Original issue liner notes:
You will see many new faces here now. Alongside John McVie and myself you will see Mick Taylor on guitar, Keef Hartley on drums, Chris Mercer on tenor sax and Rip Kant on baritone sax. These are the new Bluesbreakers and I hope you will appreciate their work as much as I appreciate them all as people. I will not speak here of their individual talent but will let you hear this record and leave their appraisal to you. A word or two about the choice of material. I have chosen to campaign for some of my blues heroes by recording one number each from their own recorded repertoires and, amongst the original compositions, I include a tribute to J.B. Lenoir whose untimely death came as a great shock to me. I was even more saddened by the fact that his death only rated a couple of brief paragraphs in one British musical paper and it seems that his short life was one of great work without reward. It is about time that the blues fraternity made an outcry against a system locked in the belief that blues fans are only a small minority in the world of popular music. Hence the title of this new Bluesbreakers LP - CRUSADE. I have dedicated my life to the blues…I hope you'll join forces with me.
1987 CD Reissue liner Notes:
TWENTY YEARS ON…
Mid-1967 found the personnel of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers as changeable as ever - the endless state of transition being its only permanent feature.
Although still riding high on Britain's LP charts with his previous album, A HARD ROAD (U.K.: Decca LK (Mono)/SKL (Stereo) 4853; U.S.: London LL 3502 (Mono)/PS 502 (Stereo)), of the regular musicians responsible for its conception, both drummer Aynsley Dunbar and guitarist Peter Green had already departed; the former joining the Jeff Beck Group during April and the latter ensconced in the formation of Fleetwood Mac by June.
Since Dunbar's farewell stick man Mickey Waller had barely had time to warm the stool, before former Bo Street Runner Mick Fleetwood found himself on Mayall's payroll performing percussion duties. Things happened quickly - Waller having moved to replace Aynsley in the Beck ensemble.
The line-up of Mayall, staunch bassist John McVie, Green and Fleetwood, although only together for a month, did manage one three track recording session. Two of the titles: DOUBLE TROUBLE/IT HURTS ME TOO formed Decca single F 12621, issued on June 2nd. A third was also taped, although not presented to ‘The Supreme Record Company’, an instrumental ironically christened FLEETWOOD MAC. Both pieces on the 45 eventually graced twelve inch vinyl via LOOKING BACK (LK/SKL 5010, September 1969; PS 562).
After Fleetwood's departure early in June '67, and Green's similar action on the 15th that they might initiate Fleetwood Mac, with Bob Brunning being temporarily named as bass player until McVie was ready to pluck the Mac's four string, The recruitment of guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Spencer from The Levi Set completed the new band's inaugural membership. All of which left Mayall once more seeking fresh musicians for his own aggregation.
The drum vacancy was filled Immediately by Keef Hartley, born Preston, Lancashire, in 1944. He'd trekked to Liverpool in 1962 seeking fame and fortune, thereafter claiming residency behind the kit of Rory Storm & The Hurricanes when Ringo Starr moved to The Beatles. Two years later he was London based playing in The Artwoods, a classy R'n'B band fronted by Ronnie Wood's brother Art, and undertaking sessions. Keef was already known to Mayall through their work on recordings featuring Champion Jack Dupree, and shared John's fascination with the Red Indian culture and lifestyle. Offered the chance to become a Bluesbreaker, he accepted, but it was widely rumoured that he'd been dismissed after a week - and asked to rejoin twenty four hours later. Whatever, Green's exit found Mayall's ensemble unhappily reduced to a trio once more.
There was no time to waste in finding a replacement for Peter, the second guitarist who had built up a strong reputation and following as Eric Clapton had previously. Ever shrewd and retaining that remarkable knack of finding unknown talent, Mayall decided to contact a teenager who'd once helped him out at a gig in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. For whatever reason, Clapton had not arrived that night and seeing his chance, the young man promptly informed our leader that he knew all the band's repertoire from their records and watching them live. With little choice Mayall had agreed, and was suitably impressed by the skill and maturity of the quiet natured aspirant. At the evening's end the guitarist disappeared leaving no contact number or address. John now searched in vain to re-locate him, finally resorting to an advertisement in the 'Melody Maker' music paper. It was seen; re-enter Mick Taylor. At the time he was a member of Hatfield based group The Gods, a struggling outfit making little progress, and required no persuading to improve his standing.
A further plectrum wielder, Terry Edmonds, also found himself on board for a month or so before quitting to affiliate with an aggregation named Ferris Wheel. He made no recording contributions.
For the album A HARD ROAD John had used horn players Alan Skidmore, Ray Warleigh and John Almond on certain tracks, and then gone into print-on the LP's sleeve to assure fans that this was purely a studio entity and not intended as a permanent fixture or sign of things to come. Obviously, he'd changed his mind, for the Bluesbreakers expanded to a six man formation with the addition of tenor sax man Chris Mercer and his baritone playing colleague Rip Kant.
Thus it was that Mayall, McVie, Hartley, Taylor and the brace of reed men entered Decca's west Hampstead studios on July 11th and 12th to commit John's latest project to posterity: CRUSADE. Mike Vernon produced while Gus Dudgeon fulfilled engineering duties.
