Monday, 4 June 2018

John Mayall ‎ “Three For The Road - A 2017 Live Recording” 2018 UK Blues,Electric Blues


John Mayall ‎ “Three For The Road - A 2017 Live Recording” 2018  UK Blues,Electric Blues
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On February 23, the “Godfather of British Blues,” John Mayall, will release his latest, Three for the Road, an album of live recordings from 2017. Mayall chose to record in Germany because that’s where his busy touring schedule crossed paths with a company that specializes in live recordings. Heaven forbid that the 84-year-old, still at the top of his game, would slow down… 
Mayall, who has famously launched the careers of many of the biggest names in rock (Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Mick Taylor, Don “Sugarcane” Harris, Harvey Mandel, Aynsley Dunbar, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Walter Trout, Coco Montoya and Buddy Whittington) has settled down into an incredible trio: Greg Rzab (bass) and Jay Davenport (drums) and, as ever, John Mayall (vocals, keyboard, and harmonica). The trio format allows Mayall’s own playing to be featured more than in a foursome with guitar, and has fireworks a-plenty. 
Greg Rzab, John Mayall, Jay Davenport (Photo: Cristina Arrigoni) 
The nine tracks on Three for the Road include fan and personal song favorites. Mayall told Elmore a little about one cut: “I thought the song ‘The Sum of Something’ by Curtis Salgado would be a good introduction to the work we’ve being doing as a trio. I love a good shuffle and I hope you will all agree that this is truly a smoking performance. Get those toes tapping right now!”…..~

Well, does John Mayall work so well without a guitarist in the band ? That’s the question several asked when he trimmed down to a trio format. Come 2017 and the European leg of his extensive Tour, and recorded over two German concerts in Dresden and Stuttgart, we have the answer. John sounds as great as ever, we more of his wonderful piano, some great organ, his voice remains as fine as ever it’s been. Add to that his awesome rhythm section of bass & drums, along with a superb selection of songs and you have one mighty fine blues album. This is the blues, thoughts to artists such as Memphis Slim and Otis Spann in his piano styling, the Eddie Taylor track is worth the price of the album alone. This is simply as good a band as John has ever had, smaller it might be but the sound is as full and exciting as ever. Always good to ring the changes in any musical career and this is one that works absolutely perfectly. You want the blues in it’s truest modern form then this is the album for you… this might be yet another Mayall classic, it’s that good !…by Pete Clack….~


As the elder statesman of British blues, it is John Mayall’s lot to be more renowned as a bandleader and mentor than as a performer in his own right. Throughout the ‘60s, his band, the Bluesbreakers, acted as a finishing school for the leading British blues-rock musicians of the era. Guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor joined his band in a remarkable succession in the mid-'60s, honing their chops with Mayall before going on to join Cream, Fleetwood Mac, and the Rolling Stones, respectively. John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Andy Fraser (of Free), John Almond, and Jon Mark also played and recorded with Mayall for varying lengths of times in the '60s. 

Mayall’s personnel has tended to overshadow his own considerable abilities. Only an adequate singer, the multi-instrumentalist was adept in bringing out the best in his younger charges (Mayall himself was in his thirties by the time the Bluesbreakers began to make a name for themselves). Doing his best to provide a context in which they could play Chicago-style electric blues, Mayall was never complacent, writing most of his own material (which ranged from good to humdrum), revamping his lineup with unnerving regularity, and constantly experimenting within his basic blues format. Some of these experiments (with jazz-rock and an album on which he played all the instruments except drums) were forgettable; others, like his foray into acoustic music in the late '60s, were quite successful. Mayall’s output has caught some flak from critics for paling next to the real African-American deal, but much of his vintage work – if weeded out selectively – is quite strong; especially his legendary 1966 LP with Eric Clapton, which both launched Clapton into stardom and kick-started the blues boom into full gear in England. 

