John Mayall is 80 years old and nearing the 60 year mark in a career that stretches back to 1956. His early bands contained a virtual “who’s who” of musicians including Eric Clapton, Peter Green, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Mick Taylor.
He has been a constant in the studio and on the road. He has released dozens of albums during the course of his career. His early releases found commercial success in the U.S. and the U.K. As time passed, he continued to be a good concert draw but his albums were less successful.
Eagle Rock Entertainment has gathered three of his late-career albums and issued them in a three-for-one package. Stories (2002), Road Dogs (2005), and In the Palace of the King (2007) may not be among the better-known albums in his huge catalog of releases but they contain a lot of his unique brand of electric blues.
Mayall has always been a consummate musician and band leader. Stories is a combination of original compositions and classic blues tunes. The Bluesbreakers line-up of guitarist Buddy Whittington, keyboardist Tom Canning, bassist Hank Van Sickle, and drummer Joe Yuele had been with him for seven years and was a tight unit. The underlying theme of the original material was a series of tributes, or stories if you will, about some blues legends. He channels Little Walter with “Southside Story,” Leadbelly on “Oh Leadbelly,” and some blues legends in “I Thought I Heard the Devil.” Complementing the theme, “Dirty Water” and “Feels Just Like Home” are fine examples of modern-day electric blues.
Road Dogs contains 15 original compositions written by Mayall (13) and his band (2), which is essentially the same as on his previous album. This is probably the weakest of the three releases. Mayall has written a huge number of blues tunes and while the compositions here are adequate, most are not among his better creations. The playing on such tracks as “Forty Days,” “Snake Eye,” “Beyond Control,” and “Burned Bridges” is excellent, but the lyrics throw everything off a little.
As average as Road Dogs may be, In the Palace of the King is excellent throughout. It is a worthy tribute to blues legend Freddie King. The sound travels back several decades to Mayall’s classic period. “Cannonball Shuffle” is a chugging instrumental, while “Palace of the King” is a blues rocker. “You’ve Got Me Licked,” “King of Kings,” and “Big Legged Woman” are all heartfelt tributes.
A lot of work went into the technical side of the release and the sound is excellent. The liner notes could have been a little more complete but that is a minor complaint.
John Mayall’s career has spanned three generations. Stories + Road Dogs + In the Palace of the King is a worthy addition to any blues collection.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00I60VXYI,B00005R8FI,B000002GLV,B0000C7PSC]