John Mayall Album by Album thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Sprocket Henry, Jul 22, 2015.

  1. E.Baba

    E.Baba Forum Resident

    Nice summary thanks. I'll use it as a reference when I get back to it.

    That's 2 definitely and 2 other maybes.
    It was more obvious on some tracks so that might account for it.

    Asking in particular because I've moved and setting up different gear already ran into a base node.

    I didn't notice it when I did a YouTube audition, possibly through phone to headphones.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2021
  2. JulesRules

    JulesRules Operational, partially functional

    I need to listen to this album...
  3. E.Baba

    E.Baba Forum Resident

    My problem is definitely the Thompson bass.
    Taylor's bass is not as heavy and more defined and the Moog is no problem at all.
    I've stuffed the speaker port with socks which has helped.
  4. kollektionist

    kollektionist Forum Resident

    FYI Jon Mark (Turning point, Empty rooms) just died. RIP.
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  5. mwheelerk

    mwheelerk “They call me Mike”

    Gilbert Arizona
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  6. bluesfan

    bluesfan Forum Resident

    It seems noone wants to comment on Empty Rooms anymore. But noone did the transition to USA Union. So I took it upon me to present the next album. I put YouTube links on the song titles for those that don’t know this album.

    USA Union (1970)

    October 1970 (Polydor Records)


    AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann:

    John Mayall's "Turning Point" band -- Jon Mark, Johnny Almond, and Steve Thompson -- broke up in June 1970 after a European tour, with Mark and Almond forming their own band, appropriately named Mark-Almond. Mayall then assembled his first all-American band, consisting of violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris, guitarist Harvey Mandel, and bassist Larry Taylor, and recorded this album in July. It had more drive than the previous outfit, and Mayall turned to environmentalism on the lead-off track, "Nature's Disappearing." (The original album jacket contained recycling information, too.) But much of his low-volume, reflective approach remained on an album that was still more of a jazz-pop outing than the blues sessions of his early career. Although The Turning Point is Mayall's biggest U.S. seller, USA Union had the highest chart peak of his career, hitting #22. But in the U.K., where its title confirmed Mayall's U.S. leanings (he had been living in California for two years), the album showed a big drop-off in his usual sales, spending only one week in the charts at #50.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

    USA Union is a 1970 album by blues musician John Mayall, featuring Harvey Mandel on guitar, Larry Taylor on bass and Don "Sugarcane" Harris on violin. The album was recorded on July 27 & 28th, 1970 at Larrabee Studios in LA and released by Polydor later in the same year [1].

    At the end of the sixties John Mayall was residing in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, California and had developed connections with local musicians, befriending Harvey Mandel and Larry Taylor, who had both just departed Canned Heat. Taylor had appeared on one track of Mayall's previous album, Empty Rooms, the only studio recordings of his "Turning Point" band, and stayed on to replace Stephen Thompson (with whom he duetted on "To a Princess"); Mandel essentially replaced acoustic guitar specialist Jon Mark, and electric violinist Harris replaced saxophonist Johnny Almond. In the USA Union liner notes, Mayall noted that, after the Turning Point band broke up, he'd played a British music festival with an all-star lineup and then needed to form a new band swiftly when Polydor Records pressed him for a new album.

    With his new all-American line up, Mayall pursued the jazzy blues experiment documented on his live album The Turning Point. This unusual format (electric guitars by Mayall and Mandel, Mayall playing piano and harmonica as well, Harris's electric violin, Taylor's acoustic and electric bass, and no drums) the band created a unique sound and recorded this series of songs mostly chronicling Mayall's then-romance with Nancy Throckmorton (a theme he first visited on Empty Rooms), who provided some photography for the album jacket. "Nature's Disappearing", the album's opening song, dealt with environmental issues, the only song on the album that didn't address Mayall's romance. On tour the band was joined by drummer Paul Lagos from Kaleidoscope. Jazz critic Leonard Feather wrote liner notes for the back of the album; inside the gatefold jacket, Mayall gave advice on preserving nature.

