RECAP 2017: At 84 years old, John Mayall is still in his prime

John Mayall – Talk About That (Forty Below Records) review

Someone forgot to tell John Mayall to slow down as he got older.  Talk About That is somewhere in the ballpark of his 65th album, yet it still sounds like he’s having a good time.  He’s surrounded by what he’s called his “best band ever” – Rocky Athas on guitar, Greg Rzab on bass and Jay Davenport on drums.  Mayall himself alternates between Hammond organ, piano, harmonica & guitar, as well as handling the lead vocals.  

A good place to start is the opening track –  “Talk About That” is funky a number, where Athas and Mayall trade off between guitar and organ, while Mayall sings “but I don’t give a damn thing about that.”   For a blues album, the disc is full of diversity.  The horn and piano driven “It’s Hard Going Up” has a groove that only comes from a band playing together for years, while “Gimme Some of that Gumbo” has a New Orleans’ feel.

The junpin’ “Going Away Baby” gives Mayall a chance to blow on the harmonica, while the moody “Blue Midnight” features some excellent Rhodes piano.

Guitar great Joe Walsh guests on a pair of tracks – the searing “The Devil Must Be Laughing” clocks in at almost seven minutes, and is a commentary on the world as Mayall sees it, while the blues shuffle of “Cards on the Table” gives Walsh a chance to play his signature slide guitar.

The disc ends on the sparse, piano-led “You Never Know,” which recalls the great Johnny Moore/Charles Brown records of the 1940’s.

Eight of the album’s eleven tracks were written by Mayall, another amazing feat for an artist who has booked 130 shows in 2017.  Talk About That shows a legendary artist still at the top of his game.   Tony Peters