Our main man has always professed this to be one of his favourite achievements, its intention, as stated in his own original note reproduced here, being to promote the music and styles of a handful of Mayall's own elite performing preferences. Amongst that select bunch was Albert King. The six foot four inch Indianola Mississippi born giant, whose trademark became his left-handed custom-built Flying V guitar, first learned on a $1.25 model purchased around the end of the Thirties. After several years of earning his keep through a variety of jobs outside the industry, a move to Arkansas at the close of the following decade found him a member of the In The Groove Boys. Next he switched to drums after a northward manoeuvre of domicile, this time accompanying the highly rated singer/musician/composer Jimmy Reed simultaneously performing in his more familiar guitar and vocals mode for discs of his own on the Parrot label around 1953. Thereafter a relatively quiet time followed until he signed with Stax in 1966, watching his star rise at last - much of the recognition coming through Mayall's concerted promotion of his repertoire; OH, PRETTY WOMAN receives an airing here.
Lettsworth, Louisiana was the birthplace of George 'Buddy' Guy, John's next selection for a hearing via MY TIME AFTER AWHILE. Having learned the blues from listening to radio broadcasts, he taught himself to play guitar on a home-made instrument, eventually picking up work touring in backing bands for the likes of Slim Harpo, prior to moving to Chicago in 1957. Having clinched a contract with the ill-fated Artistic label, he met Willie Dixon who assisted his pacting to Chess after the former closed its doors in '59. From then onwards Buddy made a steady living, notching a few R'n'B chart hits, touring and cutting sessions for others. Subsequent recordings were made for several labels, including Vanguard and Atco, after expiry of the Chess deal in 1968; his high pitched, emotive voice continuing to thrill the faithful.
(Little) Eddie Kirkland was a great believer in love between man and woman, practising what he preached by fathering a dozen children. New Orleans born on August 16th 1928, he moved to the motor city at fifteen where singing in church gospel groups was the order of the day. He’d been playing guitar and harmonica since age eight, and following a spell as a professional boxer, decided he preferred music. After performing in and managing John Lee Hooker's band, he settled down in Detroit with a couple of club residencies guaranteeing his living - that way he could stay with his family. Both the King and Fortune labels recorded him for their archives. Here John interprets Eddie's own copyright, MAN OF STONE.
Co-author of DRIVING SIDEWAYS, the modern blues guitar style of Freddie King, son of Texas, influenced many Sixties rock guitarists; amongst them former Mayall sideman Eric Clapton, with whom he recorded in 1974. Having shifted base to Chicago when sixteen, King frequented blues clubs played by Muddy Waters, eventually sitting in with the band. Gaining experience through picking for the likes of Memphis Slim and LaVern Baker, he began recording in 1956; a most productive period commencing four years later when fronting his own group and inking a contract with Federal. Following a mid-Sixties lull he came to England to capitalize on the blues boom, resultantly recording once more through Cotillion and several other labels until his death on December 28th 1976.
Mayall's token of gratitude to the deceased J.B. Lenoir - he had no forenames to substantiate those initials - follows. The son of a Mississippi farmer, this colourful character with a penchant for zebra-striped yellow velvet jackets recorded extensively under several company logos, amongst them Chess and JOB. His spellbinding voice and animated boogie guitar strutting influenced both blues and early rock 'n' roll purveyors.
In the key of A, Philadelphia conceived Otis Rush is represented thanks to Willie Dixon's entreaty I CAN'T QUIT YOU BABY - one of sixteen tracks Rush laid down for Chicago's Cobra label in 1956, and a Top Ten R 'n' B hit for him. A left-handed guitarist, Otis ventured further on tapes for Chess, Duke and Vanguard amongst his favours, being highly regarded by the purist blues enthusiasts.
Joseph Valery, otherwise known as Little Joe Blue, was heavily influenced by acclaimed six-string exponent B.B. King, almost ten years his senior. Born in Mississippi, he'd trekked to Detroit by his seventeenth birthday and began singing, but didn't attract too much attention until being added to the Kent roster thirteen years later. John's snippet from his legacy? ME AND MY WOMAN.
The driving harmonica-led CHECKIN' UP ON MY BABY closes the set, with Mayall in fine form over tight backing from the remainder of the crew. A Sonny Boy Williamson original, two harp players worked under this nomenclature: No. 1 was Jackson, Tennessee native John Lee Williamson, while the second's given name was James Rice Miller, fifteen years older and hailing from Glendora, Mississippi. Miller adopted the identity of his rival to gain popularity, and indeed before NO. 1's death in 1948 frequently claimed to be 'the' Sonny Boy. No. 2 began recording in 1951, becoming somewhat of a celebrity and composing several songs which in the Sixties attracted British covers. His first U.K. tour in 1963 was followed by others in rapid succession, along with recording dates, before his demise in Arkansas on May 25th 1965.
This excellent LP was thus ready to be presented to an eager public that autumn. Mayall and the band then undertook their first U.S. pilgrimage, receiving an encouraging reaction. Home release date for CRUSADE was set at 1st September (LK/SKL 4890) and twenty two days later it entered Britannia's album charts, initiating the first of its fourteen weeks on the listings. It climbed to a creditable No. 8. Issued later Stateside as LL 3529/PS 529, this marked Mayall's first modest appearance in Uncle Sam's best-sellers as it peaked at 136, but became a steady mover nonetheless.
Still, little remained static for John; just as CRUSADE reached Blighty's market place, McVie quit for the second time, finally prepared to shed the security of Mayall's regular wage for the ever beckoning Fleetwood Mac, being now convinced that the band really was going places - history has since proved him right. Thus for John Mayall it was a return to the task of recruitment, bass division, and just another step towards a further metamorphosis in his blues career; but that's another episode...
(P) 1967 (C) 1987 The Decca Record Co. Ltd., London, England
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