Review : John Mayall - Tough
PopmattersIn late 2008, there was a three-month gap where it looked as if John Mayall, “the Godfather of British Blues”, would be calling it a day and hanging up the mantle of bandleader for good. After a gruelling tour in the previous year promoting his 56th studio album, In the Palace of the King, a tribute to blues legend Freddie King, the 76-year-old grandfather of six decided to disband his long-running outfit the Bluesbreakers—no more of the nurturing environment that gave youthful blues talents such as Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, and Peter Green room to breathe—and limit himself to the occassional guest appearance. Since then, however, Mayall has put together a new touring band, been around Europe with them twice, and fulfilled a commission for a new album from his label Eagle Rock. Obviously, the tireless blues workhorse had a change of heart, or as the title of studio album number 57 suggests, the man is Tough.
This is meat-and-potatoes Mayall. Self-produced by the singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, with co-production credits for Michael Aarvold and Mayall’s wife Maggie, who also adds emphatic bluesy backing vocals to a number of songs, Tough is a no-messin’, sinewy blues-rock album made up of 11 comfort-zone cuts and brought in at well under an hour. The disc offers fluid, controlled guitar work that never outstays its welcome from Rocky Athas, 15-year Bluesbreaker veteran Buddy Whittington’s replacement, a tight backbeat provided by returning bassist Gregg Rzab and new drummer Jay Davenport, whilst stalwart Bluesbreakers keyboardist Tom Canning lets his left hand loose once again. ...full text
BlogcriticsIt’s doubtful that Murray Mayall could have imagined in 1933, when his son John was born, that he would one day be appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. As a guitarist he might have imagined his son becoming a musician but it is doubtful he could have conceived his progeny becoming one of the legendary rock/blues artists in music history.
John Mayall is now in his mid-seventies and over half a century into his career. His Bluesbreakers have included such luminaries as Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Peter Green, and a host of others. His current aggregation consists of guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Greg Rzab, drummer Jay Davenport, and keyboardist Tom Canning. Mayall continues to supply the vocals in addition to playing the harmonica, organ, and guitar.
The albums publicity states that this is his 57th studio album and I will assume that it correct. Through that vast catalogue of releases he has always kept the faith as a rock/blues fusion artist. His work in the sixties was unique and cutting edge and opened up new possibilities for future generations of musicians. In many ways he can be considered the Godfather of the British Blues....full text
Musicbox-onlineJohn Mayall was the elder statesman of the British blues scene when Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page were just beginning to get their careers underway. Therefore, when Mayall announced last year that he was feeling too much pressure from his busy schedule — both on the road and in the studio — the news wasn’t entirely unexpected. He subsequently disbanded the Bluesbreakers, leaving many fans with the impression that he was on the verge of retiring. Since then, Mayall has been anything but quiet. He not only joined fellow harmonica player Mark Hummel for a series of concerts, but he also assembled a new collective to record Tough, the 57th album of his career.
Mayall, who will turn 76 next month, has always managed to mask his advancing age by surrounding himself with an assortment of younger musicians. In many ways, the rotating cast of characters that has supported him over the years has succeeded in keeping him on his toes. As a result, Mayall frequently has shown more of a spark than the up-and-coming acts who should be lapping at his heels because they still have youth on their side. Nevertheless, it undeniably is surprising to hear how scrappy Mayall sounds on Tough. More often than not, it is he, rather than his sidemen, who stirs the pot and elevates the intensity of the music. To put it simply, the energy that Mayall brings to the proceedings is seemingly endless.
Throughout Tough, Mayall alternates among a variety of instruments — piano, organ, harmonica, and several guitars. Although he certainly would be excused if he merely dashed off a few notes before quickly passing the reigns to his accompanists, Mayall never fails to maintain complete control by giving everything he has to the endeavor. He’s sharp, too, particularly when he plays organ and harmonica, and essentially, he challenges his collaborators to match his focused execution. The result is a relentless, surging assault that runs the gamut from the dark, foreboding ambience of Nothing to Do with Love to the funky vibrations of Just What You’re Looking For to the stampeding charge of Train to My Heart....full text
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