Every time we hear a new album from John Mayall, like last year’s Find a Way to Care, we think The Godfather of British Blues just may be sounding better musically than ever. But then we hear something like this, the second in a series of previously unreleased live recordings of his band The Bluesbreakers culled from a handful of London shows from the spring of 1967, and we’re reminded that Mayall has really always been pretty brilliant, especially when backed, as he is here, by the likes of guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood, and bassist John McVie, a line-up that didn’t stick around long enough to ever join Mayall in the studio, choosing instead to go their own way and form a band called Fleetwood Mac.
You may recall us hoping for a second volume of music from these shows during our review of the first set last spring, and we’re pleased to report that only three of the songs on John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers Live in 1967 – Volume Two (Forty Below Records) are repeats of tracks that appeared on volume one, not that we mind at all hearing some different interpretations from these guys on classics like “Stormy Monday”, “So Many Roads”, and “Double Trouble”. But that’s only once you’re able to get past the opening track, the slow blues of a “Tears in My Eyes” that features some stinging playing from Green and that you’re going to want to play over and over again.
As on the first volume, pretty much everything here is spectacular, with the biggest highlights (once you’re able to move on from that opener) including the grooving instrumental “Greeny”, a slow, patient take on B.B. King’s “Sweet Little Angel” that captures the band deep in the zone, and a cover of Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Bye Bye Bird” that also has Mayall blowing away on harmonica.
In between, you’ll also hear a shuffling, slightly accelerated take on Williamson II’s “Your Funeral and My Trial”, the “Spoonful”-like original “Please Don’t Tell”, covers of J.B. Lenoir’s “Talk to Your Daughter” and Eddie Taylor’s “Bad Boy”, and another instrumental original in “Chicago Line” that includes a terrific bass solo from McVie, many of which again feature Mayall on harmonica in addition to vocals and/or keyboards.
Derived from a fan’s bootleg recordings of shows at four different London clubs, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise (especially to those who heard Volume 1) that the sound here can be a bit muffled and uneven at times, even with the great work from producers Mayall and Forty Below’s Eric Corne in cleaning things up. But that really is a small and insignificant price to pay to be able to hear such an important and intriguing piece of blues history. Along with its predecessor, Live in 1967 – Volume 2 is a must-have.