For original issue:
In John Mayall and Eric Clapton we have the two most dedicated blues musicians in this country. Together with John McVie and Hughie Flint, they make up John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. To hear them play can be a thrilling experience. Playing the blues is such a complex business, involving so many personal and external conditions, that it is never certain how well you are going to play until the first number of the evening is over. Watching the Bluesbreakers perform, you are immediately aware of their intense search for new ways in which to interpret their material. In fact, it is surprising to learn how little of their music is arranged and how much is improvised. It is because of this phenomenal ability to improvise that John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers are the premier blues group in England. On this record we have captured some of their best performances on numbers which they feature regularly in their club appearances.
The person responsible for much of the improvisation is Eric Clapton. Two years ago I stuck my neck out to say that Eric would become one of the top blues guitarists in the country. Now I know I was right - he is the best, damn it. A lot of people wondered why Eric left the Yardbirds just as they were hitting big. But Eric had an inevitable course to follow, and at the time it led him to the Bluesbreakers, as no doubt it will lead him elsewhere in the future. Since joining the group, his technique has improved beyond recognition, and on his best nights Eric can make time stand still. Some idea of this can be gained by listening to his solo on "Have You Heard". But even without stopping the clock his playing can be both breathtakingly beautiful and savage, as on "All Your Love" , "Double Crossin' Time", and his two instrumental features, "Hideaway" and "Steppin' Out" .As if this wasn't enough, this record marks the first occasion on which the Clapton voice has been aired on disc. For his debut, Eric chose the Robert Johnson number, "Ramblin' On My Mind", which has a very sympathetic piano backing from John.
Because a lot of the spotlight is thrown on Eric, we tend to overlook the fact that John himself is a most capable musician. Besides doing all of the singing (well almost), his piano, organ and harmonica playing provide much of the driving force of the group. His flair for composition, with some unusual chord progressions, is also shown to good advantage on "Little Girl" and "Key To Love". The two harmonica features on this record, "Another Man" and "Parchman Farm", usually develop into tours-de-force in a club performance, but here John remains short, sharp, but very much to the point.
It is a measure of the group's capabilities that they can inject new life into such cobwebbed numbers as "What'd I Say", make them sound even more vital than the original. And perhaps this is why John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers are such an exciting group to watch and hear, and why they are the only group in Britain today whose music closely parallels that being produced by the blues bands of Chicago.
For 1988 CD reissue:
(P) 1966 (C) 1988 The Decca Record Co. Ltd.
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