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Live In '67
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In 1967, before there was a Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood were John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. The four musicians were only together for three months, which makes it even more remarkable that a staunch fan from Holland was able to sneak a one channel reel to reel tape recorder into five London clubs and capture this exciting glimpse into music history. For almost fifty years these tapes have remained unheard until John recently got them and began restoring them with the technical assistance of Eric Corne of Forty Below Records. Corne adds ''While the source recording was very rough and the final result is certainly not hi-fidelity, it does succeed in allowing us to hear how spectacular these performances are.''
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John Mayall has enjoyed a loyal fan base for many years, but the one constant criticism he has had to endure regards his singing. This is subjective of course, but Mayall's vocals are perfect for his style of Blues, largely because he has never tried to sound like anyone else. Many white rockers in the 60's and 70's tried to emulate veteran Blues performers-few succeeded. Mayall has always kept his own sound, and his integrity.
Mayall and company have plenty of surprises on this recording. His singing has always been effective with Peter Green's guitar, but some of the tracks here have an urgency you don't hear on the studio versions. "All Your Love" is famous as the opening number on the Clapton album, but Green does justice to the song with his intense playing. "Brand New Start" threw me on first listen-this is the opening track on Mayall's solo album "The Blues Alone" (also released in 1967-the first Mayall album I ever purchased). This version has little to do with the original, which was a showcase for Mayall's diatonic harp. Here, the spotlight is on Green, and his playiing is one of the highlights of the album.
"Looking Back" is as energetic as the studio version, and it succeeds even without the horn section. Both "High Heel Sneakers" and "The Stumble" feature Mayall's organ playing, not very common in his vast repertoire. Again, Green shines on these tracks, answering the leader's organ fills through-out.
Instrumentals usually separate the great bands from the not-so-great (I'd like to see Mayall release a collection of his instrumentals during his long career, much like Ike Turner and Rod Piazza have). "The Stumble" is as good as the version on "A Hard Road", but the real treat is Freddy King's "San-Ho-Zay". Mayall's guitarists have have always done a fine job covering Freddy (Clapton's "Hideaway" on the "Beano" album; Buddy Whittington's work on the King tribute "In The Palace Of The King"), but Green stretches out on "San-Ho-Zay", rivaling his best fret work over the years. Long time Mayll fans will remember "Stormy Monday" from the "Looking Back" album. Clapton was featured on that edited live track and really, the recording quality of that number was rather suspect. Peter Green elevates the song here with engaging leads, controlled vibrato and that ever present urgency. The rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, one of the best in recorded history keep everything tight. Again, quite a feat for a band together for only three months
"Live In 1967" is a great gift to all Blues fans. Many thanks go out to Tom Huissen, the fan from Holland who taped these shows so long ago, and to Eric Corne of Forty Below records for making it all possible. Hopefully, Mayall will produce more gems from his historic vault.
Many of the performances are the usual English 12-bar stuff almost indistinguishable from the 100s of other players around at the time, but there are some real gems & an obvious... pre-evolution, if you like, of what's to come a few years later with the original Fleetwood Mac. The building blocks of riffs from Rattlesnake Shake & some of the Madge stuff from "Then Play On" are strongly in evidence here as well as the not infrequent flashes of youthful piss & vinegar.
The restoration of the old poor quality tape is more than credible as well. It ain't perfect & that's a good thing. A treasure for anyone wanting to hear what old garage bands really sounded like if they were lucky... or good. It looks like Vol.2 is going on the "to buy" list.
4 Stars easy most of these rugged 60s blues are too cool not to enjoy. And it is loud when - on occasion - it does sound like the bands performing in next room.
Footnote: I completely rewrote this review 1 year later (May 23 2018) to clarify Peter Green wrote Black Magic Woman while Gabor Szabo intro Gypsy Queen was borrowed by Santana for Santana’s own Abraxas album.
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These are historic recordings of the premier British blues band of the day, playing songs from their typical set list. This is Peter Green playing mostly in a very fiery manner, similar to the Decca singles of the time, such as Lookin Back, So Many Roads and Curly. In his early days with Mayall he attempted to emulate the aggression of the Clapton era, and did so extremely well. That aside, there are some sublime touches of his more laid back style, such as on Stormy Monday and Double Trouble. A little like Stevie Ray Vaughan, a generation later, Greeny seems to have been the finished article from day 1 - as is confirmed by his recordings with the Peter B's, where the playing is unmistakeable.
The McVie/Fleetwood rhythm section were always Division 1, and here they provide rock solid, uncomplicated backing. Add to that the harmonica and Hammond organ (you can't beat the sound of a Hammond!) of Mayall, and you have what was probably the best blues band of the time (in my opinion, Butterfield apart, they were, man for man, better than the Butterfield Blues Band, who were acknowledged as the premier US blus band).
There is plenty of music here - 76 minutes - and it was a great joy to hear it again, 48 years after these tracks were recorded. In fact, the sound is probably not dissimilar to what we heard in the clubs in those days, before sound mixing, foldback, and huge PA systems!
Suffice to say that, in my opinion, these are absolutely essential recordings for anyone seriously interested in the Bluesbreakers music. I hope the remainder of the 5 different gigs that comprise this album will also see the light of day.
I was always sad that I could never hear again the excellence of that band playing together, so now I have to express my sincere thanks to Dutch fan Tom Huissen who "sneaked" in the reel-to-reel tape recorder at a London show and saved these moments, and to John Mayall & Eric Corne of Forty Below Records for the excellent work they have done transferring them on to CD. Highly recommended.
I've always thought Green eclipsed his contemporaries, and this disc only adds further gravitas to this.
..which were a mixed bag . Peter Green stands out brillianty and to think that he was having to replace "God" as well!! I bought this on cd and Vol 2 on download needless to say eventually I will get that on cd too