George Carlin may claim that white people have no right to sing the blues, but Judge Bill Treadway once had a ding in his BMW that inspired a musical outpouring of angst.
"Let me say that for so many years I have dreamed of something like this event being possible."—John Mayall
In his eleventh HBO special, You Are All Diseased, George Carlin discussed why the blues have been ignored in recent years. This excerpt has rough language, but to cut out the words would be to rob it of its raw power:
"White people shouldn't be playing the blues anyway. What the f**k have they got to be blue about? Banana Republic's run out of khakis again? The espresso machine jammed? Hootie and the Blowfish are breaking up?"
While his rant is undeniably funny, I tend to disagree with the great Mr. Carlin. There have been great white blues players in music. While some will no doubt mention Eric Clapton, there is one absolute giant in the blues field (who happened to mentor the aforementioned guitarist): John Mayall. Long considered the father of British blues by fans and critics alike, he headed the popular British blues outfit the Bluesbreakers. Their 1965 album Reach Out was their breakthrough, but shortly afterward Clapton left the group to cofound Cream. Mayall kept going, leading various lineups, even as he lapsed into obscurity. (My godfather remembers when he was flipping channels in the late '80s and noticed Mayall promoting a tour. He still remembers what he said when he saw the bluesman: "John Mayall? He's dead!" Surprise, surprise!)
To commemorate his seventieth birthday, Mayall reached out to former Bluesbreakers Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor to join him for a concert. Surprisingly, they accepted the invitation. Together they perform 16 classic tunes and blues standards with energy and vigor. The set list is as follows:
• "Southside Story"
• "Somebody's Acting Like a Child"
• "No Big Hurry"
• "Please Mr. Lofton"
• "All Your Love"
• "Hoochie Coochie Man"
• "It Ain't Right"
• "Talk to Your Daughter"
This is one of the best concerts you'll ever see on disc. This DVD will not only have you seeking out Mayall's vast library of albums, but also give you a deeper appreciation for the blues. Let's face it, most of this generation's exposure to the blues is through The Blues Brothers. There's a whole slew of great blues artists out there. Mayall's great contribution was to introduce this style of music to a new demographic. At age 70, Mayall is every bit as good as he was during his peak. While aged musicians can be a sorry sight on stage, what a thrill it was to see this "senior citizen" with such vitality and vigor. Clapton is rather low-key by his standards, but that approach nicely complements Mayall and his backup band.
The concert is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer is excellent for a concert disc. The concert was shot using film, rather than some form of video, and the extra clarity and richness film offers is evident when you watch the disc. The fluid camerawork transfers well to the small screen. The only debit is some light grain amid the darkness, but that is not the result of a poor transfer.
The audio is the most important element of a concert disc, anyway. Three audio tracks are offered here, the best being the DTS Surround track. This track is so fresh and vibrant that the plaster will shake loose from the ceiling. (Make sure you have an umbrella handy.) Truth be told, all three audio tracks are excellent, and you will enjoy the sound no matter what track you choose.
There is only one extra included in this package. What an extra, though! John Mayall sits down for an in-depth interview. He discusses many things, his long career and this concert among them. This is a must for not only Mayall fans but also those new to the blues.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Vision
• John Mayall interview
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