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July 1999

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John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers
Padlock On The Blues
Purple Pyramid

John Mayall - Padlock On The BluesPadlock On The Blues is just another of the dozens of albums recorded by John Mayall in his approximately 40-year recording career. He's always been firmly rooted in the blues, but has at times crossed over into other genres. A few years ago I caught a lot of flak from the "blues purist police" for booking Mayall at our Phoenix Blues Society's annual Blues Blast.

The purists will be happier with this disc, with Mayall staying closer to his blues roots than he has in quite a few years. This version of the Bluesbreakers (guitarist Buddy Whittington, bassist John Paulus and drummer Joe Yuele) has been together for the better part of the 90s, and it shows. These guys are one tight band!

One of the strongest numbers is the title cut, a slow blues featuring some nice work on guitar from Whittington.

All songs on the CD are band originals, but I had to look twice at the songwriting credits on "A Hard Road" to be certain that it wasn't an Otis Rush number. It's a dynamite West Side Chicago-style blues, with great piano from Mayall.

John Lee Hooker guests on slide guitar on two of the cuts, "Somebody's Watching" and the fine piano/guitar duet "Bad Dream Catcher." John Lee sounds OK, but doesn't really add anything to the CD. This band is so hot, it really doesn't need any help. If you need any convincing of this fact, just take one listen to the spirited closing number, "White Line Fever."

Mayall's most interesting piano work comes on the ragtime number "Ain't No Surrender." This one sounds as if it came from any era, as it's got a real old timey feel to it.

It wouldn't be a Bluesbreakers album without the boss man blowing a little harmonica, and Mayall does a good job on the soulful "Always A Brand New Road." He also does his best vocal work here.

Padlock On The Blues is by far John Mayall's best album in years. Even hardcore blues fans will like it.

--- Bill Mitchell

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