The late Alexis Korner was often referred to as the founding father of British Blues but undoubtedly, 87 year old John Mayall is well deserved of that mantel. With the release of a limited edition thirty five CD box set on 29th January called The First Generation 1965 – 1974, Mayall is clearly the absolute Godfather.

Along with newly re-mastered versions of his Decca and Polydor albums, there are eight previously unreleased discs, two CD singles, an EP, seven previously unreleased gigs, a 168 page hardback book written by Neil Slaven, a book comprising of Mayall’s fans letters and correspondence, two replica posters, a press pack and an individually signed photograph. And with the box set limited to a run of only 5,000, it is a feast of Mayall’s music for any fan.

Known not only for his own work in the 60s and 70s, many of the best musicians of that period passed through the hallowed ranks of Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor and Jon Mark are all on show here in this stunning collection that is crammed with musical highlights.

Mayall formed the first Bluesbreakers band initially with bassist John McVie and guitarist Bernie Watson who along with Roger Dean and drummer Hughie Flint completed the line up that recorded 1965’s John Mayall Plays John Mayall at Hampstead’s Klooks Kleek. This was a well received album that saw Crocodile Walk being released as a single.

After the release of this album, Eric Clapton joined the band as lead guitarist and Mayall wanted to show off Clapton’s skills by releasing his next album as a live one. A set was subsequently recorded at the Flamingo Club but the recordings were of such bad quality, they could not be used. So Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton, released what came to be known as The Beano album. The album consists of blues standards by well known artists such as Otis Rush and Freddie King as well as the likes of Key To Love and Have You Heard which were penned by Mayall. This album includes Ramblin’ On My Mind; Clapton’s first solo lead vocal to be recorded and is a real treat.

Included in this collection as a CD single are Lonely Years and Bernard Jenkins, tracks released by Mayall and Clapton that saw a blues partnership which could have been formed in heaven, but which was brought to an end when Clapton left to form Cream in 1966. With Peter Green, arguably Mayall’s greatest guitarist and drummer Aynsley Dunbar they released an EP called All My Life, which is included in this collection.

A Hard Road was the third album (second studio album) to be recorded by John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. This was Green’s only one as a Bluesbreaker but he left his legacy singing lead vocals on You Don’t Love Me and The Same Way. Another Kinda Love, Leaping Christine and Someday After A While (You’ll Be Sorry), feature an excellent horn section which makes the album well worth another listen to.

In 1967 John Mayall released Crusade, which was the first recording of the then eighteen year old guitarist, Mick Taylor. Snowy Wood and the slow blues of Tears In My Eyes are real highlights. Later that year Mayall released The Blues Alone album which includes Brown Sugar and the original version of Marsha’s Mood which is also included as a bonus track. Down The Line is a lovely lament featuring vocals over a slide guitar and piano accompaniment, whilst Sonny Boy Blow is harmonica driven. No More Tears features rare examples of Mayall’s solo lead guitar playing as does Harp Man. The slow tender track Broken Wings accompanied by the organ is a highlight of this album.

1968’s Bare Wires was the last Mayall studio album to feature the name Bluesbreakers. The album’s A side was a medley called Bare Wires Suite which comprises of seven tracks. There are another six tracks to follow before two bonus tracks, live from Falmer College Brighton, complete the track list. Fans of the album will recall that No Reply and She’s Too Young were released as singles.

Blues From Laurel Canyon was 1968’s offering and saw the songs segue into the next track whilst others stop on a chord which is immediately followed by the introduction of the next track. Fly Tomorrow is nearly nine minutes long with an extended lead guitar solo which is underscored by Mayall’s Hammond organ. Opener Vacation is followed by 2401, reputed to be a reference to Frank Zappa’s home door number. Medicine Man is a nod to Mayall’s interest in native America and an added bonus is a live version, performed in Sweden of Wish You Were Mine.

Shortly after Mayall signed to Polydor, Decca released the non-album singles collection in 1969 called John Mayall Looking Back, which is included in this collection. Empty Rooms, released in 1969, was the bands last UK top ten entry. Included in the set list is Waiting For The Right Time, Thinking Of My Woman and a hippy blues version of People Cling Together. Dedicated to Nancy Throckmorton, whom Mayall had a romance with, this album shows his tender side.

!973’s Ten Years Are Gone is reported to be Mayall’s favourite album, and which for the purposes of this collection has been split into two CD’s, the first containing nine tracks which include California Campground and Don’t Hang Up, whilst the second features five wonderful tracks.

The collections studio albums conclude with 1974’s The Latest Edition, which sees Mayall revisiting short punchy songs and writing about social issues such as the oil crisis and the pushing of drugs at school.

The remaining nine CD’s start with two featuring BBC radio broadcasts, and the first of the two contains no less than twenty three songs and the second with a set list comprising an additional eighteen songs, these are a delight to listen to.

There is a CD recorded at The Bromley Technical College which has a fabulous live version of Tears In My Eyes, whilst the CD recorded at the 7th National Jazz & Blues Festival in 1967 contains It’s My Own Fault which is nearly eight minutes long. Live at Gothenburg contains the epic Worried About You, and the live concert performed in Bremen in 1969 has the fourteen minute Parchman Farm.

Finishing this astonishing collection of music produced by what can be only described as a musical genius, Live At Fillmore West sees Mayall romp through the likes of What’s The Matter With You and Honey Lush.

This collection is a must for any John Mayall fan. Since 1974’s The Latest Edition, he has released a further nineteen albums, so it may be that there is another collection somewhere to be released. But for now, any fan of John Mayall’s music should put the CD’s on the player, turn the lights down low and immerse themselves in his wonderful blues music. You never know, with over twenty five hours of music to listen too, when they emerge, the Covid-19 pandemic may just be over.

Our Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Number of CD’s: 35

Running time: Approx 25:39:00

Released on: Madfish

Released date: 29th January 2021

Formats: CD

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