handled all of the vocals, this would have been a stronger package. Still, there is plenty to like here with several standout cuts that are worth repeated listening. Welcome back. Mike Morgan !!

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