Saturday, March 03, 2012

From My Collection: Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton

By Richard K. Barry

One of the best reasons to blog, or to write at all, is that it forces you to do a little research and maybe dig a bit deeper than you might otherwise into subject matter that interests you.

I love music and consider myself as much an expert as anyone who doesn't make a living at it. Not to be falsely modest because I play gigs around town in Toronto in a blues band and have a good working knowledge of a number of genre, but there just aren't that many hours in the day to know as much as I might like to know. So I write and pick up what I can along the way.

I don't mind getting things wrong from time to time, so, if I do, please feel free to correct me. Let's face it, most of the information I'm getting is coming from the internet, and we know how sketchy that can be. Books and liner notes provide some other stuff. Anyway, the point is that there is nothing malicious in any errors that might occur. It's just the start of a conversation if you want it to be.

As an exercise, I've decided to look through my own substantial music collection, see what's there, and maybe write a few lines about different recordings and post a relevant video more, again, as a learning exercise than anything else.

This morning I walked over to where I keep my vinyl and pulled out, completely at random, Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton. The album was released in the UK on July 22, 1966. Personnel on the record are John Mayall (vocals/piano/organ/harmonica); Eric Clapton (vocals/guitar); John McVie (bass/guitar); and Hughie Flint (drums).

(By the way, it seems that the Blues Breakers name sometimes appears as two words with a capitalized second word, and sometimes as one word. Imagine that, studio marketing departments being inconsistent).

One of the cooler things from my perspective is that a horn section was added to the recording with Alan Skidmore on tenor sax, John Almond on baritone sax and Dennis Healey on trumpet.

The Bluesbreakers was John Mayall's band, and are typically called John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. They went through a ton of band members over the years (complete list on the wiki) with Clapton being the most famous, as a member of the group in 1965-66. He had previously been with the Yardbirds and would form Cream with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker afterwords.

By the looks of things, this was the only album Clapton did with the Bluesbreakers.

Just because these things are never simple, Mayall used the name the Bluesbreakers from 1963 to 1967, dropped it for 15 years, and then started using it again in 1983 and has used it ever since. There appear to be just under 40 albums under that name but Mayall recorded with other configurations between 1967 to 1983, for what it's worth.

As the names suggest, the Bluesbreakers were a blues band.

The album in question here, Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, is about as straight-ahead blues as you can get with several tunes in the pure Chicago style like Otis Rush's "All Your Love" and Freddie King's "Hide Away." Mayall wrote or arranged five of the songs. Notably, Clapton debuted as a lead vocalist on the album with Robert Johnson's "Ramblin' on My Mind."

Other offerings are: "Little Girl" (Mayall); "Another Man" (arr. Mayall); "Double Crossing Time" (Mayall/Clapton); "What'D I Say" (Charles); "Key To Love" (Mayall); "Parchman Farm" (Allison); "Have You Heard" (Mayall); "Steppin' Out" (L.C. Frazier); and "It Ain't Right" (Jacobs).

As for the legacy of the album, in 2003, it was ranked number 195 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and has also no doubt been one of the most influential blues albums of all time.

Here's a clip of a reunion concert of some sort with Mayall and Clapton doing Hide Away.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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