John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Live in 1967 (review)

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Live in 1967 (Forty Below) review

Raw, but revealing live set showcasing the great Peter Green

“Holy Grail” is an overused term, but in this case, it’s spot-on.  Live in 1967 features the only-known live recordings of Peter Green with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers –  a band that was around for a mere three months, before three of the members would go on to form Fleetwood Mac.

When Eric Clapton left Mayall in 1966, guitarist Green certainly had some big shoes to fill.  Yet, he never backed down, inserting his own unique style into their only studio album together, A Hard Road.  After that release, drummer Aynsley Dunbar exited, and was replaced, briefly, by Mick Fleetwood.  Green, Fleetwood, and bassist John McVie made a formidable team to back Mayall, and hit the road for a series of shows in early 1967.  Yet, there has never been a document of this band – until now.

Back then, an avid fan from Holland had managed to sneak his reel to reel machine into a series of shows in 1967 and document this band with a single microphone.  He recently reached out to Mayall, wanting to finally make these public.  The results are certainly not high quality.  But whatever lack in sonic fidelity is certainly eclipsed by the opportunity to hear this phenomenal band in a live setting.

The star here is most definitely Green, who’s tone and sustain are jaw-dropping.  He makes his guitar cry on “Double Trouble,” then reels off an endless stream of dizzying phrases on “So Many Roads.”  There’s a trifecta of Freddie King songs: “The Stumble” which is played at a furious pace, and where you can hear McVie’s pounding bass;  the slow burner “Someday After Awhile” which is cut off at the very beginning; and the searing instrumental “San-Ho-Zay.”  In fact, there’s a moment here where the band stops, and he continues to hold this one note – it’s spine-tingling for sure.

Fleetwood plays loud and hard, exhibiting little of the nuances that would come to be a signature of his career.  “Hi Heeled Sneakers” gives Mayall a chance to show off his keyboard chops, but this is really Green’s spotlight.  Whether they’re ripping through “All My Love,” which was featured on the Clapton record, or slinking through T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday,” the playing throughout is stellar.

If we suddenly happened upon a live recording of Robert Johnson, would be complain about the quality – hell no.  Same goes for this.  Live in 1967 is a gift from the past – essential for any fan of British blues.  —Tony Peters