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Michael Lee Jackson

In A Heartbeat

Review by Larry Toering

Michael Lee Jackson's debut album has been out for some time, perhaps flying beneath your radar, but not mine. This dates back a few years to when times were just flat out better, and the disc reflects exactly that. Jackson and bassist Rodney Appleby, along with Howard Wilson on drums not only cut this record, they also recorded Ian Gillan's career retrospective Gillan's Inn, and Jackson and Appleby toured stages of north America with the Deep Purple lead singer. Things were that good, yes indeed, and both have since continued to work with Gillan. Here the two of them together with Wilson and a guest appearance from Ian Gillan himself, put together a fantastic piece of work, produced by “The Amazing” Nick Blagona, who is of the elite variety of humble sound pioneers. Every track boils with playful delight, as Jackson lets it all hang out, with the help of some of his best musical friends.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Heartbeat

One word explains it all in this fabulous upbeat opener. This has a female voice in the intro and a cosmic mid section with guitar solo in a fantastic tone. There’s an almost Flemenco touch to the playing that really grooves in a world of its own. To put this one song in his own words... “Some people say there is a lot of things they would do in a heartbeat /  But the reality is different when they're presented with it.”

Clean And Dirty

This is another great rock and roll number. It's just a refreshing tune with a great rhythm section driving it.

Talkin' To Ourselves

If you haven't been in this situation, you probably haven't lived. It's about those communication walls that build, to the point where you're talking to yourselves, rather than one another. This features the album’s heaviest riff, and some other great guitar effects as well. This is where the vocals of Jackson also begin to take off.

Let It Rip

As the vocals keep a hold on everything, the guitar gets a chance to really let loose and soar about, and it's probably the most energetic number on offer. The whole guitar bite here is something that could go on for several minutes and not even begin to bore. This is another killer track, as they enter the peak stages.

Scratch And Shout

This is yet another of the best performances on the disc, another fast paced rocker with a bass line that won't quit.  There is a colorful backdrop of funky factors that all go wild before culminating into a light feedback which fades away like a feather.

No Way

More bass drives this darker number with a political vibe that just bounces along, on it's way to hell, so to speak. It’s more great stuff, with not much more to be said.

Shades Of Blue

This is where it slows down and at just the perfect time, showing how well the album was arranged. It's a sweet tune with some very tasty guitar bits. This track almost didn't make the album, but another ballad was called for, so they popped this one into the middle. Some of Jackson's best guitar work on the album is featured here, so it isn't all slow paced, but overall a very smooth cut with a cool vocal outro.

So far Away

Nick Blagona helped write this mellow song with Jackson, and it has a big island feel to it. It’s a very relaxed tune with all kinds of magic to it. This is just a hypnotic track with an almost Beatles feel to part of it. It's one of the best numbers on the album, for one reason or another.

Caught In A Maze

This has a funky band involvement,. Jackson sings about having the type of day where you're painting yourself into corners, and finding your way back out, but only to find you're not alone.

Texas State Of Mind

A classic track is born out of this playful cut, which Ian Gillan wound up snagging for a later solo album, but not before Jackson fronted the stage with it on tour with Gillan. It also features a backing vocal from bass player Rodney Appleby. This is the original and remains the essential version.

Have Love Will Travel

A high pitch shriek opens from Ian Gillan, who guests on this cover of  The Sonics hit written by Richard Berry. What a fine version this is. There are so many versions of this one, but then it's a song that isn't easy to do wrong, as it really is a thing of perfection. Here Jackson and Gillan share the vocals for a killer stab at it.

Goodbye

One of two ballads, this carries the same weight as the previous one, but a completely different vibe. This is a sweeter tune but just as hypnotic, and full of that lovely guitar sound. If anything here gives you the chills, this does. It tops the whole thing off elegantly.

 
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