Music Review: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers’ ‘Live in 1967’

John Mayall's Bluesbreakers Live in 1967

If you’re a serious Fleetwood Mac fan, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the early 1970s version of the group—the one that gave us albums like Bare Trees and Heroes Are Hard to Find before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham came aboard and helped turn them into superstars. You may also know of the even earlier version of Fleetwood Mac that Peter Green led and that delivered terrific blues rock from 1967 to 1969. (See the fantastic six-CD Complete Blue Horizon Sessions.)

What you may not know is that even that group had a precursor: for just three months in 1967, before they split off to form the first Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood served in one of the many incarnations of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. You can hear Green and McVie with Mayall on 1967’s A Hard Road; and on a 2003 expanded version of that album, you can listen to tracks that feature Mick Fleetwood as well (not to mention Paul Butterfield).

What you apparently couldn’t hear until now was how that group sounded live. It turns out, though, that a fan sneaked a recorder into five London clubs in 1967 and taped their performances of 13 songs, including versions of such classics as T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday,” Otis Rush’s “I Can’t Quit You, Baby” and Billy Myles’s “Have You Ever Loved a Woman,” which was popularized by Freddie King and, later, by Bluesbreakers alumnus Eric Clapton. The material sat on the shelf for nearly half a century, but Mayall recently acquired and restored it. It will be released next month as Live in 1967.

The original recordings from which this album was assembled were neither stereo nor even high fidelity, so the audio falls pretty short of what we’re used to these days; it sounds like what you might hear if you were outside the club, catching the music through a half-open window. But Mayall and his record label have made the most of what they had to work with and the result is certainly listenable throughout. Moreover, this material should prove fascinating to fans of both Mayall and the original Fleetwood Mac. The program is stellar and guitarist Peter Green in particular is in fine form throughout.

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