John Mayall / John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers

A Sense of Place

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When Island Records released Chicago Line in 1988, they were picking up an existing recording for U.S. distribution. A Sense Of Place, on the other hand, represents John Mayall's full-fledged return to major-label record-making, with all the good and bad things that implies, from a high-profile producer, R.S. Field, to the introduction of such cover material as Wilbert Harrison's "Let's Work Together" and J.J. Cale's "Sensitive Kind." Mayall's Bluesbreakers seem to have been fragmenting at this point -- guitarist Walter Trout is gone, bassist Bobby Haynes is replaced on most tracks by Freebo, a veteran who worked for years with Bonnie Raitt, and Sonny Landreth is now credited as "guest slide guitarist." That leaves Coco Montoya and Joe Yuele from the unit Mayall has led since the mid-'80s, plus session aces like Tim Drummond. Field uses a spare production style, light on atmosphere and heavy, as is the current fashion, on unusual percussion. This makes for an identifiable sound, to be sure, but you can't help thinking that it isn't what the Bluesbreakers sound like on a good night in a small club. The result, as intended, was Mayall's first chart appearance in 15 years, although as a commercial comeback, the record ultimately failed.

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