By the time the Yardbirds released their pop hit "For Your Love", not many were in a position to bring them down in anyway."God", however, had other plans. It is a widely known story among blues enthusiasts and aging hippies; Clapton joins the Yardbirds, becomes the guitar deity of the sixties, only to take an exit due to the poppier winds that were carrying the Yardbirds to a more commercial destination. The Yardbirds recovered by way of Jeff Beck, whilst Clapton moved on to lend his magic hands to blues purist John Mayall, a man more famous for his abundance of guitar heroes (think Ozzy) than for his own merits. However, to state that Mr. Mayall isn't talented in his own right would be pure fiction, as made clear by the album 'Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton'.
The year is now 1966, and while The Beatles are manipulating tapes and dropping acid, John Mayall and company are finishing up the album that would forever cement them into the fabric of everything sixties, as well as in the minds of every kid with a Muddy Waters record and an electric guitar. With such virtuoso covers as "What'd I Say" and "Ramblin' On My Mind", the Bluesbreakers not only asserted themselves as the cream of the blues crop in England, but also made the still pop-infested Yanks across the pond take notice of the style of music they had so unwittingly spawned. The stunning, three minute long instrumental "Hideaway" only displays Claptons' undeniable genius as a lead guitarist, but also shows off the rather unknown and ever rotating rythym section as a force to be reckoned with in it's own right.
But what of the man himself? It is arguable Mayalls' voice has never been better than on this classic record, and showcases some talent in the rythym guitar and harmonica department, as well. By the time "Parchman Farm" has finished it's 2:24 second run, it's somewhat more apparent why Clapton got second billing. Hughie Flint (Drums) is likewise in top form, not merely banging around in a frenzy of self-indulgence, but subtley and tastefully providing the tunes with the beat they deserve (The exception being the drum solo in "What'd I Say"), with John McVie (Bass) thumping along, creating his own spotlight at times, and slipping into obscurity at others.
And yet, that's partially what makes this record as unique as it is. No one is trying to promote themselves over the group, as would become the fashion in the latter half of the decade and on throughout the Seventies, but complementing each other, and displaying the passion required to perform a piece of blues music and not sound like a wanker, which in Claptons' case says a bit more than for anyone else, considering Cream was less than a year away from becoming a reality.
Like many classic albums of the sixties, this one does not skip through it's length unscathed, providing a weak song or two such as "Lonely Years", which is essentially a rythym guitar, a screeching harmonica, and Johns' distinctive voice, all intertwined in rather poor sound quality; as well as the waltzy, nearly six minute long saxophone driven number entitled "Have You Heard". While the former is relatively quick, sitting through "Have You Heard" can be a daunting task in it's own right; on par with climbing Everest after a pint or two of Jagermeister.
The music itself varies quite substantially throughout the album, with mournful songs driven more by harmonica ("Another Man"), to the guitar fury that Clapton is so well known for on songs like "Little Girl" and "Steppin' Out". The album flows remarkably well, seguing from one tune to the next in a Michelle Kwan-type fashion. Naturally, while everybody delivers a solid performance, it's Clapton who shines on this record, and it;s Clapton who would reap the most from it. It was after this album that the infamous "Clapton Is God" graffiti started mysteriously popping up all over London. It is also worth mentioning the striking similarities between the guitar riff following the drum solo in "What'd I Say" and the main riff in The Beatles "Day Tripper".
Even with a few lesser tracks, the album and the sound of it are blues at it's finest, with lovely guitar grooves and fantastic piano playing, too.
The bulk of the album maintains the quality one would expect from a record credited with launching the career of one of the most renown bluesman to ever live , and while it's reputation may precede it in some ways, it's legacy gargantuan, it's impact undeniable, this is undoubtedly one of the shining acheivements of the counter-culture, and a reference point for every guiatarist to ever bang out a I-V-IV chord progression.
Fantastic, tasteful playing by everyone.
Superb covers of classic songs.
Helped launch the blues revival.
Alot of covers take away from artists' own originality.
Some songs falter compared to the others.