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JOHN MAYALL Live At The BBC Universal 9844665 (2007)

John Mayall

John Mayall Live at the BBC comprises 14 tracks of early career radio sessions with contributions from both Eric Clapton and Peter Green, plus two previously unreleased mid 70's Old Grey Whistle Test outtakes. And while the early seminal material is raw and uncompromising, as the years slip by you can hear a growing musical development that is matched every step along the way by John Mayall in his role as a band leader.

The first four sessions spanning April '65 to late January '76 come from the hugely influential Brian Matthew's Saturday Club. The programme is worthy of a piece on its own predating Radio One and paralleling the pirate radio stations at the time. The live sessions gave the band an opportunity to work on their set and review new material.

The first 1965 session with Eric Clapton is notable for the inclusion of Mayall's first two singles, 'Crawling Up A Hill' and 'Crocodile Walk' - both of which had been recorded a month earlier with Roger Dean on guitar as part of the 'Live at Klook's Kleek' album. The following third single, 'I'm Your Witchdoctor' marked a brief departure by Clapton who's apparent last contribution is some fiery syncopation on 'On Top of the World'.

The upswing in the sessions comes with the arrival of a young Peter Green. It is presumably him who adds some lovely delicate guitar on the stripped down 'No More Tears' and Mayall himself who adds some lovely slide on the live favourite 'Riding on the L&N' as Mick Taylor didn't join the band until some three months later. Curiously enough the fourth Saturday Club session, which dates 23rd of January '67 only features one track, the swing led 'Leaping Christine', from the forthcoming influential 'A Hard Road' album.

Eight years on, Mayall had moved to California and undertaken several line-up changes, returning with a very American sounding band that featured Dee McKinnie who doubles on vocals with Mayall on the impressive 'So Much To Do'. Mayall also features Don 'Sugarcane' Harris, the former Zappa electric violinist who in a previous era was one half of the 50's doowop hit makers Don & Dewey.

Both new band members work superbly well alongside Mayall's harp on the countryish 'Taxman Blues'. The closing two tracks hail from the self explanatory 'New Year, New Band, New Company' album recorded six months before this session in March 75. Compared to the mid sixties sessions the music is a lot more sophisticated but is still driven by the same sort of urgency and enthusiasm that forms an integral part of the enduring band leader's music some thirty years later.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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