John Mayall

The First Five Years

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Much of the material on this disc has already been around the block, on bootlegs such as Crocodile Walk. If you're going to compare this against Crocodile Walk (probably the most important prior Mayall bootleg), this 25-song CD definitely has the edge. It has all 11 of the 1965-67 BBC performances on Crocodile Walk, and adds seven additional 1965-68 BBC cuts; five unreleased 1965-67 studio tracks; a 1969 live version of "I'm Gonna Fight for You J.B." from Germany; and a 1969 version of "The Laws Must Change." That's good news, in a sense. The bad news is that overall, this is still marginal stuff -- useful for Mayall completists, but short on magic moments, with fidelity ranging from good to poor (particularly in the 1967-68 BBC takes featuring Mick Taylor). Anyway, a non-Crocodile Walk cut of note is the unreleased 1965 studio version of "On Top of the World," which actually had some hit potential as a pop-blues tune, and has some tentative humming, heavily amplified sustain by Eric Clapton in the solos. Also not on Crocodile Walk are two low-volume 1967 studio outtakes from the Peter Green era, one of which, "Times Gonna Come," is a fair effort with Green providing both vocals and characteristic icy guitar. The two early 1966 studio outtakes are hissy and musically dull. The half-dozen Taylor-era BBC numbers suffer from very distant vocals and overmodulated bass; sounds like these might have been taped from a radio speaker. The two 1969 live cuts feature the band from The Turning Point, and from the sounds of things are TV performances, although the track documentation doesn't spell this out.