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John Mayall Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton Review

Album. Released 1968.  

BBC Review

...remains just about the defining argument as to why Clapton really was once, God.

Chris Jones 2007

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.

While Clapton’s roots lay in the sweaty R’n’ B of west London’s hip clubs he’d grown sick of what he saw as wrong-headed chasing after fame and fortune (and an unhealthy adherence to Chuck Berry’s template). As only a young man can do, he became a purist of the sternest kind, and in Mayall he found a man who felt the same. With less of a jazz background than the other father-figure to the British blues boom, Alexis Korner, Mayall was an alchemist of the highest order.

These men didn’t just distil the blues. They turned it into something new. Blues rock was to rule the ‘underground’ for years following this single blast of truly electric 12 bar music. One element was to be the most important: Clapton’s pairing of a vintage Gibson Les Paul with an overdriven Marshall amplifier. Within literally weeks guitarists all over the country were doing the same. It was that revolutionary.

The album really pays tribute to Buddy Guy and Freddie King, Clapton’s heroes to this day. It’s the edgier end of Chicago that drives each riff with the rhythm section of John McVie and Hughie Flint locked in tight. Eric’s pyrotechnics on “Steppin’ Out” still dazzle. While Mayall’s vocals are drenched in reverence for the material his essentially thin voice hasn’t worn quite so well. However on “Parchman Farm” his rasp is gutsy as hell.

It was a brief tenure for EC. Just as soon as he’d upset the apple cart, he was off to add a dash of jazz and psychedelia to his palette with the mighty Cream. Mayall continued for years to give a home to future stars (bassist, John McVie of course was to find fame with Clapton’s successor – Peter Green). But to this day, from the first rip into to the final chord of the ‘Beano Album’, as it came to be known, remains just about the defining argument as to why Clapton really was once, God.

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