    The USA Union lineup would appear as some of the core of Mayall's Back to the Roots set, which featured several notable Mayall alumni including Eric Clapton, John McVie, Mick Taylor, Stephen Thompson and previous drummers Keef Hartley and Aynsley Dunbar. Mayall would keep the drumless format for just one more album, Memories, where Jerry McGee replaced Harvey Mandel as guitarist.


    Don "Sugarcane" Harris – violin
    Harvey Mandel – guitar
    John Mayall – vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards, tambourine
    Larry Taylor – bass guitar


    Side 1

    A1 Nature's Disappearing 5:50
    An early ecological song. Might have been more effective if not sung in the same mellow voice as the following love songs – seems more Hippie than political that way. Beautiful guitar work by Mandel. Harris’s electric violin is a bit distant. Taylor’s bass stands out – the absence of drums contributes to that.

    A2 You Must Be Crazy 3:55
    The band is rocking even without drums. Harris’s solos are somewhat hard for a love song.

    A3 Night Flyer 5:35
    The electric piano and the guitar work up a nice groove in ¾ time. Harris shows his ability on the violin while serving the song.

    A4 Off the Road 2:50
    Taylor gets a chance to shine with “bubbly” bass lines on this jazzy song. The bass is overly busy to compensate for the lack of drums.

    A5 Possessive Emotions 5:20
    Expressive wah-wah sounds evoke the torn feelings of jealousy described in the lyrics.

    Side 2

    B1 Where Did My Legs Go 3:45
    A humorous song on being drunk, featuring Mayall’s Boogie-Woogie piano and guitar with just Taylor on bass.

    B2 Took the Car 4:05
    Mayall sings about car trips to the countryside with his girlfriend. He plays harmonica solos and Harris adds a rhythmic violin solo.

    B3 Crying 6:25
    Harris lets his violin cry to underline the lyrics.

    B4 My Pretty Girl 4:20
    Intimate love song that could have been on The Turning Point, with nice harmonica by Mayall and a bass solo by Taylor (only the two play on this track, Mayall doubling on guitar).

    B5 Deep Blue Sea 5:10
    Upbeat song about a sunny vacation by the sea. The musicians convey a lighthearted feeling.

    USA Union is a better album than Empty Rooms, but not at the same height as The Turning Point. It is innovative in its use of the electric violin as a lead instrument in Blues music. By that it gives the drumless formula a new twist. The songs are quite varied.

    I think the two out of five stars rating by All Music way underrates the album. It means it is just o.k. I don’t understand how it could be rated less than good. The four stars rating of 101 users is about right in my opinion. It means the album is very good, but not a masterpiece.

    I can’t help but notice that Mandel doesn’t shine as a soloist like he did with Canned Heat and on his solo records. Harris was a revelation at the time for all that were not familiar with his previous work, like on Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats the year before.
  7. JulesRules

    JulesRules Operational, partially functional

    Actually, I want to listen to the Album in the coming days. I've just got a new Computer - listening to Music had become a drag on the old machine. But I'm fine with you Posting USA Union too. Anything to get the thread moving Forward.

    PS excuse the capitalization, this gets autocorrected against my will :(
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  8. John Fell

    John Fell Forum Survivor

    I like this lp quite a bit and was pleasantly surprised when I picked it up.
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  9. JulesRules

    JulesRules Operational, partially functional

    So finally Empty Rooms! (USA Union will hopefully follow soon.)

    Don't Waste My Time: Already knew this one as a bonus track from the Turning Point remaster. This version is of similar quality - of course playing harmonica while singing is only possible in the studio.

    Plan Your Revolution: Piano for a change! So, while the no-drums formula is still intact, this immediately gets a more Chicago blues vibe due to the harp/piano combination that brings to my mind Otis Spann or Eddie Boyd. I like this. Lovely sound space - very much in the vein of the old Chess recordings.

    Don't Pick a Flower: Surprisingly sensitive sounding. I can hear some influence of the late-60s Laurel Canyon hippie scene here. Not blues at all. The flute is not jazzy at all, much more flowery (ha!)

    Something New: Piano, acoustic guitar, bass, saxophone. Intriguing. Relaxed jazz-blues jam, not far removed from The Turning Point.

