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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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Peter Green replaced Eric Clapton in the Bluebreakers and these recordings show him still playing some of the 'Beano album' repertoire, such as "All your love", as well as some of the songs from his own Bluesbreakers' album 'Hard Road' - "The Stumble" and "Someday after awhile". There is a great rocking version of Johnny 'Guitar' Watson's "Looking Back" which was later issued as a single complete with brass section and a jazzy reading of Tommy Tucker's "Hi Heeled Sneakers" which I don't think John recorded anywhere else. The other tracks are mainly guitar-led songs by Otis Rush and Freddie King, with Peter stretching out on "Have You Ever Loved a Woman", "Stormy Monday" and "Someday After Awhile", which all last for over eight minutes, as well as tackling Freddie King's instrumental "San Ho Say".
Peter's playing is wonderful throughout, lyrical and sinuous, with great tone and attack and with the real deep feeling that he was always able to bring to his work. The rest also play their part, John's under-rated Hammond really fills out the sound and his singing is also OK, while the rhythm section powers the whole thing along in fine form - allowing the spotlight to fall on the ones out front. I was lucky enough to see the band at this time and this record really brings it all back - an essential purchase for all bluesers who remember that it wasn't all just psychedelic music in 1967. Also, I believe that Tom Huissen has other recordings from this period and I would love to see those released as well.
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.
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.