Album Review: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

Live In 1967: Volume 2 FORTY BELOW RECORDS

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

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Second helping of long-lost bootlegs. Another perfect 10?

YOU KNOW THE backstory. Dutch delinquent Tom Huissen moves to London in 1967 to soak up the capital’s clubland. Buys reel-to-reel recorder and bootlegs the near-mythical Bluesbreakers line-up of John Mayall, Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. Tapes lie dormant for five decades, before Huissen flogs them to Mayall, who delegates sonic buffing to producer Eric Corne and releases them to blanket acclaim (the first volume of Live In 1967, if you remember, was the recipient of a 1010 review back in Issue 21).

We always knew there was more. In that same issue, Mayall spoke of a second volume, while Corne remembered “a lot of back-and-forth” about the track list, and admitted he was gutted to see Tears In My Eyes miss the cut. Now it’s all aboard the time machine once again, with the controls set for Soho Shitbox, Spring 1967 and our afro comb on the dashboard. But can Volume 2 really match the magic of 1?

Well, almost. As per the first instalment, the audio here is scratchier than Desperate Dan’s nut sack: a sonic soup of thuds, mumbled conversation and hacking coughs. Once again, though, it’s atmospheric, placing you squarely in the mêlée. The first point to note is that, although these tracks are culled from the same gigs at the same clubs – The Marquee, Ram Jam, Klooks Kleek et al – only Stormy Monday and So Many Roads appear for a second run-out. Instead, we get a completely fresh setlist, and further evidence of a line-up that bloodies the nose of the Beano era.

Corne is right: Tears In My Eyes is a highlight, Green’s languid guitar spinning a moment of beauty in the fug of a sweaty basement. But there are many others. The way the band takes Talk To Your Daughter from a barrelhouse bounce to a whisper. Mayall’s freight-train harp on Your Funeral & My Trial. The rambunctious Ridin’ On The L&N. McVie’s fruity bass solo on Chicago Line, and Green’s two showboat numbers, Greeny and So Many Roads (the latter spiralling further than Volume 1, to eight roaring minutes).

So why have we docked a point? Firstly, because the novelty value is inevitably somewhat diminished. And secondly, because there’s a couple of slightly dubious songs, not least Bye Bye Bird, whose twee organ vamp sounds like the jingle to accompany someone winning a set of patio furniture on a 70s game show. But don’t let that put you off. Beneath the sonic tarnish, this is another haul of priceless blues treasure.

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.