Mick Clarke

TrackAlbum
It Hurts Me TooLooking For Trouble
The Cobra's MelodyThe Cobra's Melodies CD
2nd StreetSteel And Fire
Bear With MeTell The Truth
Mother EarthRoll Again
As The Years Go Passing ByHappy Home
Cool Night AirNo Compromise
The Coast HighwayAll These Blues
TatouineSolid Ground
What IfRamdango

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Contributors: Ian Ashleigh & Lance Muswell

Mick Clarke first attracted attention in 1968, playing guitar in the south London-based band Killing Floor, the name taken from a Howlin’ Wolf song (see Toppermost #177). As well as producing two quality albums at the time, Killing Floor backed Freddie King when he came to the UK in the late 1960s/early 1970s and toured with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Otis Spann. The original four piece line-up reformed to produce two further albums in 2011 and 2012.

In the mid-70s Clarke formed SALT with Stevie Smith on harp and vocals, Stuart MacDonald (from Killing Floor) on bass and Alan Platt on drums. The band had a loyal following around the London scene at the time. There were many memorable gigs at the Marquee Club, the Bridge House in Canning Town and at the Music Machine in Camden amongst many others. The band headlined Friday night at the Reading Festival in 1978. The addition of Lou Martin on piano and Rod De’ath on drums (replacing Platt) from the Rory Gallagher band (see Toppermost #133) saw the band change their name to Ramrod.

When the members of Ramrod went their separate ways, Mick Clarke embarked on a solo career that has seen the release of 15 albums, numerous tours across the US and Europe and a loyal following in the UK. The core live band has been drummer Chris Sharley, and Eddie Masters (bass), with Dave Lennox (keyboards), although that has been fluid in recent years.

Always good value for money, Clarke plays a brand of electric blues that combines standards with his own compositions. We have tried to be representative but the only way to appreciate the skill is to witness Mick Clarke strap on his trusted 1963 Gibson SG Standard (known as Gnasher) and blow the room away. As we did once again the night before submitting this appreciation.

It Hurts Me Too is one of those blues standards that has been around forever and has been covered many, many times. I remember an evening at Dingwalls in Camden Lock, which Lance missed, during the Ramrod days. The band were surrounded by deep red curtains that half hid Lou Martin and his piano. Mick took the solo during It Hurts Me Too, the rest of the band stopped playing and sat/stood amazed by the notes coming out of his guitar. This version on Mick’s first solo album, Looking For Trouble, is less full-on than the live SALT/Ramrod outings but is a memory of many gigs and especially that evening at Dingwalls. Another memory of those far off days is The Cobra’s Melody co-written with Stevie Smith from the retrospective SALT CD, The Cobra’s Melodies. The CD was released in 2011 to coincide with a small number of reunion gigs but is now available from Mick Clarke’s website along with the Killing Floor and Mick’s solo albums (see link below). This is the original recording from 1978 with Smith’s distinctive vocals and harp style.

The next selection continues the mood; 2nd Street from Steel And Fire ticks just about every blues rock box. Bear With Me from Tell The Truth is another telling of the itinerant musician’s plea to the woman left at home. Mother Earth from Roll Again is a pure gut-wrenching electric blues in the best traditions.

In 1997, Mick Clarke and Lou Martin released the album Happy Home, just vocals, guitar and piano. As The Years Go Passing By, written by Deadric Malone, is now dedicated to the memory of Lou Martin (1949–2012); vocals are absent and piano takes centre stage.

The album No Compromise does exactly what it says on the label; 12 tracks of pure blues/rock. Cool Night Air is just one of a dozen quality tracks each of which could have been included. The Coast Highway from All These Blues is a country blues track in the best Grateful Dead style.

Tatouine from Solid Ground was recorded by the touring band as noted above and is another instrumental track showcasing Clarke’s variety of styles around the blues/rock genre.

Finally, the acoustic instrumental What If comes from Mick Clarke’s latest offering Ramdango which was recorded in his own studio at home and on which he plays all the instruments. And you are left asking, with all that talent, what if …

Mick Clarke – The Official Site

SALT – The Cobra’s Melody (on YouTube)

Mick Clarke biography (AllMusic)

TopperPost #417

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