June 13, 2024

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CD review: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Live in 1967 Volume 3 – 2023: Video, CD cover

Live in 1967 Volume 3 is the third and final release by John Mayall of various recordings made in 1967 and featuring a Bluesbreakers line-up of Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, just before they left to form Fleetwood Mac.

The importance of blues musician John Mayall in the arena of rock music is pivotal. Considering how many famous musicians received their tenure with his band through the decades. Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood & John McVie, Cream’s Eric Clapton & Jack Bruce, the Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor & Aynsley Dunbar, Keef Hartley, Jon Mark & Johnny Almond, Harvey Mandel, Larry Taylor (Canned Heat & Tom Waits) & Coco Montoya among so many.

The recordings were originally made by dedicated fan, Tom Huissen, who took his one-channel reel-to-reel tape recorder to various clubs in and around London in 1967 (the eight songs on the album come from four different gigs). Mayall obtained the recordings nearly 50 years later and, together with Eric Corne of Forty Below Records, began the difficult process of restoring them. And what a magnificent job they have done, giving us a priceless glimpse into a period of rare musical history.

This particular 8-track set Live in 1967-Volume 3 (Drops Sept 8–Forty Below Records) was produced by John Mayall & Eric Corne. It features the 3 Fleetwood Mac alumni. Green (lead guitar), Fleetwood (drums) & McVie (bass). Though Mayall (vocals/harmonica/organ) came from England he settled & worked from L.A. for decades.

This is the 3rd & final volume of Mayall’s Bluesbreakers live in 1967. The music was captured on a one-channel reel-to-reel recorder in London unadorned by a dedicated fan Tom Huissen. Largely unheard in nearly 50 years Mayall managed to secure these vintage tapes, restore them technically & allow dedicated listeners to hear the grooves laid down on these early performances despite rough patches in reproduction.

So, while these tunes aren’t meant to impress via the sound quality, they are a historical document for Mayall completists. admirers of the blues & the early efforts of 3 members of Fleetwood Mac who were all thinner, had more hair & could stay up past midnight.

In 1967, London was the epicentre of popular music and indeed popular culture in the world. England had won the soccer World Cup there in 1966, just as Carnaby Street was dictating global fashion trends and Michael Caine’s Alfie was seducing the world. London encapsulated the young, the new and the modern. And with bands such as the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and the Who and guitarists such as Clapton, Beck, Page and Green (and US-transplant Hendrix), blues and rock were dominating the radio waves. It was a period of experimentation, questing and huge productivity.

John Mayall somehow managed to release three studio albums in 1967, an almost unprecedented 12 months of creativity. A Hard Road was the only Bluesbreakers album to feature Peter Green on lead guitar, and was swiftly followed by Crusade (with future Rolling Stone Mick Taylor on guitar) and The Blues Alone (on which Mayall played all the the instruments bar occasional percussion from Keef Hartley).

Live in 1967 Volume 3 features Mayall compositions such as “Tears In My Eyes” and “Brand New Start”, which were to appear on Crusade and The Blues Alone respectively. It also contains classic blues covers such as Otis Rush’s “Double Trouble”, J.B. Lenoir’s “Talk To Your Daughter” and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Your Funeral And My Trial”.

Of course, some of the recordings are a little muddy and rough but they are vastly better quality that we have a right to expect. And while the recording of the upbeat shuffle “Stand Back Baby” is really quite low-fidelity, Peter Green’s joyously fluid guitar playing still leaps out of the speakers.

Mayall has always been a band leader keen to let his musicians shine and the gigs captured on this release are no exception. The 21 year old Green is permitted plenty of time and space to let rip. Interestingly, he had not by this point pared his style back to the minimalist style that was so effective in Fleetwood Mac. Instead, “The Stumble” clocks in at nearly five minutes of non-stop ear-melting guitar virtuosity. Indeed this track is worth the price of admission by itself. But nearly every song contains some Green magic, from the aching slow blues of “Double Trouble” to the instrumental shuffle “Greeny” (which also contains some fine organ from Mayall).

Live in 1967 Volume 2 is the second album Mayall has released since he announced his retirement in late 2021, after the superb The Sun Is Shining Down, which was nominated for Best Traditional Blues Album for the 2022 Grammy Awards. It’s a release to be savored, appreciated and enjoyed, much like John Mayall himself. Simply magical.

There are some vintage blues tunes in this set that are covered, with 3 Mayall originals & one by Green. So, it’s a well-rounded set by young players who have yet to make a name for themselves while Mayall already had made some head-way with Clapton in 1965. The performances have enthusiasm.

The vocals seem to suffer most with glaring distress but Mayall’s harmonica, the bass, lead guitar on “Brand New Start,” does get by with an evident tight performance from that ’67 date. The vocals & guitar are better on “Tears In My Eyes,” & the instrumentals “Greeny” & “The Stumble” also allowed the guitar soloing to be captured superbly. The energy output is obvious on several songs. It’s too bad Mayall didn’t have the insight at that time to record many of his early shows professionally.

Mayall (began his career in 1956 — his recording career began with Decca in 1963). He retired the Bluesbreakers name in 2008. Mayall at 89 is one of the oldest blues rock musicians still performing. His latest LP “The Sun is Shining Down” was released in 2022. Impressive run & they think the Rolling Stones have lasted.

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