Forty Below Records (label)
20 April 2015 (released)
28 April 2015
Before Fleetwood Mac there were the Bluesbreakers. John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers that is! For three months only, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie collaborated with John Mayall on this shortlived project which nonetheless made history. And now we can all share a slice of the cake thanks to the boldness of one hardcore fan back in the day, and the restoration of these recordings fifty years later thanks to Mayall and Forty Below Records.
Back in 1967, the aforementioned four musicians all got together for a string of performances in various London clubs, playing heavily blues-orientated rock in a rich and rough manner. Mayall, the senior member of the band, had already been around for some time whereas Green, Fleetwood and McVie had been relative newcomers on the scene. As for Peter Green, he joined the Bluesbreakers to replace Eric Clapton, and Decca producer Mike Vernon had the following to say:
“As the band walked in the studio I noticed an amplifier which I never saw before, so I said to John Mayall, "Where's Eric Clapton?" Mayall answered, "He's not with us anymore, he left us a few weeks ago." I was in a shock of state but Mayall said, "Don't worry, we got someone better." I said, "Wait a minute, hang on a second, this is ridiculous. You've got someone better?? Than Eric Clapton??" John said, "He might not be better now, but you wait, in a couple of years he's going to be the best”. Then he introduced me to Peter Green."
The ensuing London live performances might never have come to light had it not been for a Dutch fan who managed to sneak a one channel reel to reel tape recorder into not only one but five different clubs to capture the raw energy you will hear on this album. Quite how this fan managed to pull off this audacious act remains a mystery, but we’re lucky that he did as it enables us to dive right into the Zeitgeist of what went down on stage back then.
Mayall received these one-off recordings only recently and together with the technical assistance of Eric Corne of Forty Below Records began to restore them.
The result is thirteen tracks of various length, ranging from as little as under 3 minutes to almost nine minute. While the final result most certainly cannot be compared to nowadays high-tech standards it must be said the recordings are pretty damn good.
Considering that three out of the four band members were all under 21 at the time of the recordings, it is remarkable that their understanding of the blues comes across as quite mature. Given the fact that the guys had no idea that they were secretly recorded we get an altogether much more spontaneous feel - at times it sounds rather like a jam session. Which… hey, is alright be me! Admittedly there is not a great deal of variance in the tracks but that is only to be expected and this in no way distracts from the energy of the whole experience.
Mayall did a pretty good job in compiling the tracks and getting them into the right order, which allows for a nice built-up in the sonic dynamics. After first track ‘All Your Love’ and ‘Brand New Start’ we know we’re up for something real cool, and we’re gonna get a lot more of it! Indeed, as soon as we hear Green come in we know we have a guitarist of some considerable merit. Mayall comes straight in with his organ on ‘Double Trouble’, a laid-back and spaced-out affair. One to chill out on!
‘Streamline’ in comparison is more punchy and groovy… now get up and shake that butt!
We get a real sly blues feel and glistening solos with ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman’. Listening to Green here it’s hard to believe that he cited Hank Marvin as his guitar hero!
There’s a Stones-vibe running through ‘Looking Back’, hell yeah you can just imagine Mick strutting his stuff here.
Some evergreens are also included here, for example ‘Hi Heel Sneakers’ and it’s somewhat of an improvement on the Tommy Tucker original. As for ‘Stormy Monday’ we are treated to a glorious fleshed out version of the T. Bone Walker classic.
‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ and ‘Someday After A While’ are once again smoothly laid back bluesy tracks, whereas ‘The Stumble’ is a real corker that will see you shuffle your feet at great speed. Crank up the rocker in you while dancing (yeah, again!) to ‘San-Ho-Zay’ (which presumably is Chinese for San José, ha) and give in to the fiery solos on offer.
Mayall and Green are given more than ample support by McVie on bass and Fleetwood on drums, and if you miss out on getting this cracker of an album you have only yourself to blame!