    People Cling Together: Some odd Chuck-Berry-isms in this one! But still without drums. Really interesting.

    Waiting for the Right Time: This reminds me of "I Can't Keep From Crying, Sometimes" (which I know from Ten Years After)... quiet, similar riff running through it. Those backing voices are an eerie touch. Like the classy sax solo.

    Thinking of My Woman: More spooky backing vocals. This sounds like nothing else. Unusual.

    Counting the Days: Back to more tried & trusted - piano and sax (several in fact, via overdubbing). What would it sound like if a piano-bass-sax trio played blues? Then Jon Mark returns with a fingerstyle guitar interlude and Johnny Almond switches to flute. Unexpected but a nice surprise. Basically, this is a little suite in an ABA format.

    When I Go: Falsetto vocal! That's a brave artistic choice. This has some interesting colours that are very much bluesy, but still not too often used in modern blues.

    Many Miles Apart: Back to typical piano/harp blues. Without Mark/Almond, this is a far cry from The Turning Point.

    To a Princess: Piano and two basses... It's OK but I'm starting to get a bit bored with this album.

    Lying in My Bed: Spoken vocal over organ and distant guitar. Unusual. A bit of a throwback to the atmosphere of "Blues from Laurel Canyon" but with this odd stream of consciousness vocal. Not sure I like it.

    It tails off at the end, but all in all I don't think this is a bad album. It doesn't have the consistency of The Turning Point but on the plus side there are some interesting studio experiments that you obviously can't do on a live recording. On the negative side, Mark/Almond are rather underused, apart from "Counting the Days", and that closer was probably not a good idea.
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  10. JulesRules

    JulesRules Operational, partially functional

    So, here's my take on...

    USA Union (1970)

    Nature's Disappearing: This is sadly a song that has never lost its relevance, and thusly John has often revived it in concert. Musically, it's clearly related to the Turning Point sound; there's an electric guitar but no drums - all the rhythm comes from the rhythm guitar and bass. John sings it beautifully, almost resignating; the harmonica underlines that feeling, as does the new addition of distant violin by Don "Sugarcane" Harris.

    You Must Be Crazy: John's odd guitar work is instantly noticeable behind Harvey Mandel's more eloquent lines. Even without drums, this has an infectious chugging rhythm - clearly a testament to the fact that Larry Taylor and Harvey Mandel had played together in Canned Heat. Not sure about the violin (treated with a wah-wah effect nonetheless); it feels a bit out of place to me despite having similar tonality to the harmonica (in fact the harp pretty much replaced the fiddle in early blues). The sax was a better fit IMO.

    Night Flyer: Jazzier and reminiscent of some of The Turning Point. Like the electric piano.

    Off the Road: Basically a long bass solo with some singing and an inconsequential fadeout. Eh.

    Possessive Emotions: Complex, almost Hendrix-like guitar/bass textures on the opening. But overall I find my attention waning. Even the wah-wah violin can't change that. At least the vocal performance is a bit more involved here.

    Where Did My Legs Go: How am I to know? *a-hem* It's like we changed the album. Piano playing in the boogie style of, uh, I dunno, Memphis Slim? Amos Milburn? I'm not the biggest fan of Mayall's boogies but this one works because it breaks up the overall mood of the album, also because the bassline is complemented by Taylor's bass and because Harvey Mandel adds great guitar. It's a bit like Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell, this guitar/piano thing. Even the humorous alcoholic lyrics fit the idiom: "I'm a lunatic wino, I'm a talking machine, I'm wide awake sleepin'". Classic.

    Took the Car: Again lively with Mayall's tremolo guitar and urgent, percussive harmonica. The double-tracking gives a different texture to the vocals.

    Crying: Longest song starts with a more typical sounding violin solo. Again you can hear the tonal similarities between violin and harmonica; I wish John had done a call-and-response with Harris! Ultimately this song goes nowhere, which is a shame.

    My Pretty Girl: Another subdued blues, with a bouncier rhythm but sounding like someone muted the drums. Never really a fan of Mayall's romantic tunes... he tends to sound a bit clumsy when he's singing about someone in particular.