When Clapton joined the Bluesbreakers in 1965, Mayall had already been recording for a year, and been performing professionally long before that. Originally based in Manchester, Mayall moved to London in 1963 on the advice of British blues godfather Alexis Korner, who thought a living could be made playing the blues in the bigger city. Tracing a path through his various lineups of the '60s is a daunting task. At least 15 different editions of the Bluesbreakers were in existence from January 1963 through mid-1970. Some notable musicians (like guitarist Davy Graham, Mick Fleetwood, and Jack Bruce) passed through for little more than a cup of coffee; Mayall’s longest-running employee, bassist John McVie, lasted about four years. The Bluesbreakers, like Fairport Convention or the Fall, were more a concept than an ongoing core. Mayall, too, had the reputation of being a difficult and demanding employer, willing to give musicians their walking papers as his music evolved, although he also imparted invaluable schooling to them while the associations lasted. 

Mayall recorded his debut single in early 1964; he made his first album, a live affair, near the end of the year. At this point the Bluesbreakers had a more pronounced R&B influence than would be exhibited on their most famous recordings, somewhat in the mold of younger combos like the Animals and Rolling Stones, but the Bluesbreakers would take a turn for the purer with the recruitment of Eric Clapton in the spring of 1965. Clapton had left the Yardbirds in order to play straight blues, and the Bluesbreakers allowed him that freedom (or stuck to well-defined restrictions, depending upon your viewpoint). Clapton began to inspire reverent acclaim as one of Britain’s top virtuosos, as reflected in the famous “Clapton is God” graffiti that appeared in London in the mid-'60s. 

In professional terms, though, 1965 wasn’t the best of times for the group, which had been dropped by Decca. Clapton even left the group for a few months for an odd trip to Greece, leaving Mayall to straggle on with various fill-ins, including Peter Green. Clapton did return in late 1965, around the time an excellent blues-rock single, “I’m Your Witchdoctor” (with searing sustain-laden guitar riffs), was issued on Immediate. By early 1966, the band was back on Decca, and recorded its landmark Bluesbreakers LP. This was the album that, with its clean, loud, authoritative licks, firmly established Clapton as a guitar hero, on both reverent covers of tunes by the likes of Otis Rush and Freddie King and decent originals by Mayall himself. The record was also an unexpected commercial success, making the Top Ten in Britain. From that point on, in fact, Mayall became one of the first rock musicians to depend primarily upon the LP market; he recorded plenty of singles throughout the '60s, but none of them came close to becoming a hit. 

Clapton left the Bluesbreakers in mid-1966 to form Cream with Jack Bruce, who had played with Mayall briefly in late 1965. Mayall turned quickly to Peter Green, who managed the difficult feat of stepping into Clapton’s shoes and gaining respect as a player of roughly equal imagination and virtuosity, although his style was quite distinctly his own. Green recorded one LP with Mayall, A Hard Road, and several singles, sometimes writing material and taking some respectable lead vocals. Green’s talents, like those of Clapton, were too large to be confined by sideman status, and in mid-1967 he left to form a successful band of his own, Fleetwood Mac. 

Mayall then enlisted 19-year-old Mick Taylor; remarkably, despite the consecutive departures of two star guitarists, Mayall maintained a high level of popularity. The late '60s were also a time of considerable experimentation for the Bluesbreakers, who moved into a form of blues-jazz-rock fusion with the addition of a horn section, and then retreated into mellower, acoustic-oriented music. Mick Taylor, the last of the famous triumvirate of Mayall-bred guitar heroes, left in mid-1969 to join the Rolling Stones. Yet in a way Mayall was thriving more than ever, as the U.S. market, which had been barely aware of him in the Clapton era, was beginning to open up for his music. In fact, at the end of the 1960s, Mayall moved to Los Angeles. Released in 1969, The Turning Point, a live, all-acoustic affair, was a commercial and artistic high point. 

