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Phases and Stages

Texas platters

Reviewed by Margaret Moser, October 22, 2004, Music

3 Balls of Fire

Chrome & Water (Deep Eddy) Although it's a convenient way to categorize him, Burnin' Mike Vernon is substantially more than a surf music operator. He's an instrumental guitarist of the first order, and when playing in the context of his longtime local trio 3 Balls of Fire, his guitar is a lethal weapon. He's titled 3 Balls of Fire's new CD Chrome & Water presumably to illustrate the balance between the two elements most associated with this genre of instrumental rock. Opener "Theme From 'Blue Hue'" is an excellent example of his surf consciousness, as is the "Wicked Game"-like "Lonesome Tide" and the title track, guitar licks rolling like the waves at the Banzai Pipeline. Fine instrumentals dot the disc ("Star of Texas," "Alcohol Funny Car," "Kilimanjaro"), as do occasional covers ("Baia," "Untitled #5"), and nine of the 11 tracks are Vernon's. In his capable hands, this is soundtrack music for something that hasn't happened yet; without lyrics, the music lures the imagination. "Jet Set Jewel" is imbued with "Bali Hai," and "Eight Miles Down" not only conjures "Eight Miles High" from the sea foam, it showcases bassist Pierre Pelegrin and drummer Nico Leophonte. FOX television got wise to the Balls, implanting their music into a variety of sports programs and even midyear series Summerland, a tribute to Vernon – the man with the burning guitar, as he's sometimes known – and his fiery vision. Hey, if you had three balls of fire, your guitar would burn, too!


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