Wednesday, October 17, 2007

No. 195: Bluesbreakers

Band: John Mayall With Eric Clapton
Album: Bluesbreakers
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Eric Clapton's coming out party, "Bluesbreakers" is considered by most to be the seminal British blues record. Clapton's soloing is mostly realized here, showing a capability beyond his 21 years. Still, Mayall's excellent band is the centerpiece here. John McVie, Hughie Flint and Mayall himself nearly upstage Clapton's antics.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I think this is rightly ranked. It's not the type of record everyone must own, but it's entirely pleasant and a good second-generation blues record.
Best song: "Little Girl" is pretty amazing and "Parchman Farm" is the best full band song.
Worst song: "Double Crossin Time" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Sure.

The Clapton-worship of the mid-60s mostly spawned from this record. Clapton's ability to build a solo from Mayall's mostly basic blues riffs is mostly unparalleled.

The album is considered Clapton's, but it's Mayall and his band that really steal the show. The amped up Hughie Flint drum solo on the band's cover of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" is remarkable and the easy blues bass of John McVie (who'd later find fame as the "Mac" part of Fleetwood Mac) is especially fine on "Parchman Farm."

Mayall himself is pretty amazing. His vocals are surprisingly good for the subject matter, never becoming a parody of American bluesmen while also carving his own vocal niche. The rapid-fire of "Parchman Farm" also has Mayall hitting the harmonica, as well, in a similarly quick, notable fashion.

"Bluesbreakers" isn't the perfect album; Even at a scant 37 minutes, it sounds repetitive. But, the tightness of Mayall's band and Clapton's skillful guitar work make this an excellent find.

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