Thursday, November 19, 2009

Music Review John Mayall

Mayall's 50+ year career has resulted in nearly 60 albums and a constantly rotating group that has been a who's who of blues and rock practitioners.

John Mayall - Tough - Eagle ***

(John Mayall - vocals, piano, organ, harmonica, 12- & 6-string guitar; Rocky Athas - guitar; Greg Rzab - bass; Tom Canning - piano, organ, backing vocals; Jay Davenport - drums; Maggie Mayall - backing vocals)

British blues legend John Mayall is familiar - or certainly should be - to anyone who has listened to blues music. Mayall's 50+ year career has resulted in nearly 60 albums (which does not include numerous compilations and collections) and a constantly rotating group that has been a who's who of blues and rock practitioners. Artists who have moved through the Bluesbreakers and later Mayall bands include Eric Clapton, Clapton's fellow Cream compatriot Jack Bruce, former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, Fleetwood Mac founders Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Peter Green, Free's Andy Fraser and guitarists Coco Montoya and Walter Trout.

Mayall is now in his mid-70s but on listening to his latest sojourn, Tough, its evident that a few things have stayed consistent throughout Mayall's multi-decade musical journey. One: Mayall believes the blues is a vital form of expression and a living experience. Two: Mayall continues his long history of working with and/or developing notable blues musicians. Three: his brand of blues, while not progressive, does give the people what they want.

On this 11-track outing, Mayall has formed a sharp-edged quintet. Texas guitar icon Rocky Athas has been a big draw on the blues circuit since the '70s and worked alongside Queen's Brian May, Stevie Ray Vaughan and has been a member of southern boogie aces Black Oak Arkansas. Chicago-based bassist Greg Rzab has previously played with Mayall, has backed Buddy Guy and appeared with or recorded with The Black Crowes and others. Rzab, in turn, recommended fellow Windy City drummer Jay Davenport, who has gigged with various northern blues colleagues. Keyboardist Tom Canning is a long-time Bluesbreakers alum and has done sessions with too many artists to list here. Together, this is one convincing blues-rock assemblage.

Mayall and his newest gathering galvanize through songs that look at fate, regret, the struggle of life and love, and finally redemption. Thematically its typical blues fare, from pain to hope, and Mayall manages to bring out the best on what could have been a set of cliched blues tropes.

While Mayall only wrote 3 compositions, they are top notch pieces. His autobiographical "Slow Train to Nowhere" is a heartfelt examination of the futility of hard partying and drinking at every bar in town, highlighted by Athas' piercing guitar lines and a keyboard duet between Mayall and Canning. The out-and-out rocker "That Good Old Rockin' Blues" unapologetically praises upbeat electric blues and old-fashioned rock and roll as it discards rap, modern rock and other contemporary genres, with strong contributions coming from Mayall's Southside Chicago-styled harmonica, Athas' riffing six-string and a bouncing groove provided by Davenport and Rzab. Mayall's most effective conception, though, is the album's lengthiest cut, the low-down slow blues stimulator "Tough Times Ahead," a commentary on the debilitated economy, and the loss of jobs and homes, but which is nevertheless cloaked with an underlying optimism. Athas again supplies unadorned but potent guitar solos.

Mayall gets funky on "Just What You're Looking For," a Peter Harper mediation on how drugs, money and other temptations can lead toward self-deception and misguided dependence. While the others keep a loose groove, Canning and Mayall wield dueling Hammond B-3 organs. Another winner is Curtis Salgado's closer, "The Sum of Something," an easy-loping, 12-bar shuffle that has a life-affirming naturalness brought alive via Athas' guitar, rollicking drums, jazzy organ and a trace of juke joint piano.

The weakest portion of Mayall's releases is his voice, which often cannot carry the emotive weight of the lyrics and rarely match his and other players' instrumental prowess. Mayall sings satisfactorily throughout Tough, but his vocals lack a prominent bite or a passionate pulse. As others have noted, Mayall is no Robert Johnson or Otis Rush. On Tough, Mayall does not re-invent the music that has influenced him, but ultimately this approximately hour-long effort showcases an excellent band that furnishes just the sort of accustomed electric blues-rock that fans can enjoy.


1. Nothing to Do with Love
2. Just What You're Looking For
3. Playing with a Losing Hand
4. An Eye for an Eye
5. How Far Down
6. Train to my Heart
7. Slow Train to Nowhere
8. Numbers Down
9. That Good Old Rockin' Blues
10. Tough Times Ahead
11. The Sum of Something

Review By -- Doug Simpson

I want to thank John over at for the exclusive rights to reprint this great review!

