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 217 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.
This album is by one of Englands greatest electric blues players, especially of the 1960’s, and, to top it off, on it he is joined by another brilliant English guitarist, whose ability to play the blues was unparalleled.
The artist is John Mayall and the album is the Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton. This version was released on CD in the Deram label, under licence to Decca in 1998 and has the cat # 844 827-2.
It has 24 tracks which I discuss below.
The original vinyl release was also colloquially known as the “Beano” album, because the cover showed the group with Eric Clapton reading a copy of the English comic – Beano.
I have the original vinyl album which was was released in 1966. However, this CD album contains those 12 tracks, however in what is a real bonus, we have them presented in both mono (originally released in 1966) and the later released in stereo (1969).
- All Your Love
- Hideaway (instrumental)
- Little Girl
- Another Man
- Double Crossing Time
- What’d I Say”
- Key to Love
- Parchman Farm
- Have You Heard
- Ramblin’ On My Mind” (Clapton on vocals)
- Steppin’ Out” (instrumental)
- It Ain’t Right
Tracks 13 – 24 are in the same order as tracks 1 – 12, but are in stereo.
The album was released in July of 1966 and was the breakthrough that Mayall was seeking when it made No. 6 on the UK album charts on 30 July.
Now I have already reviewed an album [#205] by John Mayall, so if you want more background info on him, check out my review on his album – A Hard Core Package.
This album is considered as one of his best from this period.
The list of those associated with it is quite stunning.
- John Mayall – lead vocals, piano, Hammond B3 organ, harmonica
- Eric Clapton – lead guitar, lead vocals on “Ramblin’ on My Mind”
- John McVie – bass guitar
- Hughie Flint – drums
- Additional musicians
While one of the benefits of the vinyl LP is that liner notes are larger, with the CD we get more information and, as an example, Mayall has left a a commentary for each track – a nice touch as it helps us understand a little more about why that particular track, and, not another.
Mayall released the live John Mayall Plays John Mayall in 1965 and while in my opinion, it was a good album, it wasn’t a great album.
So not long after this first album was released, Eric Clapton, who had recently left the Yardbirds over a dispute regarding the groups direction – from Clapton’s point of view the group was moving too far away from Blues and too close to commercialism, and so he joined up with Mayall.
This musical partnership suited them both. Mayall had high respect for Clapton’s ability and his love of the blues, and Clapton saw this as an opportunity to move into playing in a more blues oriented group.
Apart from producing between them an excellent LP, and one that also became almost as famous for the cover with Clapton reading the Beano comic, it had one other noteworthy event associated with it.
Now the guitar was stolen in 1966; sometime around June or July 1966, during early Cream rehearsals and before Cream’s first gig (29 July 1966 at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, England).
Over the years, Clapton remarked in interviews that he still misses this particular guitar. To this day and despite many rumours, no one is certain what happened to it let alone where it is.
Jumping straight into the album, let’s start with Track #1 – All Your Love. The track was co-written by Willie Dixon and Otis Rush, and was originally recorded by Otis Rush.
This was a track that demonstrated Clapton’s ability to the “T” – for the original features two brilliant guitar elements: the uppercut single-finger slide up the E string to announce its main lick and the heavily vibrato’d three-finger A minor triad arpeggio at the beginning of the solo.
Clapton reproduces both faithfully, before breaking into a strident solo that shows off the power and sustain of his newfound sound.
All Your Love
I must also include Track 2 – Hideaway, in my analysis of this album.
Freddie King had a profound influence on Eric Clapton as a young man. In fact the story goes, it was the image of Freddie King holding his Les Paul on the album cover of Let’s Hide Away And Dance Away With Freddy King that prompted a young Eric Clapton to go out and buy a Les Paul of his own.
Clapton and Mayall were fans of Freddie King and they paid tribute to King with this cover of the famous instrumental ‘Hideaway‘.
So while Clapton works hard on one to stay true to the original version, he most certainly puts his own twist on the track by adding more distortion to his sound and aggression to his playing.
John Mayall is quoted in the liner notes as saying – “Eric and I were both crazy about Freddie King’s singing and playing, and this instrumental was a guitar lover’s dream. Eric adopted that one and made it famous.”
Certainly this is one of a number of tracks that when played live around London clubs gave rise to audiences at Bluesbreakers gigs being swollen by the arrival of Clapton’s own fan club.
It was around this time that the legendary graffiti declaring ‘Clapton is God’ began to appear around London.
Track 5 is Double Crossing Time and is a Mayall/Clapton composition. Originally titled Double Crossing Mann, it came about because of what Mayall and Clapton saw as a betrayal of them, by bass player Jack Bruce.
History shows that the line up of the Blues Breakers was constantly changing. Just prior to this album – John Mayall’s Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton, being recorded, the band included Jack Bruce on bass.
However his time with the band was limited. Much to the dismay and then disgust of both John Mayall and Eric Clapton – Bruce basically walked out on them to join Manfred Mann. As a response to Bruce’s disloyalty, Mayall and Clapton wrote the song ‘Double Crossing Time‘.
It’s hard not to assume that some of those bad feelings may have still plagued Clapton when Cream was formed with Jack Bruce on bass – as history shows they were almost constantly bickering.
As far as the music side goes, they demonstrate how they could integrate the traditional blues piano sound, with Clapton’s fiery guitar playing. It is another track that highlights the brilliance of Clapton’s playing.
Double Crossing Time
Track 10 – Ramblin’ Man.
This track was Eric’s debut vocal on record. It was also a track that was rarely played live. This was a shame because it is quite stunning musical experience with a classy guitar introduction and another great mid-song solo.
The track is credited to the great Robert Johnson and at times I can imagine Robert Johnson playing via some of Clapton’s fingering
Clapton told American music journalist Peter Guralnick, ‘‘I don’t think I’d ever heard of Robert Johnson when I found the record… I was around 15 or 16 and it was a real shock to find something that powerful.
What struck me about Robert Johnson’s record was that it seemed as if he wasn’t playing for an audience. It didn’t obey the rules of time or harmony or anything. It led me to a belief that here was a guy who really didn’t play for people at all, that his thing was so unbearable for him to have to live with that he was almost, like ashamed of it, you know?
This was an image really that I was very, very keen to hang on to.”
You love blues? You will love this track. It’s not just Clapton’s playing but it does introduce us to his voice which, later on in his career would become a big part of his act.
This is a superb album!
There is not a superfluous track, there is not a dud track and it was and remains one of the Mayall’s all time great albums, and that says something as the man has recorded some fantastic work.
The fact that it also includes Eric Clapton makes it a MUST for any blues fan, for any Mayall fan, for any Clapton fan!
It really features four top musicians who jelled beautifully, held together by a mutual love for the blues, and that love comes through.
There is no excuse for not having it – there are vinyl and CD copies readily available -so what are you waiting for?
Sadly I was unable to locate any live performances by the Blues Breakers from the period when Clapton was with them.
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.