    Deep Blue Sea: Piano and what? Mandolin? I like the texture changes. This song has some percussion (bongos?) and develops nicely. The instruments all seem to fit together well. Perhaps one of the best songs on here. Shame about the fade-out though.

    Seems this is a very pleasant album, mostly in the vein of "The Turning Point" and "Empty Rooms". But Sugarcane's violin... well, it doesn't grate on me or anything, it just seems a bit of a wrong fit. Sort of like Stéphane Grappelli on Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here"... he's playing beautifully, it just wasn't the best choice for the song. And as @bluesfan has noted, the only other soloist besides Mayall himself, Harvey Mandel, doesn't really get featured well enough.
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  11. bluesfan

    bluesfan Forum Resident

    According to the liner notes by Leonard Feather „the conga-like beat on ‚Deep Blue Sea‘” is ”Mayall playing tambourine with a pencil”.
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  12. JulesRules

    JulesRules Operational, partially functional

    Huh. I looked at your post and saw a tambourine, but only identified it at the end of the song. Interesting!
  13. RiRiIII

    RiRiIII Forum Resident

    Athens, Greece
    One if my favorite albums.

    A real achievement without a drummer.
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  14. Trainspotting

    Trainspotting Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    It's okay, as is Empty Rooms. Competent, good musicians, the songs are fair, etc. But I'll take any of his '60s LPs over these.
  15. E.Baba

    E.Baba Forum Resident

    Have revisited Empty Rooms and the brain bruising bass I had in light of finding my midrange driver in one speaker was non functional.

    Problem solved.
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  16. JulesRules

    JulesRules Operational, partially functional

    Back to the Roots (John Mayall album)
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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    Back to the Roots
    Studio album by
    John Mayall
    March 1971
    Recorded 15–25 November 1970
    Studio Larrabee Sound Studios; IBC Studios, London
    Genre Blues
    Label Polydor
    Producer John Mayall
    John Mayall chronology
    USA Union
    (1970) Back to the Roots
    (1971) Memories
    Professional ratings
    Review scores
    Allmusic ***[1]
    Back to the Roots is a 1971 double album by John Mayall released on Polydor.[2] Recording sessions took place both in California and London where Mayall invited some former members of his band, notably guitarists Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor. At the end of the 1980s Mayall remixed some tracks and issued them along with some of the older material as Archives to Eighties. An expanded two-CD version of Back to the Roots now includes both the original and later remixed versions of the tracks.

    Besides Mayall, who sang and played piano and guitar, the musicians who recorded the original tracks were:

    For Archives to Eighties Mayall recorded new bass and drums tracks played by Bobby Haynes and Joe Yuele.

    All tracks written by John Mayall.

    Original LP release[edit]
    Side A
    1. "Prisons on the Road" – 4:18
    2. "My Children" – 5:10
    3. "Accidental Suicide" – 6:17
    4. "Groupie Girl" – 3:53
    5. "Blue Fox" – 3:43
    Side B
    1. "Home Again" – 4:56
    2. "Television Eye" – 7:32
    3. "Marriage Madness" – 3:36
    4. "Looking at Tomorrow" – 6:57
    Side C
    1. "Dream with Me" – 5:21
    2. "Full Speed Ahead" – 5:21
    3. "Mr. Censor Man" – 4:44
    4. "Force of Nature" – 6:34
    5. "Boogie Albert" – 2:15
    Side D
    1. "Goodbye, December" – 5:24
    2. "Unanswered Questions" – 4:42
    3. "Devil's Tricks" – 7:45
    4. "Travelling" – 4:42
    2001 2-CD re-release track listing[edit]
    CD 1
    1. "Prisons on the Road" - 4:18
    2. "My Children" - 5:10
    3. "Accidental Suicide" - 6:17
    4. "Groupie Girl" - 3:54
    5. "Blue Fox" - 3:43
    6. "Home Again" - 4:57
    7. "Television Eye" - 7:32
    8. "Marriage Madness" - 3:37
    9. "Looking at Tomorrow" - 6:57
    10. "Accidental Suicide" - 6:25
    11. "Force of Nature" - 5:34
    12. "Boogie Albert" - 2:16
    13. "Television Eye" - 6:09
    CD 2
    1. "Dream with Me" - 5:22
    2. "Full Speed Ahead" - 5:22
    3. "Mr Censor Man" - 4:45
    4. "Force of Nature" - 6:34
    5. "Boogie Albert" - 2:16
    6. "Goodbye December" - 5:25
    7. "Unanswered Questions" - 4:42
    8. "Devil's Trick" - 7:46
    9. "Travelling" - 4:43
    10. "Prisons on the Road" - 4:20
    11. "Home Again" - 4:59
    12. "Mr Censor Man" - 4:45
    13. "Looking at Tomorrow" - 6:56
    Tracks 10, 11, 12 & 13 on each CD are the Archives to Eighties overdubbed versions
    All track listings taken from the album's liner notes and sleeves

