These reviews are provided to help maintain a connection with various genres of popular music extending from the 1940’s through to present time.
This is album review number 205 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl LP’s and Cd’s, in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album from my collection that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
Links to the previous 200+ reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.
Is there a poor John Mayall album?
There are so many, in fact some 74 albums have been released between 1965 – 2017. My favourite is the “Beano” album – ” Bluesbreakers John Mayall with Eric Clapton”, which sadly I only have on CD.
But wanting to focus on a vinyl album, I have pulled from my crate the 1977 album – John Mayall – A Hard Core Package.
Recorded at the ABC Studios in Los Angeles in March of 1977, it was released on the ABC label with the code: AB1039.
The album has 10 tracks – five per side.
It has a very interesting and novel cover that represents the album being posted and having been been stamped with approval by US Customs.
There are many variations of the cover which I suggest represents the country where it was released.
Commencing his career in a quiet fashion in the 1950’s, over the subsequent decades he has played and recorded he’s been called the grand old man of British blues, which is interesting as this descriptive phrase was first applied to singer/guitarist/keyboard player John Mayall when he was fairly young.
This highly respected English musician has indeed championed the songs of American blues and blues performers for many years, and it still remains the case today.
Certainly he was universally admired for his work particularly in the 1960’s and 1970’s not only adding his own style of music to the mix, but influencing many other guitarists.
Now 87 years of age he still plays, still tours and still records.
- Eric Clapton (April–August 1965, November 1965–July 1966) and Jack Bruce, both later reuniting in Cream,
- Peter Green (July 1966-July 1967) departed with Mick Fleetwood (April–July 1967) and then also enticed original bassist John McVie a few weeks later to form Fleetwood Mac,
- Mick Taylor (August 1967–July 1969) who later joined The Rolling Stones, and reunion tours in 1982–83 and 2004,
- Harvey Mandel, Walter Trout, Larry Taylor (Mandel, Trout and Taylor left Canned Heat to join Mayall),
- Don “Sugarcane” Harris, Randy Resnick, Aynsley Dunbar, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Andy Fraser(Free), Chris Mercer, Henry Lowther, Johnny Almond and Jon Mark (later of Mark-Almond).
So we arrive at his 16th album – A Hardcore Package.
The album was recorded during the 15 year period Mayall had relocated to the USA where he spent most of the period 1970 to 1985.
In 1977 Mayall wrote –
- Rock and Roll Hobo
- Do I Please You
- Disconnected Line
- An Old Sweet Picture
- The Last Time
- Make Up Your Mind
- Arizona Bound
- Now and Then
- Goodnight Dreams
- Give Me a Chance
- John Mayall
guitar, harmonica, piano, Clavinet, vocals, producer, writer, arranger, design, photography, artwork
- James Quill Smith
lead guitar, vocals
- Steve Thompson
- Soko Richardson
- Jody Linscott
- Ann Patterson
It is neither one of his better known nor most loved albums yet it is an important part of his musical odyssey. Hopefully sharing some of the tracks will reinforce what I am saying.
Side 1: Track 1 – Rock and Roll Hobo.
The first thing that grabs the listener is the brass supporting one of the best blues guitarists. Mayall, has most likely penned this track about his own experiences on arriving in Los Angeles.
This is quite a kick-arse rock track, yet the guitar solo reminds us of his blues roots despite the rock 4:4 timing. Don’t overlook the subtle but great harp playing the breaks through.
If track 1 of an album is the “calling card” – then this calling-card says, “good-times ahead”!
Rock and Roll Hobo
Track 3 – Disconnected line.
The track opens the sound of the pre-recorded message telling us the line dialled is disconnected. Then in comes Mayall on clavinet and in all honesty, the first thing that came to mind as the theme resolved was – Stevie Wonder.
Given I only have what might be “pure” blues albums by Mayall, this album was a revelation when I first played it.
Again he shows his breadth of composition and provides us with one fun-ky track!
Track 4 – An Old Sweet Picture
By now I was craving some blues and I wasn’t let down with this track. This is a track that makes the hair on the nape of your neck stand up. Mayall’s vocals are good, but his guitar playing is superb.
A special mention to Ann Patterson whose flute playing is excellent.
It does remind us, that no matter how innovative he can be, when it comes to blues – he excels.
An Old Sweet Picture
Side 2: Track 2 is Arizona Bound
The opening suggest we are in for an old fashioned “big-band” style track! No we aren’t. The guitar kicks in and we are off and running with a track that is impossible to listen to without your feet tapping along.
It suggests it’s another track written from his experiences travelling across the US and he is beautifully supported in this track by the punchy brass and second guitar work James Quill Smith.
This track must have been a real winner when played live, as it certainly is on a recording.
The four tracks I have shared with you are very representative of what is contained on this album.
His best work? Maybe not! Another face of a brilliant player and composer? An absolute yes!
A Hard Core Package isn’t often discussed when John Mayall is discussed, and with over 200 albums to his name – that’s a lot of music to choose from and sometimes, an album can slip by relatively unnoticed when there are so many riches to chose from.
This is such an album!
There are plenty of secondhand copies available from Discogs just watch out for postage costs.
Sadly I couldn’t find any videos of the material from this album in live shows from this period, so I have tracked down a few live clips from his shows in the 1970’s in the USA.
I have also added a rare recorded performance from 1968, and a recent performance.
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –
To view/listen album reviews 151 – 200 just click the image below –
Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 201 onward.