John Mayall-Blues From Laurel Canyon

JOHN MAYALL-BLUES FROM LAUREL CANYON
JOHN MAYALL-BLUES FROM LAUREL CANYON(1968)

 

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-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Alarm Clock-Incense & Peppermints

STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK-INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS
STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK-INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS

The psychedelic band, Strawberry Alarm Clock, began in Los Angeles in 1967. They have had many lineup changes over the course of their career. Their music has been described as psychedelic rock, psychedelic pop, and sunshine pop.

Strawberry Alarm Clock’s debut record entitled “Incense and Peppermints,” was released in 1967, and the song Incense and Peppermints reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

The record being reviewed here is the compilation album entitled “Incense & Peppermints,” which may be confusing because it has an ampersand in place of the word “and” on the original debut. This review is of the songs listed on the compilation.

The first song on the compilation is their biggest hit, and most recognisable song Incense and Peppermints. It became a huge number one hit and is remembered as their signature song. It is my favorite Strawberry Alarm Clock song, and to watch the video below, I get that trippy feeling that is what these psychedelic bands were going for back in that era.

The next song on the compilation, Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow is a song that is pretty self explanatory. It is slow, mellow, and just the right song for the lazy summer day in the sun, or the rain, psychedelic sixties style. Or take it indoors, turn down the lights, fire up the lava lamp, and do whatever people did back in the day. I wish I was around then to enjoy the vibe, but as I’ve stated before in other reviews, I just missed all the fun.

Birds In My Tree is the next song which starts out like it is going to be hard, but slows down when the vocals kick in. It is another feel good mellow song of peace and hope, at least that is how I interpret it.

Sit With The Guru is a happy song, and is a tune that perfectly describes what the phrase sunshine pop means. Listen, get happy, and feel good is the message.

Tomorrow is the next song on the compilation, another feel good trippy tune with some great harmonies. A beautiful song.

Barefoot in Baltimore is another song with great harmony parts, and it is a tune that seems to show a scene in the hot summer hanging out in Baltimore. Another feel good song to me, if not a bit about the hardships of growing up in the city.

Good Morning Starshine is another tune that can be considered sunshine pop, and it has been covered by many musicians, but this version is my favorite.

Birdman of Alkatrash is a silly spoof about the birdman of alcatraz, and has Donald Duck make some appearances. It was the b-side of the number one hit Incense and Peppermints. It is a garage rock sounding song that many people seem to dislike. I think it’s fun, and it makes me wonder what the guys were on when they recorded it.

Strawberries Mean Love is my least favorite on the compilation, and I still like it. It is kind of slow and drawn out, which works for this band most of the time.

The last song on the compilation, Starting Out The Day, is an upbeat tune that makes me feel that everything is alright with the world, at least back in the psychedelic sixties.

I was actually confused myself when I purchased the cd, because I thought it was Strawberry Alarm Clock’s debut album. After listening to it multiple times, and doing some research, I realized that this is a compilation, and I like it so much, now that I know better, I need to get all their studio albums. Much more great music to be discovered by Strawberry Alarm Clock.

Rating: A