John Mayall – A Hard Road (1967)

FrontCover1A Hard Road is the third album (and second studio album) recorded by John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, released in 1967. It features Peter Green on lead guitar, John McVie on bass, Aynsley Dunbar on drums and John Almond on saxophone. Tracks 5, 7 and 13 feature the horn section of Alan Skidmore and Ray Warleigh. Peter Green sings lead vocals on “You Don’t Love Me” and “The Same Way”.

The album reached #8 on the UK album charts which is Mayall’s third biggest chart next to Bare Wires and Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton which reached #3 and #6, respectively.

The cover art and the original LP sleeve design are by Mayall. In 2003 and 2006 two different expanded versions of the album were released. (by wikipedia)

Eric Clapton is usually thought of as John Mayall’s most important right-hand man, but the case could also be made for his successor, Peter Green. The future Fleetwood Mac founder leaves a strong stamp on his only album with the Bluesbreakers, singing a few tracks and writing a couple, including the devastating instrumental “Supernatural.” JohnMayall01AGreen’s use of thick sustain on this track clearly pointed the way to his use of guitar riffs with elongated, slithery tones on Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross” and “Black Magic Woman,” as well as anticipating some aspects of Carlos Santana’s style. Mayall acquits himself fairly well on this mostly original set (with occasional guest horns), though some of the material is fairly mundane. Highlights include the uncharacteristically rambunctious “Leaping Christine” and the cover of Freddie King’s “Someday After a While (You’ll Be Sorry).” (by Richie Unterberger)

Recorded in October and November of the previous year, A Hard Road was released on the Decca label in February 1967. In addition to the leader on vocals, guitar, harmonica, piano, and organ, Green on guitar, John McVie (soon to contribute the third syllable to Fleetwood Mac) on bass, either Hughie Flint or Aynsley Dunbar on drums, this version of the Bluesbreakers also packed brass in its pocket. John Almond and Alan Skidmore added sax while Ray Warleigh contributed ‘wind instruments’.

A Hard Road is a solid sixties British blues album. Mayall’s vocals were never the slam-you-against-the-wall kind, but he truly sings with character. Eight of the fourteen tracks are Mayall originals with Green getting onto the scoreboard with two songs. Indeed, where this LP really flies is when Peter Green steps forward, as on the instrumental number “The Stumble” and his own “The Super-Natural”, two highlights. The latter piece Peter Green 1967is worth the price of admission alone. In fact the sustained opening note of “The Super-Natural” is worth the entry fee.

I like the echoing “Another kind of love” (another Mayall why-doesn’t-she-behave-properly-and-love-me-the-way-I-deserve song) where the saxes sing in the background and Green soars in the foreground. The sinewy R&B of “Leaping Christine” is foot-tappingly energetic and another highlight. And any blues album containing a cover of Elmore James “Dust my blues” is OK by me. This Bluesbreakers version really pops; fast, driving, committed to an absence of dust.

The cover painting, a wintery portrait of the band by John Mayall himself, fits perfectly with a bluesy English February; moody and downbeat.

This is British blues played with respect for the sources but keen to differentiate. On A Hard Road John Mayall and his band mostly succeed. Less than compulsive, perhaps, yet an entertaining listen. (Vinyl Connection)

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Personnel:
Aynsley Dunbar (drums)
Peter Green (guitar, vocals)
John Mayall (vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards)
John McVie (bass)
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John Almond (saxophone)
Hughie Flint (drums)
Alan Skidmore (saxophone)
Ray Warleigh (wind instruments)

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Tracklist:
01. A Hard Road (Mayall) 3.11
02. It’s Over (Mayall) 2.51
03. You Don’t Love Me (Cobbs) 2.51
04. The Stumble (King/Thompson) 2.54
05. Another Kinda Love (Mayall) 3.07
06. Hit The Highway (Mayall) 2.18
07. Leaping Christine (Mayall) 2.24
08. Dust My Blues (James) 2.51
09. There’s Always Work (Mayall) 1.38
10. The Same Way (Green) 2.12
11. The Supernatural (Green) 2.55
12. Top Of The Hill (Mayall) 2.41
13. Someday After Awhile (You’ll Be Sorry) (Mayall) 3.02
14. Living Alone (Mayall) 2.24

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