CLASSIC ALBUM SERIES #4: John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers – Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton

91IWVemyNvL._SL1500_July 22nd 1966 saw the release of what has become the greatest British blues albums of them all, Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton. The album set the benchmark for all blues albums that followed, cemented by Clapton’s explosive guitar tone thanks to the majestic bonding between a Gibson guitar and a Marshall amplifier. Not only is it the greatest British blues album but it’s also one of the great albums of all time, period.

The album opens with the Otis Rush number All Your Love, a cracking way to begin. The song manages to capture everything great about the Bluesbreakers from Mayall’s unique vocals, Clapton’s explosive guitar, McVie’s pounding bass and Flint’s driving rhythm that is the back bone of the entire song. It’s followed by Hideaway which has arguably become the standard version of the song, the original of course being by the late great Freddie King who Clapton was hugely influenced by at the time. Even though it’s a song largely dominated by Clapton’s guitar, the entire band shine brightly and showcase their abilities as Britain’s premier and best British blues band. The first Mayall penned track comes next in Little Girl. Apart from Mayall’s vocals, Clapton again takes centre stage with a blistering guitar solo over the ruthless rhythm section of John McVie and Hugh Flint, both of which really take this song to another level. Another Man is pure Mayall drenched with some of the best harmonica playing you’ll ever hear.

  1. All Your Love
  2. Hideaway
  3. Little Girl
  4. Another Man
  5. Double Crossing Time
  6. What’d I Say
  7. Key To Love
  8. Parchman Farm
  9. Have You Heard
  10. Ramblin’ On My Mind
  11. Steppin’ Out
  12. Ain’t It Right

Things then slow down a tad with Double Crossing Time, a fantastic number written by Mayall and Clapton. It’s a wonderful slow blues which clocks in at just over three minutes in length which is the only downside as you feel it deserves to go on for at least another few minutes. The opening riff of What’d I Say, originally by Ray Charles, is next and this particular version remains one of the most exciting ever recorded. Mayall gives one of his best vocal performances and it’s the first time on the album so far where you’re able to bask in the magnificence of Hugh Flint’s drumming, as he plays a superb solo section halfway through the song. The rest of the band then return with a Day Tripper-esque riff to bring the song to a close. Next up is Key To Love which is another Mayall original. Flint is an abs0lute force of nature with some of the best drumming you’ll ever hear, and Clapton returns for another ear drum attacking guitar solo.

The great Parchman Farm comes next which was originally recorded by Bukka White in 1940 and then covered by a host of musicians including Mose Allison, Johnny Winter, Bobbie Gentry and Hot Tuna to name just a few. Mayall is a man possessed on harmonica here, arguably giving his finest musical performance of the entire album. The slow blues number Have You Heard then takes things in a slower direction, at least at first. When it comes to electric guitar solos this song certainly contains one of the finest ever recorded with Clapton showing exactly why the nickname “God” was so fitting. The things he managed to do with a guitar during this song are second to none in my opinion, firmly placing him as the greatest British blues guitarist of all time.

Ramblin’ On My Mind remains to this day as one of Robert Johnson’s most well known songs, helped by the legendary status of this version featuring Clapton on lead vocals. And it’s the fact that Clapton took lead vocal duties on this song that made it so legendary, after all this is the first time he ever sang lead on a song. Even though he used to sing backing vocals with The Yardbirds it’s a strong vocal performance with guitar accompaniment including a tasty solo, backed up by Mayall on piano. It’s probably the most pure blues song of the whole album and a song that opened up Clapton both vocally and musically, as he would go on to call Robert Johnson one of his main influences and as a eventually record Me & Mr. Johnson, a tribute album to his idol, in 2004. Steppin’ Out is the second guitar lead instrumental after Hideaway and a song Clapton would continue playing with Cream up until their final active year in 1968. It’s a superb number with Clapton yet again showcasing his guitar abilities fantastically. The final song is It Ain’t Right which sees the album end on a wonderful note. Originally recorded by Little Walter, Mayall lays down some fine harmonica while the rest of the band hit hard like a freight train. A perfect way to end the album.

Overall it’s a faultless album, a solid 10/10 if there ever was one. Not only do you get to witness the evolution of Eric Clapton but you get to listen to British blues at it’s very finest. The band as a whole were fantastic. John Mayall, Eric Clapton, John McVie, Hugh Flint. Four of the finest musicians to ever play and the blues is richer today because of them.

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