    Chart (1971) Peak

    Australia (Kent Music Report)[3] 44
    United Kingdom (Official Charts Company) 31
    • Damon Lee-Shaw, John Judnich - engineer
    • Barrie Wentzell, Dominique Tarlé, Gered Mankowitz, Nancy Throckmorton - photography
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  17. Trainspotting

    Trainspotting Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    The last really good one in the box set to these ears.
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  18. JulesRules

    JulesRules Operational, partially functional

    Back to the Roots was perhaps Mayall's most ambitious project so far. It's a double album - no mean feat considering his high output of material. But it also contains a summit meeting of sorts, considering that several of Mayall's ex-bandmembers collaborated with their former band leader here, although (as we know by now) Mayall always keeps the reins in his hands, just as the cover intimates: "Very special double album by John Mayall and some memorable men". So while there is some guy named Clapton on some of these tunes, he does not appear as a singer, and all the material is written by Mayall. Still, Mayall never used musicians as mere props or in order to attract casual buyers, and he usually found a reason and context for any musician he used. The title doesn't only mean a reunion with some previous sidemen, but also a return to a more traditional urban blues with drums and electric guitars, and finally, parts of the album were recorded in London (but also in L.A.). So, anyway, is this album any good?

    Prisons on the Road: Lively, piano-driven blues with a bit of a "Big Boss Man" feel. The full band sound is back. Once again, I'm not overly thrilled with Sugarcane's violin solo, but then Eric Clapton comes in and SHREDS the song apart. It's a sound to behold!

    My Children: Very much of a Bluesbreakers sound with Mayall's piercing organ and Keef Hartley on drums - even if Johnny Almond's flute initially brings the Turning Point era to mind. But when he picks up the sax after a cool organ solo by Mayall, we're reminded of the fact that he already played on the classic "Have You Heard".

    Accidental Suicide: One of Mayall's topical songs, and as is often the case, the lyrics can sound a bit clunky... but there's no doubt it was an important topic for him to address. Given that Hendrix' death had only happened a few months before, this must be one of the earliest anti-drug songs inspired by Jimi's premature death. Musically, it is something I had really wished for on USA Union: Mayall on harmonica and Sugarcane on violin actually playing in duet and making the most of the similar timbres of the instruments. Honouring Hendrix are no less than three guitarists (Clapton, Mandel & Mick Taylor) but they all play with remarkable restraint, weaving in and out of the drumless song.

    Groupie Girl: A party atmosphere surrounds this one, which is another topical song - this time examining the groupie culture. The thing has an interesting jazzy touch, that sounds very far removed from blues - in fact, I hear a strong West Coast sound here, and I could draw a direct line to Boz Scaggs and Steely Dan. Given how the violin and saxophone are used, and how the song is mostly one chord but still dynamic thanks to Hartley's drumming, it seems like a logical continuation of the Turning Point/USA Union style. The sequencing of songs with and without drums really works in this album's favour.

    Blue Fox: This is a really great, fun instrumental blues jam with superb harmonica soloing.

    Home Again: Reduced blues with John on piano, harmonica and vocals accompanied by Larry Taylor on bass and Eric Clapton on very clean sounding guitar. Nice, relaxed semi-acoustic blues, EC's playing sounds very mature compared to his 1965 work.