In America at least, Mayall continued to be pretty popular in the early '70s. His band was no more stable than ever; at various points some American musicians flitted in and out of the Bluesbreakers, including Harvey Mandel, Canned Heat bassist Larry Taylor, and Don “Sugarcane” Harris. Although he’s released numerous albums since and remained a prodigiously busy and reasonably popular live act, his post-1970 output generally hasn’t matched the quality of his '60s work. Following collaborations with an unholy number of guest celebrities, in the early '80s he re-teamed with a couple of his more renowned vets, John McVie and Mick Taylor, for a tour, which was chronicled by Great American Music’s Blues Express, released in 2010. The '60s albums are what you want, though there’s little doubt that Mayall has over the past decades done a great deal to popularize the blues all over the globe, whether or not the music has meant much on record. Continuing to record and tour into his eighties, Mayall released A Special Life, recorded at Entourage Studios in North Hollywood and featuring a guest spot by singer and accordion player C.J. Chenier, in 2014. The album was universally celebrated as one of his best. 

A live archival recording of the Green, McVie, Fleetwood-era Bluesbreakers was released in April as Live in 1967. Meanwhile, the bandleader, his co-producer Eric Corne, and his seven-year old group – Rocky Athas, guitar; Greg Rzab, bass; Jay Davenport, drums – were in the studio. They emerged with Find a Way to Care, a set that showcased Mayall’s highly underrated keyboard playing on a set of originals and vintage covers including Percy Mayfield’s “The River’s Invitation.” The album was released in the late summer of 2015. Talk About That, Mayall’s second album for Forty Below, arrived in late 2017. ~ Richie Unterberger…..~

Greg Rzab, John Mayall, Jay Davenport (Photo Cristina Arrigoni)

I had doubts about the ability of a keys, bass, drums line-up to carry off a full concert without missing a lead guitar break or two. However, in the main John’s skills as a pianist just gives the numbers a different edge without detrcting from the overall sound. There are a couple of songs that don’t quite work as well (Ridin’ on the L & N plods a little), but overall you just find yourself enjoying the music for what it is. Full marks to John for having the bottle to try something different yet again. Bass and drums impeccable throughout as well. Great stuff….by….brogdonius….~


This album was recorded live at two concerts in East Germany in 2017 and features Mayall singing and playing keyboards and harmonica in a trio format with long time bassist Greg Rzab and drummer Jay Davenport. It was produced by John and Eric Corne and includes old Mayall favourites like his own song “Streamline”, Lionel Hampton’s “Riding on the L&N” and an extended version of Sonny Landreth’s “Congo Square”, alongside more modern songs like Curtis Salgado’s jazzy “The Sum Of Something” and old blues like “I Feel So Bad” and Eddie Taylor’s “Big Town Palyboy”. 

I really liked Mayall’s 2015 album “Find A Way to Care” (also produced by Corne) which concentrated on his keyboard playing – often overlooked in his bands where over the years the attention was often on his various guitarists and obviously this album also has this keyboard playing upfront. However, the rhythm section also play their part in keeping things swinging along nicely, they aren’t flashy letting John have the limelight but backing him all the way. Naturally these versions are very different to John’s previous covers and despite his age he can still deliver vocally while also playing keyboards as well as harp, although I’m not sure that the extended versions of “Tears Came Rolling Down” and “Congo Square” necessarily work on record. Nonetheless this is a worthwhile album which shows that John can still deliver and still has something to say…..G. E. Harrison ….~


Credits 
Bass Guitar – Greg Rzab 
Drums – Jay Davenport 
Vocals, Keyboards, Harmonica, Producer, Artwork, Design – John Mayall

Recorded Live In Dresden And Stuttgart, Germany 24th and 26th of March 2017

Tracklist 
Introduction
Big Town Playboy
I Feel So Bad
The Sum Of Something
Streamline
Tears Came Rollin’ Down
Ridin’ On The L & N
Don’t Deny Me
Lonely Feelings
Congo Square

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