John Mayall | Road Show Blues – Reissue Review

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The harmonica-lead swampy looseness of “Why Worry” opens John Mayall’s Road Show Blue, reissued with revamped artwork and vintage photos. Leading the 60s British blues-rock explosion, John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers was the proving ground for such stalwarts as Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Peter Green and John McVie, to name just a few. Meanwhile, the “Godfather of English blues” took a detour and released a solo album called Road Show Blues. The record, originally released in 1980, is a nine-song read of fun blues tunes that’s actually been released over the decades under several different titles.

The players behind Mayall — guitarist/singer James Quill Smith, bassist Kevin McCormick, drummer Soko Richardson, and singer Maggie Parker — create a rich brew. Smith wails across the slippery “Mama Talk To Your Daughter,” one of the highlights, along with the slower, real barn-burner, cock-of-the-walk declaration of “A Big Man.” Mayall’s lead in the latter is clean and distinct, and though he’s in fine form throughout, it might just be his best on this record.

The staccato read of the big bass chugger “Joe Lee Boogie,” name-dropping the great bluesman, John Lee Hooker, is the most accessible mover here, probably the best tune on the album. However, the live versions of the piano-jumping “Mexico City” and “Baby What You Want Me To Do” really give the listener the best idea of what Mayall and his band were all about at the time. It’s a real treat to hear John Mayall play, from anytime in his career and Road Show Blues shows him off perfectly. As he winds up his final concert tour, the grooves in this record are all that much sweeter.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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