Blues Bytes


May 2016

John Mayall's Bluesbreakers
Live in 1967 - Volume Two
Forty Below Records

John Mayall's BluesbreakersLast year saw the release of a wonderful previously unavailable collection of live recordings from the early 1967 version of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. That version (Mayall – vocals/harmonica/organ, Peter Green – guitar, John McVie – bass, Mick Fleetwood – drums) was together for a scant three months, but they made quite an impact, both during their brief time together and later on, when Green, McVie, and Fleetwood left to form Fleetwood Mac.

Devoted fan Tom Huissen followed the group around from club to club in London with his one channel reel-to-reel tape recorder and captured their live performances, which sat unheard for almost 50 years until Mayall obtained them and began the process of restoring them. Mayall’s label, Forty Below Records, recently issued a second set of these recordings, Live In 1967 – Volume Two, 13 more tracks recorded in the spring of ’67 at various locations, a mix of nine blues standards plus three Mayall originals and a Green instrumental.

Mayall and the band work through a familiar set of ’50s urban blues, including a pair of Sonny Boy Williamson tunes (“Your Funeral and My Trial,” “Bye Bye Bird”) that feature Mayall on harmonica, a pair of Otis Rush tunes (“So Many Roads,” “Double Trouble,” in different versions from the ones featured on Volume 1), Eddie Taylor (“Bad Boy”), T-Bone Walker (a different version of “Stormy Monday” than on Volume1, this one showcasing vocalist Ronnie Jones, a member of the first edition of Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated). There’s also a rocking take on the Lionel Hampton classic, “Ridin’ On The L & N.”

The Mayall originals on this set will be familiar to his longtime fans. The exquisite slow blues “Tears In My Eyes” eventually appeared on the 1967 album Crusade, which featured young guitarist Mick Taylor. “Please Don’t Tell” appeared on another 1967 Mayall album, The Blues Alone, and the churning “train” instrumental “Chicago Line,” has been revisited by Mayall many times over the years. Green gets a six and half minute instrumental, “Greeny,” to show what all the fuss was about back in the day and why he’s still considered one of the greatest guitarist ever.

Sound is not hi-fidelity for sure, given the recording methods at the time, but the tapes have been re-mastered to the point where it’s not an issue at all, much better than most “bootleg” recordings of that time. It’s definitely not something that should discourage potential listeners.

John Mayall was recently inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and his body of work over the past 50-plus years is amazing and remarkably consistent. The only real missing ingredient were recordings that captured this particular ensemble together. Thanks to Mayall and engineer Eric Corne, that gap has been filled commendably with the two Live in 1967 volumes. Both sets are essential purchases for fans of modern blues.

--- Graham Clarke
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