    Television Eye: A mid-tempo shuffle blues with a humorous lyric about (as we tend to call it in German) "square eyes" from watching too much TV. Media criticism is not a typical topic for blues, so kudos again to Mayall for stepping out of the tried and tested. "It's hard to turn you off, even if you never turn me on" is a great line! Only thing that bugs me a bit is Harvey Mandel's somewhat formless electric guitar sound.

    Marriage Madness: Slow minor blues with ethereal organ... almost funereal sounding. In combination with the lyrics, surely no accident. I wonder if he was writing from personal experience here?

    Looking at Tomorrow: This one drags on a bit too long for me despite Clapton on lead guitar.

    Dream with Me: Reminds me of a Manfred Mann instrumental at the beginning! Mayall's vocal is appropriately dreamy, Johnny Almond's flute adds some nice fluff and Keef Hartley drums tastefully. Mayall also plays a bit of guitar and it's noticeable right away. Without the drums, this could easily have fit on The Turning Point. Like that album, it also tests my patience a bit but it's not bad at all. (I really didn't want to mention Jethro Tull but if @John Kelman can then so can I! Which reminds me that anyone should read his review of the new box set: John Mayall: The First Generation 1965-1974 album review @ All About Jazz )

    Full Speed Ahead: Room to Move, Part 2? Hartley's steam-train drum part and the fact that the vocals are overdubbed give it a different flavour. Even the violin fits in really well with the context. Just one chord, but energetic enough to make that irrelevant. Also, there's what sounds like some actual train sound effects at the end!

    Mr. Censor Man: Mayall was on a roll with the topical songs here! This is a powerful rock-blues song with Mayall pounding it out on piano and Mick Taylor laying down some mean electric guitar. Oh, I didn't use that vernacular by accident. He's railing against censorship in the lyrics, but this isn't political. Rather, he's telling us what he thinks of obscenity laws: "If it gives offence, stay away from pornography." Well, a man must have priorities! But rhyming "obscene" with itself is a bit obscene itself, eh? ;)

    Force of Nature: Mayall harmonizing with himself... not something I've heard him do often yet. Combined with the sparse, hypnotic drumming - by none other than Mayall himself - it gives an eerie effect, the likes of which only have some comparisons on the Laurel Canyon LP. Great slide playing by Mick Taylor followed by a hair-raising Slowhand solo. Really, Eric's playing on here is so good that I wonder how Mayall could forget this collaboration in 2003, claiming they had not played together in 38 years?

    Boogie Albert: Obviously an hommage to John's boogie-woogie idol Albert Ammons. While I'm not a big fan of Mayall's boogie playing, this one is surprisingly enjoyable. Maybe because he tended to play on Kurzweil keyboards live, and here he gets a good piano sound...

    Goodbye December: Interesting spacey track, once again without drums... Clapton plays some restrained wah-wah guitar and it works really well. Sadly it's also his last outing on here.

    Unanswered Questions: The fusion of mid- and late-60s Mayall continues, and so does his penchant for non-standard lyrics. The song deals with the stupidity of war and sadly, those lyrics will probably never stop being appropriate. Musically it's reminiscent of the Hard Road era (once again great organ playing) but with the addition of Sugarcane's violin and Mandel's typically "waffling" guitar playing. And for a musical form considered as "predictable" as blues, the chord sequence is varied quite intelligently.

    Devil's Tricks: This one also has unusual touches with that minor second shift that gives the song a fitting "devilish" off-kilter feel. I really like this! The lyric is also quite witty ("Or you’re shooting all the film with the camera / You never realized there was no film in").

    Travelling: Unsurprisingly Mayall on slide guitar. Nice, atmospheric song with good flute and an interesting ending - threatens to be a fade-out but isn't quite.

    Whew! That's a lot of Mayall but perhaps surprisingly, it all works. It might be one of my favourite Mayall albums, and that's coming from me after just one listen (the only song I was somewhat familiar with is "Television Eye"). Given that a lot of the parts were overdubbed and several of the musicians didn't even meet - something still very unusual in 1971 but anticipating the era of file-swapping recordings - it still sounds remarkably consistent yet diverse.

