Blues Breakers: John Mayall With Eric Clapton is one of the few vinyl albums that I have replaced with the CD version. Yes it’s that good!
Eric Clapton left The Yardbirds in 1965 because he felt they were becoming a pop group rather than continuing in the rhythm & blues direction he preferred. He would serve two short stints as a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1965 and 1966. It was a match made in heaven, as Clapton would emerge as one of the most respected guitarists in rock ‘n’ roll.
He would only record one album with Mayall and it would be released after he departed. It would, however, become one of the essential albums in rock/blues history, as he would combine his style and technique to produce sounds that were innovative and new. His smooth and energetic solos helped to define the fusion of rock and blues as it propelled the guitar, as an instrument, into the modern age. Much has been written about his genius of using his Les Paul Gibson guitar with a Marshall amplifier, but it created such a different sound that it opened up the world of guitar playing to all sorts of new possibilities.
When listening to this album you need to focus on Clapton’s guitar and not be sidetracked by Mayall’s vocals which are adequate at best. Bassist John McVie and drummer Hughie Flint are a functional rhythm section and provide a solid foundation for Clapton’s searing solos.
The twelve tracks that formed the original release are a combination of Mayall compositions and blues classics. “Have You Heard” contains the perfect guitar solo. The old Mose Allison tune “Parchment Farm” is just under two and a half minutes of blues bliss. Even the Ray Charles classic “What’d I Say” succumbs to Clapton’s virtuosity. “Ramblin’ On My Mind” is notable for his first recorded lead vocal. The songs that comprise this release are about as close as he would come during his career to emulating the old blues masters that he so revered.
Blues Breakers: John Mayall with Eric Clapton is a perfect guitar album that changed the face of modern music. It would make his short span with The Bluesbreakers well worth the time and effort and provide a link to his next project.
Clapton would always seem to stay within a group setting for a short time and then move on to something else. In this case he would move on to one of the great super groups in rock history.