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Cream Of The Crate Album Review #205: John Mayall – A Hard Core Package

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cream of the crate album review #205: john mayall – a hard core package

cream of the crate album review #205: john mayall – a hard core package

 

 

  These reviews are provided to help maintain a connection with various genres of popular music extending from the 1940’s through to present time.

 

 

"Affectionately known as the granddaddy of British blues (others would say elder statesman)" - [thegreatrockbible.com] .. .. .. "Arguably, no bandleader in modern history has attracted more sterling guitarists to his stable than John Mayall." - [ Why Guitar Gods Love John Mayall | Music Aficionado web.musicaficionado.com] .. .. .. "John Mayall, he was the master of it." - [B.B. King] .. .. .. "His best work? Maybe not! Another face of a brilliant player and composer? An absolute yes!" - [This review]

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.

cream of the crate album review #205: john mayall – a hard core package
Album label – [CLICK to enlarge]
But wanting to focus on a vinyl album, I have pulled from my crate the 1977 album – John MayallA 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.

cream of the crate album review #205: john mayall – a hard core package
John Mayall – circa late 1950’s – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

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.

His biography tells the story better than anyone else, so this is from that biography.
 
John Mayall was born on the 29th of November 1933 and grew up in a village not too far from Manchester, England.
 
It was here as a teenager that he first became attracted to the jazz and blues 78s in his father’s record collection.
 
Initially it was all about guitarists such as Big Bill Broonzy, Brownie McGhee, Josh White and Leadbelly. However once he heard the sounds of boogie woogie piano giants Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis, his desire to play in that style was all he could think of.
 
At the age of 14, when he went to Manchester’s Junior School of Art, he had access to a piano for the first time and he began to learn the basics of this exciting music.
 
He also found time to continue learning the guitar and, a couple of years later, the harmonica, inspired by Sonny Terry, Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter.
 
John felt pretty much of an outsider throughout his twenties up until 1962 when the news broke in the British music magazine Melody Maker that Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies had opened a club in Ealing devoted to blues music.
 
After Britain’s ten year traditional jazz boom had about run its course, a new generation was ready for something new.
 
This was all the encouragement thirty-year old John needed and, giving up his graphic design job, he moved from Manchester to London and began putting musicians together under the banner of the Bluesbreakers.
 
So many musicians have been part of the Bluesbreakers that the list is too long to print. he didn’t so much surround himself with the best, as the best, wanted to play beside him.
 
Among the better known members of the Bluesbreakers were:

 

cream of the crate album review #205: john mayall – a hard core package
Bluesbreakers with Mayall & Clapton – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

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 – 

And now to 1977, and what I feel is one of the most powerful musical combinations of my career.
 
A need for a return to the basic’s of rock’n’roll and blues led me back to a smaller band with former “Stone The Crows” bassist Steve Thompson who performed with me on Turning Point, and drummer Soko Richardson, who has been in several of my bands and has worked extensively with Ike & Tina Turner.
 
After a few auditions for that elusive complimentary lead guitarist, I went overboard the first time I heard James Quill Smith (Three Dog Night, Dobie Gray, Dr. John).
 
Within a week we were in the studio working on our upcoming ABC LP A Hard Core Package, then off on a 3 month/12 country tour that received absolutely overwhelming audience response. I feel that the high energy sound of A Hard Core Package will reach a whole new audience and please those who are already into my music as well.
 
I hope this doesn’t sound like the usual publicity rave because I’m very serious. Do take the time to check out the new band and the album for yourself.
 

Side 1

  1.  Rock and Roll Hobo
  2.  Do I Please You
  3.  Disconnected Line 
  4.  An Old Sweet Picture
  5.  The Last Time

Side 2

  1.  Make Up Your Mind
  2.  Arizona Bound
  3.  Now and Then 
  4.  Goodnight Dreams   
  5. Give Me a Chance

 

cream of the crate album review #205: john mayall – a hard core package
Album Rear Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Credits

backing vocals

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 1Rock 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 3Disconnected 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!

Disconnected line

Track 4An 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.

cream of the crate album review #205: john mayall – a hard core package
Mayall & Anne Patterson – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

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.

cream of the crate album review #205: john mayall – a hard core package
Mayall & James Quill Smith – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

This track must have been a real winner when played live, as it certainly is on a recording.

Arizona Bound

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!

cream of the crate album review #205: john mayall – a hard core package
A recent picture of John Mayall – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

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.

cream of the crate album review #205: john mayall – a hard core package


VIDEOS:

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 –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

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 –

cream of the crate: album reviews #151 – 200

 

 

Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 201 onward.

#201.  The Atlantics – The Great Surfing Sounds of The Atlantics

#202.  Otis Redding – Dictionary of Soul

#203.  The Beatles – Live At The Star Club in Hamburg (1962)

#204.  Company Caine – Doctor Chop