John Mayall – Road Show Blues: Album Review

One of the best solo efforts from Blues legend John Mayall is re-issued  40 years after it was recorded and revisits some top-quality blues music.

Release date:  11th February 2022

Label: Cleopatra Records

Format:  CD digi pack / vinyl / streaming 

 John Mayall’s greatest legacy other than the opportunity he gave to future rock and blues guitar legends to blossom was that whilst establishing himself as one of the architects of the  British blues boom of the late 60’s he was often the introduction to the blues for many teenage muso. 

This 1980 studio album was another slight reinvention of himself. Never afraid to change his musical direction, innovate and shuffle his famous Bluesbreakers with new musicians he also ventured into producing solo albums of which this – Road Show Blues (1981) – was John Mayall’s third album for the U.K.’s DJM Records, following Bottom Line (1979) and No More Interviews (1980).

Guitarist and singer James Quill Smith, bassist Kevin McCormick, drummer Soko Richardson, and singer Maggie Parker were his backing band on this occasion. This solid outfit accompanied him in the studio and live and indeed two of the tracks  Jimmy Reed’s Baby, What You Want Me to Do and Mayall’s Mexico City, were recorded live.  Although it maintains the flavour and freshness of the blues boom sound it also shows how John Mayall himself had matured as player, singer  and bandleader.

The album opens with Why Worry and immediately the band shows its muscle with strong vocals, the shrilling harmonica sound that was the hallmark of British blues, booming bass, honky tonk piano and driving beat. Mixed in somewhere is a balalaika-sounding mandolin!! Road Show adds Maggie Parker’s rocking vocals into the mix with extended harmonica vocals featuring. A splendid version of blues standard Mama Talk To Your Daughter is twelve-bar blues at its very best.

Big Man steadies the pace with delicious bass runs dominant and a multi-toned guitar solo leaves you wondering why James Quill Smith didn’t join the echelons of his John Mayall predecessors. The live version of Mexico City shows what a powerful unit this incarnation of Mayall’s are with lead guitar and bass given the opportunity to improvise. It is far removed from the early blues sound as you can get as John Mayall ventures almost into a heavy funky rock with a Latin flavour thrown in too that Carlos Santana would be proud of.

The rhythm section drives along John Mayall’s tribute to John Lee Hooker on John Lee Boogie. The jazzy Reaching For The Mountain precedes the final live track, a live rendition of blues standard Baby What You Want Me To Do. It may be true to say his blues career was in decline but after almost 20 years the respect as an influential bluesman hadn’t and this album showed that his strength as a performer had by no means waned.

This awesome set of tracks is now issued with revamped artwork featuring vintage photos in both a CD digipak as well as a limited-edition gatefold jacket with red marble vinyl!

John Mayall deserves to still be revered and honoured as one of our best bluesmen and I hope this album can re-ignite his popularity amongst younger blues fans. Although some 60’s blues material can sound dated this album does not and still over 40 years on has a fresh, exciting sound.

John Mayall online: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Youtube

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