    JM remixed and partially re-recorded some of the songs in 1987 because apparently he was unhappy with the mixing but liked the songs - we'll get to those versions when we reach the 80s (or should we discuss them now?) but I'll already say that I had no problem with the sound quality and from a quick listen, the much more technical sound of the drums actually fits far less to the music than the original recorded drum tracks.
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  19. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Iam very happy for you to discuss Archives to Eighties at this appropriate juncture should you so wish to.
    N.b. I have that 1988 CD though never owned the original Back To The Roots release in any format.
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  20. JulesRules

    JulesRules Operational, partially functional

    So I listened to the 1988 remixes from "Archives to Eighties" (which were appended to the reissues of "Back to the Roots") and my verdict is that my initial impression was confirmed. There are some tracks that sound a bit more straightforward and better from a sound quality perspective, but the new drumming by Joe Yuele seems to make the songs sound more generic. "Force of Nature" especially loses all its eeriness. And in "Mr. Censor Man", Mayall self-censors himself: He only half-pronounces words like "obscene", roundly defeating the whole purpose of the song. Odd.

    1 Accidental Suicide 6:22
    2 Force Of Nature 5:27
    3 Boogie Albert 2:14
    4 Television Eye 6:04
    5 Prisons On The Road 4:17
    6 Home Again 4:57
    7 Mr. Censor Man 4:41
    8 Looking At Tomorrow 6:54
    9 Blue Fox 3:40
    10 Devil's Tricks 7:39
    11 Marriage Madness 3:33
    12 Dream With Me 5:18
    13 My Children 5:08

    Only tracks 1-8 were remixed, the last five tracks are left untouched. Missing from the original double album are: "Groupie Girl", "Full Speed Ahead" (one of the best tracks on the album!), "Goodbye December", "Unanswered Questions" and "Travelling"
  21. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Yes thanks for your thoughts as I bought the CD in Hawaii in 1992 and though I had not heard the LP generic is a good word and why did John feel he needed to overdub drums?
    Is there an unmessed with CD?
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  22. JulesRules

    JulesRules Operational, partially functional

    It took until 2001 when the original album was released on CD.
    As far as I know, all versions add the eight "Archives to Eighties" remixes as bonus tracks, but of course you can just skip those / stop the CD before they come on ;) The new "First Generation" box set has arranged the tracks a bit differently than the old 2CD (first the original album on CD 1 and the first part of CD 2, then the remixes all in one go for the remainder of CD 2), but it's still the same tracks.
  23. JulesRules

    JulesRules Operational, partially functional

    Memories (1971)

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    John Mayall - vocals, harmonica, rhythm guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, piano
    Jerry McGee - lead guitar, dobro, sitar
    Larry Taylor - bass guitar

    After a return to a full band electric sound on "Back to the Roots", "Memories" turned out to be another installment in John Mayall's downsized experiments that started with "The Turning Point". This time, there are neither wind instruments nor violins, but Mayall is accompanied by Larry Taylor on bass and Jerry McGee on different sorts of guitars, who had been in The Ventures and played on sessions by (often countryish) artists such as Kris Kristofferson, Jimmy Buffett, Linda Ronstadt and many others. He had already appeared on two tracks from "Back to the Roots" ("Blue Fox" and "Devil's Tricks"), so Mayall clearly liked his playing.

    Lyrically it's clearly a concept album. The cover is an old photo of the young John, and he basically runs through various stages of his early life on every song here, which are also illustrated by more pics on the backcover.

    Memories: Electric sitar is the dominant instrument here. Other than that, John sings what sounds like autobiographical lyrics introducing the concept, focusing on the earliest memories, including the fact that his parents separated when he was still very young ((and him being attacked by an owl - what?)). An atmospheric blues harp solo livens up the track. Good, if understated, opener.

    Wish I Knew a Woman: Harmonica present again with some delicious blow bends. Jerry McGee plays steel guitar here. Very explicit lyrics about the frustrations of adolescence and being envious of those already more experienced. To be honest, that topic probably won't be obsolete anytime soon and if I didn't know this was from 1971, I might as well assume the lyrics were plucked from any teenagers' online platform... but maybe it's a bit too on the nose.

