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…
John Mayall has been doing this blues thing now for over five decades (he released his first single in 1964), exploring the form in all of its incarnations, from gutbucket country blues to the more urbane jazz side of things, and amazingly, he's always sounded pretty much like John Mayall, a blues everyman who has always surrounded himself with the best bands and players, a big part of the reason he is still a successful touring act in his eighties. Mayall's put out 60 some albums since 1964, and while he's slowed down a bit in recent years, he's still good for a new album or live set every couple of years or so. A Special Life, recorded in November 2013 at Entourage Studios in North Hollywood, features Mayall's current band…
Fuelled by Coco Montoya's searing but economical string-slashing, drummer Joe Yuele, and bassist Rick Cortes, John Mayall has managed to keep a stable core of Bluesbreakers together in recent years. Mayall rarely does the same album twice, and Wake Up Call finds him returning to a basic, physical sound after 1990's more progressive/highly produced A Sense of Place. The harp whiz has rarely flirted with the pop charts over the decades, a track record that will likely handicap the title track - a potential hit featuring guest vocalist Mavis Staples and some take-charge riffing from former mate Mick Taylor. For pure guitar joy though, Montoya turns the trick all on his own with barnburners "Loaded Dice" and "Nature's Disappearing".
Somehow the grandfather of British blues still had the fire in his belly to record a strong album almost 40 years after he began his storied career. Buddy Whittington acquits himself well as the latest in a long line of hotshot guitarists for this multi-instrumentalist, who still does his best work on harmonica. He still admires long-dead bluesman J.B. Lenoir, including "Voodoo Music" here. A lot of credit for this strong outing goes to R.S. Field, lyricist and sometime producer for Webb Wilder. "Long Story Short" would pass for a Wilder tune were it not for Mayall's distinctive voice.
This was the last of the six albums John Mayall originally made for Blue Thumb/ABC Records between 1975 and 1978, about which he has said, "ABC released six of my albums as a tax write-off. A week after they were released you couldn't find them in any store." It's a live album on which Mayall fronts a quartet consisting of guitarist James Quill Smith (who sings lead on several songs), bassist Steve Thompson, and drummer Soko Richardson. The approach is rock-oriented, and the set list includes such Bluesbreakers favorites as Mose Allison's "Parchman Farm," and Freddie King's "Hideaway" (taken at a frantic tempo), along with the usual complement of generic Mayall originals, among them, a remake of "The Bear," from Blues From Laurel Canyon.
Tired of a creeping tendency towards pop territory that was happening in his old band, the Yardbirds, Eric Clapton was after one thing alone: the blues. With John Mayall and his pool of fledgling giants he got it in spades.
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.