Burnin’ Mike Vernon’s 3 Balls Of Fire

Burnin’ & Churnin’ and Live! (featuring Nokie Edwards, George Tomsco, and Jerry Cole)

Of all the surf-instrumental revivalists, Vernon is one of the most prolific. Since forming Balls Of Fire in 1987, he has also dipped his toe into “crime jazz” and Hollywood soundtrack covers – played with skill and creativity.

Churnin’ is moodier and a little less burnin’ than previous releases, but showcases the six-stringer’s composing on seven originals. You can almost feel the ocean breeze from “Havana Calling,” while “Crime Report” is as noir as its title suggests. “Alotto Staccato” is an obligatory reverb fest that would be right at home in Dick Dale’s catalog, and “Lucky Boy” is textbook bachelor pad. The set closes with “Albatross,” a beautiful tribute to Peter Green.

A second CD, called Live!, available only by purchasing the first, features Vernon accompanying three legends of instrumental rock. The Ventures’ Nokie Edwards gives a jaw-dropping fingerpicking display on “I Got A Woman,” George Tomsco of New Mexico’s Fireballs is in stellar form on “Rik-A-Tik,” and the Wrecking Crew’s Jerry Cole reaches back to his hot-rod success with “Pealin’ Out.” Each frontman is utterly unique, and bravo o Vernon for not only showcasing them, but for being adaptable in conforming to their distinctive styles.

This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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