Music News & Notes

The Bouncing Souls Release Fourth and Final 20 Year Anniversary 7-Inch

2009 has been an important and busy year for New Jersey natives, THE BOUNCING SOULS. They've celebrated 20 years of vibrant, heartfelt punk rock, with plenty of special treats for fans old and new.

It was almost 16 years ago that THE BOUNCING SOULS put out their first album on their very own Chunksaah Records, and in a true return to the DIY spirit in which they began, THE BOUNCING SOULS have self-released a new 7” every third month of 2009 on Chunksaah, now handing us their fourth and final of the year.

The Bouncing Souls' latest 7-inch release was produced by Ted Hutt (Gaslight Anthem, Flogging Molly, Street Dogs) with cover artwork collaboration between Bouncing Souls bassist, Bryan Kienlen, and Arturo Vega, artistic director for The Ramones. Pressing Info: Mailorder: 800 pcs - black and white vinyl / Tour: 1000 pcs - black and red splatter / Retail: 1000 pcs - white vinyl

1. Like the Sun
2. Big Eyes
3. When You're Young / Never Say Die
4. Ghosts On The Boardwalk (acoustic)


AEROSMITH Bandmates Fear STEVEN TYLER Is 'Struggling Very Badly'

The Pulse of Radio reports: The AEROSMITH drama continues as the rest of the band considers potentially moving forward without frontman Steven Tyler, amid rumors that the singer has gone back to the bad habits that nearly derailed him and the band in their early days. AEROSMITH guitarist Brad Whitford doesn't count out the possibility that Tyler has lapsed back into using drugs, as he told The Pulse of Radio. "This guy has a tremendous history of drug abuse, and you have to be suspicious that this is something that is probably going on with him," he said. "I think that that's got to be a part of this irrational behavior, you know. You're supposed to — people in recovery and stuff, if you're really doing it, it takes a lot of work. Historically or statistically, the majority of people in that situation don't make it. I have a feeling we might be looking at, you know, someone who's just really struggling very badly with this."

Tyler has been estranged from the band since August, when he fell from a stage in South Dakota and forced the group to cancel the rest of its summer tour.

The other members have revealed that Tyler has his own management, and that none of them have had any contact with him in months.

The singer told Classic Rock magazine several weeks ago that he wants to take two years off to work on "Brand Tyler."

Drummer Joey Kramer admits that the rest of the band aren't sure how to proceed, but says they all want to keep playing together: "You know, getting someone else is one of the questions. We all know that there's really no way to replace Steven, but we want to continue touring together. We even have a 40-year anniversary coming up and it's a milestone. We want to be able to celebrate it together and there's millions of fans out there that are dedicated to us."

Tyler joined guitarist Joe Perry onstage in New York last week while the latter was touring with his JOE PERRY PROJECT solo band, telling the crowd that he wasn't quitting AEROSMITH. Perry, however, said after the show that the band's problems were far from over.

Both Perry and Kramer specifically declined to discuss the rumors about Tyler's drug use, although Kramer told The Pulse of Radio he hopes his bandmate "gets some help."

For Aerosmith's sake, I hope he does too.


Bon Jovi Claims Second Consecutive Number One Album

Bon Jovi has jumped to the top of the Billboard album charts with their new album, The Circle. The followup to 2007's Lost Highway is the second consecutive album for the group that has debuted at the top. Overall, the group has had four number one albums with their other two coming from the 80's (Slippery When Wet (1986) and New Jersey (1988)).

The Circle sold 163,000 copies in its first week of release, quite a bit lower than the 292,000 Lost Highway moved upon its debut.


Stone Temple Pilots Postpone Tour Dates to Finish New Album

Stone Temple Pilots will spend the rest of 2009 in the studio. Scott Weiland and Co. have postponed the remaining U.S. dates on their tour to get to work on “their highly anticipated record, which will be coming out in the early spring of next year,” the reunited band announced on their official Website.


Ringo's new CD Y Not available on January 12

The new Ringo Starr album/CD will be entitled "Y Not". It will be released on Jan 12, 2010 on Hip-O/Universal Records.

This will be Ringo's 7th release for the Universal label. His first release was Scouse The Mouse Soundtrack (Polydor/Universal), followed by Vertical Man (Mercury/Universal), VH1 Storytellers (Mercury/Universal) and I Wanna be Santa Claus (Mercury/Universal). Rotogravure and Ringo The 4th were released on Polydor/Universal in the UK.

Reportedly, Gary Wright has commented that Paul McCartney plays bass on at least one track, and the album features some members of the last All-Starr Band, including Gary, Colin Hay and maybe Billy Squier.