John Mayall (VG, July ’98) has been doing it for so long it seems he has always been there. And he has.
In a career that has lasted nearly 40 years and produced almost 50 albums (not including compilations, of which his name graces another 40!), Mayall has very much earned the title of “Elder Statesman of the British Blues.” One of the first recollections of my teen music years was being highly enamored of his Back to the Roots double album a long, long time ago.
Well, here he is with a CD full of great tunes with guest performances from folks who have played in his various bands, and folks who are just friends.
One of Mayall’s alum, Mick Taylor, shines on “She Don’t Play By the Rules,” a nice blues-rocker that chugs along under some wonderful playing. And here’s one for ya'; when’s the last time you heard Billy Gibbons play without the other two fellas in Z.Z. Top? Can’t recall, eh? Check out his big, fat, blistering solo work on the shuffle “Put It Right Back.” Great stuff.
Other highlights include phenom Shannon Curfman on vocals and guitar on “Testify” and indeed she does on this bluesy funk/rock tune. Other folks who shine include Jeff Healey on “A World of Hurt,” Gary Moore on the slow blues of “If I Don’t Get Home,” and a somewhat reformed early Fleetwood Mac on “Yo Yo Man,” where Peter Green joins McVie and Fleetwood, along with Steve Miller on guitar. Billy Preston adds keyboards and vocals to a couple of cuts, and as always, sounds very fine. Jonny Lang sparks the blues-rock of “That’s Why I Love You So,” and plays some nice guitar, but I would’ve loved to hear him tackle it vocally, too.
Through it all, Mayall is in fine voice. You’d think he’d start to sound old and bored at some point, but it doesn’t happen. He just keeps going. By the way, his band adds some fine work thoughout, too. In fact, one of best guitar solos on the album is Buddy Whittington’s on “So Many Roads.”
This review originally appeared in VG‘s June ’01 issue.