John Mayall – The Turning Point

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This prophetically titled project represents yet another crossroad in John Mayall’s ever evolving cast of prime British bluesmen. This album also signifies a distinct departure from the decibel drowning electrified offerings of his previous efforts, providing instead an exceedingly more folk and roots based confab. The 2001 “remastered & revisited” edition of The Turning Point boasts vastly improved audio — when compared to its previous CD counterparts — and a trio of three “bonus tracks” from the same July 12, 1969 performance at Bill Graham’s fabulous Fillmore East in New York City. The specific lineup featured here is conspicuous in its absence of a lead guitarist, primarily due to Mayall recommending himself out of his most recent string man. After the passing of Brian Jones, the Rolling Stones decided to tour and at the behest of Mick Jagger, Mayall suggested Mick Taylor — who had been with him since Crusade (1967). Mayall gave this potentially negative situation a positive outcome by retooling the combo into an acoustic quartet featuring old friends as well as some vital new sonic textures. Mayall (vocals/harmonica/slide guitar/telecaster six-string/hand & mouth percussion) joined forces with former associates Steve Thompson (bass) and Johnny Almond (tenor & alto sax/flute/mouth percussion), then added the talents of Jon Mark (acoustic finger-style guitar). It becomes readily apparent that Mark’s precision and tasteful improvisational skills place this incarnation into heady spaces. The taut interaction and wafting solos punctuating “So Hard to Share” exemplify the controlled intensity of Mayall’s prior electrified outings. Likewise, Mark’s intricate acoustics pierce through the growl of Mayall’s haunting slide guitar solos on “Saw Mill Gulch Road.” The Turning Point also examines a shift in Mayall’s writing. The politically charged “Laws Must Change,” the personal “I’m Gonna Fight for You J.B.” and the incomparable “Room to Move” are tinged with Mayall’s trademark sense of irony and aural imagery. As mentioned above, the supplementary sides “Sleeping by Her Side,” “Don’t Waste My Time,” and “Can’t Sleep This Night” — which were left off of the original disc owing to the restrictions imposed upon the vinyl medium — are sourced from the same mid-July 1960 Fillmore East set as the main program.

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John Mayall – Jazz Blues Fusion

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This is an outstanding reissue that deserves a listen by all blues fans. Mayall’s legacy may well be assembling and recognizing talent long before those individual’s move on to become household names. Here however, Mayall keeps the formula simple by adding the trumpet of Blue Mitchel and Sax of Clifford Solomon with the guitar of Freddy Robinson and the precussion of Ron Selico for some fantastic, ahead of its time, Blues with a Jazz flavor. Stand outs are the Trumpet led “Good Times Boogie” and the jam, “Exercise In C Major For Harmonica” If you missed it the first time around on vinyl, be sure and pick it up on CD. Simply outstanding.