John Mayall

Padlock on the Blues

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John Mayall's career may be distinguished but it's also been checkered, as he's swung from a celebrated talent scout to a journeyman bandleader. At times, he's in fashion, at others he's not. The late '90s was one of the times when he wasn't in fashion. Because of this, he was one of the first artists who Cleopatra signed when they began to move into high-profile new releases. Padlock on Blues, his first effort for the label and his first album in four years, finds Mayall pulling out all the stops, contributing 11 new tunes and lining up an impressive array of guest stars, including John Lee Hooker, Coco Montoya, and Ernie Watts. All the extra effort has resulted in a solid record -- but one that's not all that notably different from his Silvertone releases of the early '90s. The main difference is that the production isn't as impeccably clean as it was on the Silvertone albums. That doesn't mean it's grittier since, after all, he's still attempting the same sort of modern electric blues. Still, his performances have enough weight to be enjoyable, even if the songwriting is a little spotty. And, in that sense, it isn't all that different from any latter-day Mayall record -- it's the kind of album that will generally please the faithful, no matter what the faults are. However, it may also frustrate them, since it is no better nor no worse -- simply no different -- than any record he's released since the beginning of the '80s.

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