Mark Michael - CD's


Frankie "Bluesy" Pfeiffer - Blues Magazine - France (FRENCH)
The Mark Michael Band - Steppin’ Stone – Note Records – NCD 1003-2

Lorsqu’un sideman hyper-sollicité prend un peu de temps pour lui, pour composer puis pour enregistrer, vous obtenez une de ces galettes qui frappe l’eau bleutée du lac bluesy comme un galet qui, bien lancé, vous offre de superbes ricochets. Le premier album du guitariste Mark Simkins est de ceux-là, avec un excellent Fool to Fall comme premier des 13 ricochets. Artiste de la six cordes, Mark ne cherche pas à impressionner par une quelconque speedy virtuosité, ciselant plutôt chaque solo comme une envolée vers un septième ciel tout en bleu. Ecoutez cette intro du second ricochet, It’s All Over Now, avant de vous repasser en boucle les excellents All Messed Up et Shades of Blues. Le line up est à lui seul un gage d’assurance-qualité : derrière les fûts on retrouve l’excellent Steve Dixon, batteur attitré de Paul Cox et de nombreux autres bluesmen anglais, le très bon Stevie Stokes à la basse, et l’incontournable Roger Cotton aux claviers, qui d’ailleurs a enregistré et produit ce bel album que je vous conseille vivement. Un excellent album que je recommande à tous les amateurs de belles guitares électrifiées.

Frankie Bluesy Pfeiffer



The Mark Michael Band Steppin' Stone - Note Records - NCD 1003-2 Note: 4 CD When a hyper-solicited sideman takes a little time for him, to compose then to record, you obtain one of these wafers which strikes the bluish water of the lake bluesy like a roller which, launched well, offers superb rebounds to you. The first album of the guitarist Mark Simkins is these, with excellent Fool to Fall like first of the 13 rebounds. Artist of the six cords, Mark does not seek to impress by unspecified a speedy virtuosity, engraving rather each solo like a flight towards a seventh sky all in blue. Listen to this intro of the second rebound, It' S All Over Now, before passing by again you in loop excellent All Messed Up and Shades of Blues. The line up is with him only a pledge of insurance-quality: behind the barrels one finds excel it Steve Dixon, appointed beater of Paul Cox and many others English bluesmen, very good Stevie Stokes with low, and the impossible to circumvent Roger Cotton with the keyboards, which besides recorded and produces this beautiful album that I advise you highly. An excellent album which I recommend to all the amateurs beautiful electrified guitars. Frankie Bluesy Pfeiffer - Review September 2005

The Mark Michael Band - Steppin' Stone

The Mark Michael Band gets into a groove straight away with Fool To Fall. This, like all bar one track, is self-written and is a mid-paced chunky blues with Mark Simkins prominent on guitar and his voice suits this song to a tee. The acoustic It's All Over is funky and competent but he finally lets rip on the chorus of Waitin' For The Night. This is stylish and shows how good a guitarist Simkins is. They turn in another funky blues on Nice And Slow and the title track is classic R&B, which has Roger Cotton on keyboards giving a feeling of authenticity. Simkins is becoming a better singer than first impressions gave and he delivers another snappy solo.

Mickey Baker's Got The Blues is the only cover on the album and is delivered in a very different style. This is a blues song played in a folk manner and it's ingenious. Anyone out there know what a Fat Boy Strat is? Listen to Fat Strat Boogie and you'll get an idea what a Fat Boy can do. This is high octane boogie with Simkins getting faster and faster - tops! Who Changed Your Mind is a pretty straightforward electric blues but is does highlight the fact that Simkins along with the previously mentioned Cotton and Stevie Stokes (bass) & Steve Dixon (drums) are a very tight band indeed. All Messed Up is a slow, atmospheric blues much akin, musically, to Robert Cray. There's a small tribute to Rory Gallagher on Emerald Ace and Simkins just burns this up. This is the best track on the album.

The band slow things right down for Perfect Love but this turns out a little too sickly sweet. They're back to form with thundering guitars on Bad Things. This stinging blues rock has a Gary Moore style vocal. The closing track, Shades Of Love, is a well played instrumental but I'd have preferred a more high tempo finish. All in all, a very good album.

David Blue

Pete Sargeant - Blues Matters! magazine – July 2005


Note Records 13 Tracks

On this new CD we find Splinter Group etc Roger Cotton producing and playing keys for one M Simkins aka Mark Michael and apart from one Mickey Baker selection this material is Artist’s Own. The easy paced intro track ‘Fool To Fall’ gives little hint of the sharpedged fiery guitar sound that fills this record. I’d say it was squarely in what we have to perceive to be the Blues Matters! reader’s ambit, sparse electric music with a mix of sophistication and almost brutal precision and right away let’s mention Mark’s assured vocal delivery and lyrical edge. At times a tad Gary Moore-ish in tone for my own taste, the guitar work is well-paced and there is no attempt to fill every space with a note, witness the buildup of the funky ‘It’s All Over’.

I think label boss Blake Powell mentioned to me that Mark was a fan of Rory Gallagher and I think you can sense this though Mark’s voice is quite different, his phrasing sometimes recalling Albert King in his later period. Above all you can sense that a record sounding this tight means we have another great live performer on the scene with ambitions not to play all the old standard songs – terrific !

Fun is had with ‘Fat Strat Boogie’,  whilst ‘All Messed Up’ could almost be a nod to Danny Kirwan. The RG feel is there is spades on ‘Emerald Ace’, a tribute that doesn’t cloy.

This guy sounds festival-bound, to these ears


Pete Sargeant

Blues in Britan
The Mark Michael Band - Steppin’ Stone
Note Records NCD 1003 2

Mark Simkins, who leads the band on vocals and guitar, is a highly respected session musician. On this album, for which he wrote twelve of the thirteen tracks, he takes centre stage and fully demonstrates his considerable talents. He has a good voice and is an excellent guitarist. The general mood of the album is slow, gentle and mellow, and the music is decidedly more rock than blues. The slowly rocking first and third tracks, “Fool To Fall” and “Waitin’ For The Night”, typify the mood of the album, displaying an uncanny resemblance to the guitar style of Out Of The Blue’s Eddie Tatton. In contrast, “Nice And Slow” has a funky feel about it and the title track, “Steppin’ Stone”, is an upbeat R&B number. The album closes with more contrasting styles: “Perfect Love” is a slow ballad, “Bad Things” an upbeat blues rocker and “Shades Of Blue” a melodic instrumental. It is a very enjoyable and well-balanced compilation.

Rating: 8

Lionel Ross