JOHN MAYALL AND THE BLUESBREAKERS
Another release in the earMUSIC Classics series of reissues, and another one that carries the “deluxe Collectors Edition CD” tag, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers’ ‘Road Dogs’ is housed within a standard digipak, with a booklet that is presumably replicated from its initial release. So yep, do not be fooled by the promise of something “deluxe” as you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed… unless you’re impressed by basic digipaks, of course. The Ocean’s 2007 album, ‘Precambiran’, for example, now there’s the true definition of “deluxe” in digipak form.
John Mayall is, of course, a British blues legend, and I gather he still tours, now well into his 80s, with his current Bluesbreakers brethren, whom apart from Mayall himself, are now constituted by entirely different personnel than the ‘Road Dogs’ era of the outfit. Back in 2005, he was joined by guitarist Buddy Whittington, bassist Hank Van Sickle and drummer Joe Yuele, with Mayall performing vocals, keys, harmonica and guitar on certain tracks. And, looking further back, he was accompanied by luminaries such as Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, Mick Fleetwood, Walter Trout, and many, many more renowned musicians. Quite the revolving door of esteemed personnel!
‘Road Dogs’ saw its original release back in 2005 and “deals thematically in parts with their life on the road and John Mayall’s youth.” The record’s lauded in press blurb as being “another milestone album in the history of blues rock”, so my expectations were high upon first hearing this (it evidently passed me by fifteen years ago). Were my high expectations met? Kind of. What we have on ‘Road Dogs’ is seventy minutes of enjoyable, laidback, retro blues tunes. Clichéd as hell? Yep. Idiomatic of a decades old scene? Definitely. Easy listening? Oh yes. Well performed and authentically regurgitated clichés? Sure. Where the album does falter for me, though, is its rather “samey” approach. Far be it from me to criticise ‘Road Dogs’ for something it’s not trying to be, though. Personally, if I listen to blues, it has to offer something fresh, new and progressive (literal progression, not regressive as in the genre prog); or some sort of blues fusion. I like what I hear on ‘Road Dogs’ but, to sustain my listening attention and interest over such a lengthy playing time, I found myself craving variation. This is not that album. I’m that’s just a corollary of own listening proclivities, though.
Buddy Whittington’s fretboard widdlings, both his rhythm and leads, are a highlight of the album, and Mayall’s voice is rich with years of ascendant wisdom that just commands attention. He’s pretty damn nifty on the keys, too. ‘Awestruck & Spellbound’ is a highlight, for me (a Whittington/Yuele composition), on an album that lacks variation but compensates with an authentic rendering of blues stylings of yore.
Review by Mark Holmes
20th March 2020
1) Road Dogs; 2) Short Wave Radio
3) So Glad; 4) Forty Days
5) To Heal the Pain
6) Burned Bridges; 7) Snake Eye
8) Kona Village
9) Beyond Control
10) Chaos in the Neighbourhood
11) You'll Survive
12) Awestruck & Spellbound
13) With You; 14) Brumwell's Beat
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Buddy Whittington’s fretboard widdlings, both his rhythm and leads, are a highlight of the album, and Mayall’s voice is rich with years of ascendant wisdom that just commands attention."