    The City: Song about struggling to find a direction in life (including John's dabbling with art as a possible future) and not feeling at home in the city. Despite the lack of drums, this has a nice shuffle beat. Harmonica is present all the way throughout, and McGee has some great B.B.-King-esque guitar solos.

    Home in a Tree: The title is self-explanatory - Mayall sings about his famous treehouse. Nice, if not particularly outstanding blues, again with harmonica.

    Separate Ways: The centerpiece of the first side. Mayall plays some very sparse and slow piano, his harmonica is passed through what sounds like a Leslie or a similar effect, creating a very compelling texture. From the way the lyrics are sung, it's clearly an emotional number, I guess about a first big relationship that dissolved.

    The Fighting Line: Minor key continuing the mood worsening of the previous track. This is about being drafted and from the way this song sounds, Mayall was still angry about it years after the fact. McGee adds some suitably aggressive guitar, even if the song itself is sort of low-key.

    Grandad: Now this is a different mood. The dobro and regular guitar sound very country here, and the whole thing sounds like a lazy hot day at the swamp. The song is a nice, heartfelt tribute to John's grandpa, who died at 90 (according to the lyrics)... clearly longevity runs in the family.

    Back from Korea: More upbeat sounding blues, explaining the positive feelings surrounding the return from the Army, but the topic was clearly important enough for Mayall to write another song about his misgivings. For an individualist thinker as him, the drill clearly was very alien - see the lines "Getting so tired of saluting the man / Can't have a mind of your own". And he also points out how some people have to spend three years in Korea whereas others can advance job-wise and not relate to the experiences of those who had to serve.

    Nobody Cares: Being stuck in an unrewarding job, when all you really want to do is play the blues, and nobody to share that passion. Subdued 3/4 piano blues with minimal guitar accompaniment. Also interesting that the solution is what? Going to the city, which he had previously turned his back on because he preferred the peace and quiet of the countryside. I feel that one.

    Play the Harp: And thematically it makes sense that you hear the sounds of a club here, shouting and clapping along (which makes up for the lack of drums). The lyrics relate to the concept inasmuch as Mayall fulfilled his dream of being a professional musician, so it's a conclusion of sorts, but the lyrics explicitly mention Larry and Jerry, so we could also say that it's party time now after all the looking back. There isn't anything in this song that really relates to "memories", though it's still somewhat subdued compared to "Room to Move" or "Full Speed Ahead".

    So, this is another solid album. Musically there is nothing outstanding, but nothing offensive either - just very consistent. If you like the low-key stylings that Mayall was into at this time, "Memories" is another good listen. The lyrical concept is pretty well-executed, only "Wish I Knew a Woman" sticks out negatively for being a bit too literal. It's also worth noting that John plays a lot of harmonica on this album, which is a good call - given that piano or organ don't fit that well to the style he was looking for in this setting (there's piano on "Nobody Cares", but it's used very sparingly), and that guitar playing was never his greatest suit.
    bluesfan, Zeki and All Down The Line like this.
  24. flaxton

    flaxton Forum Resident

    I really like this album.
    JulesRules likes this.
  25. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    I just read the last few pages of this long-running thread. I thought I was fairly up on Mayall but realize that for some reason I skipped right over the two 1971 releases (side note: is this guy prolific or what!?). In my world I went from USA Union to Ten Years Are Gone, skipping both Back To The Roots and Memories.

    Since I gather the thread is on Memories I have just started listening to it (again skipping Back To The Roots). Three songs in and I’m a believer.

    The opening track is unusual for Mayall, I think, more rustic folk (though at the end he gets a bit of harp in). If this is truly autobiographical it’s great storytelling. A cart and horse (and Mayall is what, 87 I think I read upthread so it sounds like it could even be correct if he was born in rural Britain).

    Wish I Knew A Woman: straight blues with some clever lyrics. Love it.

    This is a highly enjoyable album.
    JulesRules and All Down The Line like this.

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