John Mayall-Blues From Laurel Canyon



John Mayall is a British blues guitarist, organist, songwriter and singer. His career has lasted over fifty years, and he was the originator of the band John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Although Mayall may not be a recognisable, household name, he was very influential in the early British blues scene in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Many of the musicians who played with Mayall in the Bluesbreakers would go on to become very famous, such as Eric Clapton of Cream, and Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones among many others.

John Mayall in 1970
John Mayall in 1970

Though not technically considered a pioneer of psychedelic music himself, he was present in the time when the psychedelic movement was prevalent. He lived in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, California, that was a hotbed of the psychedelic movement in the late sixties and early seventies. Famous musicians, most notably Jim Morrison of the Doors, and many others lived in Laurel Canyon in the psychedelic era.

Blues From Laurel Canyon was released in November 1968. The album is about the experiences that Mayell encountered, and people that he met, when he visited Laurel Canyon around a year before making the United Sates his more permanent home. The songs on the record is sort of a diary of his time during the visit. He must have had some good experiences while on the visit, as he ended up living there from 1969 to 1979.

The album was quite influential for a blues record. It opens up with Vacation, which starts off with the sound of an airplane flying, supposedly into Los Angeles on the beginning of Mayall’s vacation. After the plane intro, the song goes into some hard driving drumming along with organ and guitar. It is a blues record, but starts off with a psychedelic feel. Mick Taylor, later from The Rolling Stones, had an impact on the record.

The next song on the album, Walking On Sunset, is a straightforward blues number, with great harmonica, which Mayall features on many of his songs.

Laurel Canyon Home is a slow blues tune with great piano throughout. Lyrically, it is easy to understand what Mayall is conveying, he is impressed and awed by the beauty of the canyon, and is genuinely happy to be there.

2401 is a hard driving blues guitar masterpiece, in my opinion, joined in by some nice harmonica. This song is more blues rock, with a great slide guitar middle performed by by Mick Taylor. The song is about Frank Zappa’s home in Laurel Canyon.

Ready To Ride is another great blues song with more harmonica, and that distinct voice of Mayall, which to be honest, is not one of my favorite vocalists. His great guitarwork and songwriting ability more than make up for his voice. Not to mention the star power that Mayall helped develop in the Bluesbreakers.

Medicine Man is a slow blues tune with basically Mayall’s vocals and harmonica. A good tune, but may bore someone who is not inclined to like blues. It shows the ability to slow the blues down, as opposed to rocking out the blues in other parts of the record. The harmonica work is a plus also.

Somebody’s Acting Like a Child starts with a smooth jazzy drum intro , followed up by nice organ work, and a great Mick Taylor guitar solo. Great tune, that is both bluesy and jazzy.

The Bear is a song about Bob “The Bear” Hite from the group Canned Heat. It is a good tune, with great blues guitar, and piano. It is one of my favorite songs on the album.

Miss James is a song about a woman who Mayall heard about, then finally met, then realised she was a hooker that people were talking about. The song has wonderful organ throughout, and is very entertaining.

For true blues aficionados, First Time Alone is a great song. For others not so inclined to be into the blues, they are likely to skip to the next song. There is some good guitar work in the song, with mostly Mayall vocals. It is enjoyable, but slow, an acquired taste.

Long Gone Midnight is a song filled with organ, a nice guitar solo and a slow drum beat. Not a bad song, but not one of the better one’s on the record.

Fly Tomorrow is the last, and longest song on the record, and is about Mayall’s flight back to Britain after his vacation at Laurel Canyon. It is a great, guitar driven song, and ends the record on a high note. Mayall would be back to Laurel Canyon soon enough.

This is a really good offering from one of the premier British blues artists during the psychedelic era. To me it is basically a concept album about a time and place that is truly indicative of what the psychedelic era was all about, except that it is a blues record. Good stuff!

Rating: A-




















Ten Years After-Their First Album



Ten Years After was a jazz, blues and hard rock band that formed in England, and the height of their popularity was in the late sixties and early seventies. Although considered primarily jazz and blues rock, their music consisted of some psychedelic rock also.

The original members consisted of Alvin Lee, Chick Churchill, Lep Lyons and Ric Lee. The band’s popularity took off after their famous rendition of their song I’m Going Home during the original Woodstock festival in 1969. Alvin Lee performed the song powerfully and with passion, and was one of the more memorable performances of the festival.

Ten Years After in 1970
Ten Years After in 1970

Ten Years After debut record was titled Ten Years After, or more appropriately, Their First Album, and was released on October 27th, 1967. More than half the songs on the record were covers. The album, as a whole, was a mixture of jazz, blues and rock, and it was one of the first records to incorporate jazz,blues, and rock together by an English band.

The first song on the record, I Want To Know, is a cover song that starts out with shredding blues guitar, that transitions into a great vocal. This is arguably the first blues song recorded by a British rock band, and they did an outstanding job.

Although not one of the most well known early rock guitarists, Alvin Lee is one of the best in my opinion, with a wide range of playing styles. He could pull off blues, jazz, rock and hard rock guitar styles, as is apparent on his many records with Ten Years After, and on his own. This first song on the record shows the musical ability of the band, and is a good preview of what is to come.

The next song on the record, I Can’t Keep From Crying, Sometimes is a wonderful slow blues song, that starts out sounding like The Doors. The tune is mellow, relaxing, and a great listen.

The next song, Adventures Of A Young Organ, is a great tune with a jazzy drum sound, and the use of the organ, that reminds me of being at a sporting event in between the action. Great, early jazz from a rock band!

Spoonful is an old Willie Dixon cover. It is the second longest song on the album, and features great blues guitar work by Alvin Lee. The cover is exquisite, and is a great representation of the original. Well worth listening to over and over if you like good blues.

Losing The Dogs is bluesy, but with more of a faster paced rock feel. Great vocals, great guitars work and a nice piece of whistling at the beginning of the tune that gives it a lighthearted feel. An Alvin Lee original.

Feel It For Me is another great Alvin Lee original, heavy with guitars and a great blues guitar middle, and jazzy drums. A worthy tune, featuring jazz, blues and some rock guitar mixed in as well.

Love Until I Die is another original with a nice harmonica break, giving it that old time blues feel. Don’t Want You Woman has awesome blues guitar work throughout, and shows Lee’s range as both a musician and a vocalist.

The last song on the record, Help Me, is a cover of Willie Dixon and great harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson. It is the longest song on the record at over 10 minutes, and ends the record with a classic tune, and shows again the musical ability of the band. If you want great blues guitar, this has it all. A wonderful ending to highly intricate, well performed record. An awesome debut!

Rating: A