John Mayall

The Masters

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If you are a hardcore John Mayall fan, the vintage photograph of "the Guv'nor" gracing this rather generic budget cover of The Masters looks like it may be a come on -- until you read the subtitle: "Music from the Original Film Soundtrack the Turning Point." At that point, you will more than likely flip it over for a gander at the back of the sleeve, and offer a low whistle of surprise and delight. Eagle Rock Entertainment has issued a pair of double-discs of classic Mayall material, of which this is the first. The set is divided up into two well-edited parts. Disc one includes the new drummerless Bluesbreakers' first performance at Civic Hall in Plymouth, MI in June of 1969. In other words, these are the first versions of some of the music released on the Turning Point LP that was recorded during the same tour a month later. The band featured reed boss Johnny Almond, guitarist Jon Mark, and bassist Steve Thompson; Mayall played his Telecaster, harmonica, and some odd mouth percussion as was his wont in those days. There are three cuts from this performance -- including an eight-plus minute "Room to Move." The sound quality is good, not excellent, but these source tapes are ancient and it was a film crew doing the recording. The performance is more than worth it, however. On down the track list are four cuts caught a few days later at Lucarno University in York. The disc ends with a pair of tunes from York University a week later. The only bizarre thing about this disc is that there are two versions of "I'm Gonna Fight for You JB," back to back, but from different nights. Disc two is a wondrous bit of collected curios. It begins with a killer live performance of "Parchman Farm" recorded in May of 1969 with Mick Taylor -- presumably among his last with the band before joining the Rolling Stones. There are also rehearsals with the new band, and interviews with Mayall, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and John McVie, as well as informal workouts of material that would appear on Room to Move -- including a wild instrumental jam called "Bill Haley Lives." For those of us who loved the British blues from Graham Bond and Alexis Korner to Mayall, this set is indispensable.

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