Blues Breakers – John Mayall with Eric Clapton (1966)
“I’m the taxman.”
– The Beatles, Taxman
A fine George Harrison tune that almost described John McVie’s career.
Athough I’m sure he would have made a fine tax inspector, I’m glad McVie decided to play the bass guitar here instead. Oh, and with another group, Fleetwood something or other, for the next several decades.
Blues Breakers is of those albums where the marquee/caps lock names may shift the units but it’s the supporting cast/fine print that makes it work.
Note that on the CD cover, vocalist John Mayall is in Capitalized Red letters. Much like a big star in a supporting actor film role, Eric Clapton is billed as “with.”
And the two other guys. Well at least they remembered to include the two other guys in the picture.
I think the company that produced my version of the CD could have used an employee with an auditing background like John McVie. Check out the band listed on my copy:
I understand that with quartets, two members are often highlighted above the others (you know, like the aforementioned George Harrison & Richard Starkey with the Beatles).
In this case, I see the marketability of putting the spotlight on the lead singer & lead guitarist.
But was the rhythm section on Blues Breakers really just, “John McVie, drums on Tracks 1,2,3,6,12?!”
Perhaps I’m an odd duck but with the blues, I really enjoy listening to rhythm sections.
No exception in this case.
By all accounts, this is an influential record.
Many reviews can be found, detailing the significance of Clapton’s performance & his guitar+amp combo, with my personal favourite review of this record being courtesy of the often-immitated/never-duplicated 1537. Incidentally, if you ever see footnotes in my reviews, I have the ‘learned sage/scholar’ 1537 to thank for the idea!
When 1537 does footnotes, they’re witty.
When the rhythm section here feels like it’s relegated to a (questionably-edited) album cover footnote, it’s not so clever.
So if the legend of early Clapton is what brings you to the album, so be it, his performance will likely meet expectations.
But stay for the under-billed rhythm section, consisting of that other guy John McVie & the other-other guy, Hughie Flint.