Based on the leadoff track, the grinding “All Night Long,” one might assume Mike Morgan’s sound hasn’t changed substantially since his Black Top days in the 90’s. With its lean, economical guitar layered over a chunky beat, it would fit right in on any of his earlier releases, most of which never strayed too far from formula.
But track two, “Where’s The Love,” represents an abrupt departure. Straddling a line between lite jazz and Marvin Gaye-style Motown, it serves warning that Morgan hasn’t been sitting still at all. Sure, there are still a handful of fairly straightforward twelve-bar tunes here, including the swampy balladry of “Sweet Angel” to the Texas shuffle of “You’re The One (I’ll Miss The Most).” Morgan rips through a cover of the immortal “Okie Dokie Stomp” in fine style, covers the belly-rubbing blues thing with “I Cried For My Baby,” and “Time,” which bookends the disc, is another of the grinders he does so well.
But the decidedly non-blues material shows Morgan has moved beyond twelve-bar convention, with somewhat mixed results. “Where” works, it’s socially conscious lyrics not far from the theme of Mr. Gaye’s own “What’s Goin’ On.” The title track, though, tries for the kind of atmospheric ballad John Hiatt does so well, but guest Randy McAllister’s vocals just aren’t convincing enough. Nor is Morgan’s own voice strong enough to make “The Birthday Song” much more than a novelty; this one would no doubt work well in a live, celebratory setting, but it’s not a track that stands up to repeated listens. Better is the deep soul of “When I Get Home,” though McAllister once again comes up a little short in the send-shivers-down-your-spine department. And there’s “How Much More Time,” with its southern-rock feel (more Marshall Tucker than Allmans), and “Funky Thang,” a tune that doesn’t quite live up to it’s title – funk should be dirty, not lite ‘n’ breezy.
Morgan’s not the strongest of singers (though he’s come a long way since earlier efforts), but old friend and band mate Lee McBee is on hand for three, while fellow Texan Randy McAllister tackling a handful as well. Given both are harmonica players, one of ‘em is likely responsible for the uncredited harp on “You’re The One.” It proves a nice touch, acoustic where most would employ amplified harp, though it does leave one wishing for more if only for tonal variety.
A slightly uneven collection overall, there are certainly enough high points to recommend this one. But there’s something of a transitional air about the project; one can’t help but wonder where Morgan’s headed with his music. When he sticks to straight-ahead blues he does a fine job indeed. His originals, however, simply aren’t strong enough to be memorable. Sure, it’s tempting to follow one’s muse – but Morgan should, by now, know that he’s best as a superior guitarist supporting a strong singer.
Listeners might want to check this one out before deciding whether to buy …