This album single handedly defined the sound of British blues in the 1960’s and was recorded at at Decca Studios in London in April 1966 in only three days. Eric Clapton’s use of a Gibson Les Paul through a Marshall ‘Bluesbreaker’ amp is now legendary in all musical circles, and it’s one of the best guitar tones that you will ever hear on any musical recording. When in the studio, Clapton insisted that his amp must be turned all the way up and the mic placed across the other side of the room in order to achieve the tone and sound that he wanted. The technicians had never experienced this technique before but the results were mind blowing.
Bandleader John Mayall had already released an album the previous year, however this was to be his commercial breakthrough. The band around him consisted of John McVie on bass (later of Fleetwood Mac), Hughie Flint on drums and Eric Clapton on guitar. Mayall could also play guitar but left all the duties to Clapton, instead playing harmonica, piano and hammond organ.
- All Your Love
- Little Girl
- Another Man
- Double Crossing Time
- What I’d Say
- Key To Love
- Parchman Farm
- Have You Heard
- Ramblin’ On My Mind
- Steppin’ Out
- It Ain’t Right
The instrumental tracks ‘Steppin’ Out’ and ‘Hideaway’ really showcase Eric Clapton’s ability as a guitarist as does his solo on ‘Have You Heard’. The guitar tone on these three tracks along with ‘All Your Love’ are simply divine. The band aimed to recreate their live sound on this record as best they could, after the failed attempt to record a live album a few months previously where the tracks were discarded due to their poor sound quality. ‘Another Man’ is a track which only features Mayall on harmonica and vocals, although the rest of the band add finger clicks in the background to keep the beat. It’s a beautiful track which you wish could go on and on but it lasts less then 2 minutes.
‘Ramblin’ On My Mind’ is a Robert Johnson song which features Eric Clapton on lead vocals for the first time in his life. It’s a very simple rendition of a classic song, but it’s superb and features just Clapton on guitar backed up by Mayall on piano. ‘Little Girl’, ‘Parchman Farm’ and ‘Key To Love’ are fast paced songs that really show the calibre of the musicians, with great bass lines, stunning guitar solos and solid drumming. ‘What I’d Say’ is exactly the same and features a great drum solo from Flint and great hammond organ from Mayall. The final track ‘It Ain’t Right’ is all about Mayall who is on harmonica again and lead vocals, supported by a fantastic rhythm section. Whereas tracks like ‘Hideaway’ and ‘Steppin’ Out’ showcase Clapton on guitar, Mayall takes over the lead duties on this track with his energetic harmonica playing. It’s a great song and really shows what the band can do.
Before the album was recorded and released, the band played sold out gigs almost night after night up and down the country. This is a reason why the band are tight on this album, having done everything together on the road for months on end. Clapton left the Bluesbreakers three days after this album was released to go on and play with Cream which he had formed a month earlier with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. Mayall never really had another guitarist quite like Clapton again and we’re left thinking what might have been if he’d stayed.
Even though Clapton went on to achieve so much more in his career, he might not have without this album. This album defined him as a guitarist and musician, with ‘Clapton is God’ graffiti springing up all over London. It’s a fantastic album and nothing can be taken away from John Mayall. He was and is one of the greatest blues musicians England has ever produced and he started the careers of so many young musicians. He’s a passionate bluesman and it really comes out in this album.